"The title is a misnomer. Comden and Green's tart follow-up to On The Town, directed by the same team (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen) is like a delayed hangover. The three buddies are now Kelly, Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd; at war's end they swear an eternal friendship and promise to meet in ten years. At their reunion, they discover that they hate each other and themselves, and go looking for the hopes they abandoned. The film's mixture of parody, cynicism and song and dance is perhaps a little sour, though the numbers are exhilarating and this movie is really much more fun than the wildly overrated On The Town, it doesn't sell exuberance in that big, toothy way, and it was a box-office failure. As the sickened advertising man, Dan Dailey has the best routine in the film - a Chaplin-esque drunken satire of "advertising wise" jargon. (To a great extent this is Dailey's movie.) Dolores Gray's role (as a TV star) is too broadly written, but her smooth, glib style is refreshingly brassy and she has a dazzling number Thanks A Lot But No Thanks; Cyd Charisse is beautiful and benumbed until she unhinges her legs in the Stillman's gym number."
- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights At The Movies
As part of this year's retrospective strand, the MFF is pleased to be presenting our audiences with a rare opportunity to see, on a proper screen, It's Always Fair Weather, possibly the most overlooked and underrated of all the classic MGM musicals.
Even more than the justly celebrated Singin' in the Rain (1952) and The Band Wagon (1953) this is a brazenly self-critical, openly reflexive work. The often biting scenario was jointly penned by Betty Comden and Adolph Green who were also responsible for scripting the two earlier landmarks.
Where Fair Weather departs from other Fifties musicals is in its quite harsh attitude toward the song'n'dance genre's inherent reliance on effusive optimism and the joys of team spirit. (Add the word "friends" at the end of the movie's title and you've got a taste of its acid humour). We also have here, in a wide-screen film musical, an unabashed critique of the force seen as causing fewer and fewer audiences to attend the movies in general: television. This hard-hitting, jaundiced tone came as quite a shock to many viewers and pre-figures the mood of some later, post-studio musicals like New York, New York, All That Jazz and Pennies From Heaven.
Yet, amidst the darkish satire, there is stylistic dash, invention and energy to spare. March, March makes a fast, fabulous street dance performed by the trio of returning World War II pals, complete with garbage can lids attached to their feet. I Like Myself which is sung and danced magnificently by Gene Kelly, on rollerskates, is practically an apotheosis of this particular star's brash, big-chested, wide-grinning (and problematic?) narcissism. And Baby You Knock Me Out provides the undeniable pleasure of cool, long-limbed Cyd Charisse transgressing, with smashing effect, the exclusive male preserve of boxing. At various points, during the narrative and numbers, the split screen potential of the 'scope frame is wittily explored, further commenting upon what we can get at the cinema and not on TV.
A musical comedy which addresses collective disenchantment, the dynamics of male egomania, the ethics of television advertising and the compromised feminism of career women, all co-directed and co-choreographed by Kelly and Donen in their final collaborative venture, is surely something special. And certainly not to be missed.