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ON THE TOWN

USA, 1949 (MIFF 1994, Retrospectives)

Director: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen

The ground-breaking, irresistible 1949 MGM musical On The Town brings song, and most especially dance, out from the ballroom and into the streets, fulfilling the creative vision of the film's brilliant star/choreographer/co-director, Gene Kelly, who states "The fact that make-believe sailors got off a real ship in a real dockyard and danced through a real New York was a turning point in itself."

Those sailors, zestfully played by grinning Kelly, goofy Jules Munshin and young Blue-eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, burst onto the Big Apple to take on as much fun and romance as 24 hours shore leave will allow. Along their merry way, our three bell-bottomed boys join forces with a trio of wonderful girls, fleshed out with toe-tapping dash and self-assertive charm by Ann Miller (a lusty anthropologist), Betty Garrett (a man-hungry cabbie), and Vera-Ellen (a Miss Turnstiles winner and part-time Coney Island "cooch" dancer). Almost every number in the carefully integrated score is a winner, perhaps the most exuberant highlights being "New York, New York" (It's-a-helluva-town!), Miller's libidinous take-charger "Primitive Man", the lovely, intimate, soft-shoe shuffle "Main Street", the up-and-at-'em title song (atop a nicely stylised Empire State Building) and the rollicking ensemble "You can count on me".

All up, Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's debut feature provides a bright, brash good time, its blasting sounds and images made all the more impressively bold by this mint Technicolor print, immaculately re-constructed and restored, and receiving its first screening at MIFF 94.

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