On The Town

I have never seen Frank Sinatra in color before and his night “On the Town” a vibrant performance.  This movie was released on December 30th in 1949. Its genre can be classified a romantic comedy or a musical romance. I often make silly faces at musicals and find them tacky but not today. Being set in New York is what made me give it a chance; the first musical to be shot mostly on location as well. This film is about three sailors, Gabey, Chip and Ozzie; (starring Gene Kelly, Sinatra and Jules Munshin) who get to spend one adventurous day in the big city.

On the Town (1949)

The first romance started with a poster girl on the train of Miss Turnstiles, so the boys set sail in search of her and along the way they found some other interesting women themselves. Betty Garrett gave a memorable performance in her role as a pushy, seductive cab driver. Ann Miller played an anthropologist at a museum researching history which caused a prehistoric dinosaur disaster at the end of her musical number.


I really enjoyed the quality of the actors costumes because clothing is not made that way anymore. I specifically focused on the acting when watching this movie. The acting was good compared to other work in this time, usually completely unnatural. The estimated budget was 2,111,000 dollars according to IMDb (very useful for film majors).

This film came out around the time of technicolor. With the advent of sound in the 1930’s, Jon Lewis states that the romantic film comedy was shot and blocked as if it were onstage with little camera reframing. He also says they focus on the rich and ridiculous; at the time of the depression, these comedies were able to make the audience laugh and love again. This film was hysterical but I imagine it was much funnier the year it came out because of the references. The dialogue is un-natural compared to present talk. One special effect was the time of day (1:30) running across the screen to show the time of day.

This is one of the many giant MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) produced at this time. They first bought the rights to a stage musical and turned it into a movie. The memorable songs and frivolous dialogue made an impression on film history with girls beating up guys, women doing the getaway driving, and destroying a dinosaur at the museum. This represents post-war America with women taking on the role of men. The Movie Projector.com states that most of its original songs were rewritten.

It seems as if Hollywood thought they perfected this new birth of cinema before the war. 90 percent of movies total revenue was split between the “Big-Eight” and the would come out with about one feature film a week. This does not hold true today. In the 40’s, 60 percent of NYC population went to the movies about once a week. I try to go at least twice a month because it’s my escape from conventional life. After World War II things started to look up for the economy, building new houses and suburbs; along with Television. TV was easy and free after a long day at work so movies had to step their game up and reinvent hollywood. In 1948 the supreme court declared the big five a trust. (http://www.ealmanac.com/1843/numbers/the-big-five-movies-studios/) All the dirty little secrets of Hollywood were coming out (Hollywood Blacklist).

I have never likes musicals but I truly enjoyed this night “On The Town”. I immediately fell in love with Gene Kelly and his performance. The choreography was very precise but well done. A dance lead by Ann Miller was so entertaining. I sat there mesmerized by her tap shoes. The setting was a museum and there was a caveman who looked exactly like the sailor. They beat on drums and jumped around like prehistoric cavemen.onthetown3

My favorite song was “Your Awful”, a duet with Betty and Frank Sinatra and his lady. They started singing on top of the Empire State building and mention famous names like the Yankees and HOT DOGS! The lines starts off as insult’s but turn into compliments. It was interesting to watch them call each other awful names and say how he can’t stand her. It ends on the note “its awful nice to say your mine”. Coney island in Brooklyn was also in this film and it looks nothing like that today. Maybe it was just for the film but I couldn’t find any infomation on it so please feel free to comment on this if you know any better.

Around the same time, Film Noir was popular but opposite of these joyful musicals; they were dark (theyshootpictures.com). Technicolor enhanced all the colors of the film and noticeable locations. Costumes were cheaply made with Rayon and looked wonderful on screen. The plad in Millers dress looked better in this form. “The delicate textures are clearly shown” (archive.org:technicolor). This film would be much less interesting in black and white.

on the town 2

Fun Facts from IMBd:  

  • Crew or equipment visible
Spectators can be seen watching the filming of the “New York, New York” number in Rockfeller Center (though it could be argued that the sight of three men in navy uniforms singing and dancing might attract attention, even in New York).

Near the end of “Prehistoric Man” when the dancing moves in front of the dinosaur, Claire’s mark can be seen on the floor.

  • Plot holes
When the boys are looking for clues on the poster in order to find Miss Turnstiles they find her likes and dislikes. The only problem is none of that is actually mentioned on the poster they have or any that the viewer sees.
  • Personal

When Gene Kelly dismisses the beauty of a passing New York girl, Jules Munshin asks, “Who you got waiting for you in New York, Ava Gardner?” Frank Sinatra was having an affair with Gardner at the time. HOW SHOCKING!!!!!!

Frank Sinatra, who was very thin, had to wear prosthetic padding to fill out the seat of his uniform. In a TCM interview, Ann Miller said that Sinatra was extremely sensitive about his padding and did not appreciate the usual movie set horseplay involving his lower half.
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