Anchors Aweigh (1945)
Gene 'n' Jerry
I didn't ask you to save my life, but you did. So now I feel you are responsible for me - Clarence
Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry of Tom & Jerry fame, that is what most people know "Anchors Aweigh" for and those who have seen it will also say it is like a prototype for the later musical "On the Town" as they share a similar sort of story. But one thing that those who have watched "Anchors Aweigh" will also say is how enjoyable it is and to be honest it is one of the most enjoyable musicals you can watch. Aside from watching Gene Kelly dancing almost seamlessly with the famous cartoon creation "Anchors Aweigh" is an energetic, comedy full of great songs, even better dancing and despite being like chalk and cheese great chemistry between Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. It may not have the greatest of storylines, much of it is obvious, and at 143 minutes does go on a bit but when the credits roll you will have a smile on your face from all the fun which has gone on.
Sailors Clarence (Frank Sinatra - Von Ryan's Express) and Joe (Gene Kelly - Singin' in the Rain) have earned themselves 4 days shore leave in sunny California and Joe has one thing on his mind, hooking up with Lola. But with Clarence being inexperienced when it comes to women Joe finds himself having to help him out which leads them to Susan Abbot (Kathryn Grayson - Kiss Me Kate) and her nephew Donald (Dean Stockwell). But as Joe tries to help Clarence woo Susan he finds himself falling for her as well which complicates matters almost as much as the fact they promised her an audition with renowned composer José Iturbi despite having never met the man.
Now for me part of the charm of "Anchors Aweigh" is that it is a musical which has a story which grows, it may grow in an obvious way but it goes through a series of stages till we get the inevitable happy every after ending. Those stages takes us from Clarence persuading Joe to help him find a woman whilst on shore leave, to meeting wannabee singer Susan Abbott through to a little lie of getting her an audition which leads to a bit of chaos and romantic turmoil as whilst Clarence initially falls for Susan it is Joe who has the deeper feelings. All of these link together nicely, seamlessly so that there is a smooth flow as this storyline develops.
Now of course much of this is obvious, when Clarence and Joe first meet Susan having escorted her nephew home you know that Clarence will fall for her and Joe's plans to see Lola will continually be wrecked as one person after another asks for his help. And you know that at some point Joe will end up falling for Susan but feel guilty as he is meant to be helping Clarence woo her. You even know that having lied about getting Susan an audition with composer José Iturbi somehow it will all come good by the end. Basically there is nothing which is a surprise in "Anchors Aweigh" but it doesn't matter because this simple storyline is enough for a musical.
Of course with "Anchors Aweigh" being a musical much of this storyline is designed as a vehicle for numerous musical moments and none of them disappoint. Yes there is that great scene which sees Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry but all the dancing scenes, be it Kelly and Sinatra dancing in unison or when Kelly dances with a little girl, impress. And equally with the smooth tones of Frank Sinatra there is not a single song which doesn't sound brilliant and you can include those sung by Kathryn Grayson as well. All of these musical scenes have great energy, even the purposefully slower numbers and it stops it ever feeling dull. And when you have José Iturbi showing off his skills at the piano as well it is impossible not to be captivated by his brilliance and to be honest his speed.
But what helps these musical scenes and "Anchors Aweigh" in general is that it is full of comedy from the relationship between Clarence and Joe to Joe continually having to miss out on a night with Lola the one woman he wants to see. It simply brings a smile to your face with loads of little looks between Kelly and Sinatra which make you wonder how often they had to do retakes because of laughter. It is not just Kelly and Sinatra who deliver the laughs and a very young Dean Stockwell as Donald, the young boy who wants to join the Navy, also has this amusing cute factor. Plus of course you just have the simple comedy of the storyline as Clarence and Joe try to meet Iturbi so that they can try and persuade him to give Susan an audition.
What this all boils down to is that "Anchors Aweigh" is simply a very enjoyable movie which only flaw is that it is a little too long. But whilst most people will know it for the fantastic scene which features Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry it is as a collective it works with a decent storyline, great musical numbers, brilliant singing and dancing as well as a perfect sense of comedy which makes it so memorably entertaining.
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