Though originally conceived as a sequel to ON THE TOWN, this innovative musical, which masks the seriousness of its theme with some excellent production numbers, underwent a series of alterations during the development process. The film reunites ON THE TOWN's co-directer/co-choreographer team of Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, as well as lyricists Adolph Green and Betty Comden; Andre Previn supplied music in lieu of Leonard Bernstein. ON THE TOWN's three high-spirited sailors became soldiers who bond under fire and come home together at the end of the WWII. Doug Hallerton (Dan Dailey), Angelo "Angie" Valentine (ballet-trained Michael Kidd, himself a successful Broadway choreographer) and Ted Riley (Gene Kelly) have big plans and believe their friendship will last forever. The "Dear John" letter waiting for Ted at their old NYC hangout, Tim's Bar and Grill, temporarily puts a damper on the pals' first night as civilians, but after a few drinks their high spirits return, and soon they're dancing in the streets. At the end of the night, they agree to meet at Tim's in ten years October 11, 1955 no matter what happens. A montage telescopes the next ten years: Angie gets married and has children; rather than opening the white-tablecloth restaurant of his dreams he settles for a diner in Schenectady. Chicago-based Doug, who wanted to paint, goes into advertising and his marriage is on the rocks. And Ted, who planned to return to law school and whom the others expected to be "a great man," is a wheeler-dealer who gambles, consorts with gangsters and always has a glitzy dame on his arm. All three return to Tim's at the appointed time, but after the initial joyous reintroductions discover they have little in common. Doug thinks Angie is a hick and Ted is a cheap hood; Angie and Ted cnsider Doug a snob. After an awkward lunch they're ready to split up, but fate intervenes. Ted puts the moves on Jackie Leighton (Cyd Charisse), a colleague of Doug's; she produces "Midnight With Madeline," a popular late-night TV show sponsored by Klenzrite, Doug's biggest account, and featuring a shamelessly trashy human interest segment. When the show's scheduled guests bail and the tempermental Madeline (Dolores Gray, doing a wicked parody of Dinah Shore) threatens to walk, Jackie proposes a surprise on-air reunion of the old army buddies. All she and her co-conspirators must do is keep the plan a secret from Doug, Angia and Ted, and contrive to get them to the studio on time. Madeline takes charge of Angie, Doug's Klenzrite associates keep him close at hand and Jackie stops rebuffing Ted's advances, to his combined delight and confusion. Though filled with satirical jabs at advertising, psychoanalysis, television and other timely topics, the film also takes a surprisingly serious look at characters who've betrayed their youthful ambitions and come to realize they don't like the men they've become. And though Kelly's role is a striking departure from his all-around good guys, Dailey very nearly steals the show out from under him with his disillusioned advertising man; here was a musical comedy actor ahead of his time, a specialist in world-weary characters who just happen to be song and dance men.
Kelly and Donen made creative use of the CinemaScope format, especially in the "Once Upon a Time" sequence, in which Kid, Dailey and Kelly perform an identical routine in different locations, while mourning their lost friendship. Other highlights include the "Time for Parting" sequence, in which the pals dance with trashcan lids on their feet; "Stillman's Gym," for Charisse and a gym full of boxers; "I Like Myself," Kelly's famous roller-skate number; and Gray's show-stopping "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks."
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Though originally conceived as a sequel to ON THE TOWN, this innovative musical, which masks the seriousness of its theme with some excellent production numbers, underwent a series of alterations during the development process. The film reunites ON THE TOW… (more)