Tag Archives: Gene Kelly

XL Popcorn – On The Town

So I managed to luck out again (like with my flight to Singapore) that I would be able to cross off a list movie as part of the in-flight entertainment. Honestly this film would have been better placed on a trip to New York rather than the first leg of my trip to Taipei, but a check is a check.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 717/1007Title: On The Town
Director: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
Year: 1949
Country: USA

Over the course of watching my way through the 1001 movies list, I have come across a number of scenes that have found themselves as the subject of numerous references and parodies to the point that most people know the reference, but not the point of origin. The opening scene of On The Town – where the three central sailor characters sing “New York, New York” is one of those. I think most would know it from the Boy Scouts episode of The Simpsons.

The film itself is one of those quintessential musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood through the lens of Gene Kelly. This means a lot of musical numbers that are accompanied by a hell of a lot of choreography – including an early (and shorter) example of one of Gene Kelly’s dream ballets.

At the centre of the film are three sailors on shore leave in New York for 24 hours. They start off with the idea to take in the sites, but end up spending the day looking for a girl from a poster on the subway. By the end, they each find a girl and leave New York with memories of an eventful day and a large number of ethnic dance reviews.

Aside from the slight issue that Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly look a bit too old to play the roles of the sailors, I really did enjoy the casting. I especially loved Betty Garrett in the role of Hildy the taxi driver. It was nice to see the women being more sexually aggressive in a movie like this, and she has good chemistry with Sinatra.

I also am starting to find out how Sinatra managed to become a movie star (aside from getting a lot of roles because of draft dodging), he’s a consistently decent actor – although, at least for me, I don’t think he’ll outdo his role in High Society.

Now, whilst I am on board with a bit of a cinematic wish fulfilment – I do wish that there had been some more dialogue and a bit less dancing. I know that’s a bit of a dumb thing to say when watching a musical of this era, but I think we missed on some interesting chances for character development in favour of an extended tap number. Also, some of the songs in the final act were quite a bit weaker than those we’d seen earlier.

Still, it was an enjoyable way to spend 100 minutes of an 11 hour flight.

Right, so seeing how there is a big time difference to deal with I guess it’s time to finish off the in-flight meal and try to get a few hours of sleep. Even if it’s two to three hours. Tomorrow I’ll begin with the first of my posts about my time in Taipei. Until then, a hopeful good night.

1001 Songs – 1952 – 1953

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

They Can’t Take That Away From Me – Fred Astaire (1952)

I always forget that Fred Astaire also sang, when I think of him it is always dancing, usually with Ginger Rogers. It’s a bittersweet song about the ending of a relationship. Astaire never had the strongest of voices, but in his lightness there is also a great deal of grace and sincerity. Of note is the first minute of a three minute song with no singing. It made me think we got the wrong file to be honest since it is a lot of instrumental for a three minute song.

Dust My Broom – Elmore James (1952)

Wow, possibly the first song we have heard that makes such heavy use of an electric (although somewhat tinny) guitar. I don’t know the song, but I really recognise THAT guitar riff. Must be one of those things that has become sampled by later artists or at least become a staple in the electric blues genre. I fact… I think it’s a Loretta Lynn (as produced by Jack White) song that I recognise it from.

Foi Deus – Amalia Rodrigues (1952)

Meanwhile in Portugal, there’s fado singing. A type of folk music that is probably more closely aligned to music I would listen to instead of the last two songs. I only have limited French, so I have no idea what she is singing about. It sounds mournful. Like the sort of music someone would sing on a street corner with a band and (in my head) a lot of roses.

Le gorille – Georges Brassens (1952)

Okay, so I looked in the 1001 Songs book for this one. It’s not everyday you come across a song called ‘The Gorilla’. I then had to find a translation of the song that talks of an authority figure (aka the gorilla) that sodomises a judge thinking that he is an old woman… and it’s pretty graphic. It was obviously controversial and was banned from French radio for 3-4 years. The song is playful in tone and, apparently, reflects Brassens views against the death penalty. The central image, is hard to shake though.

Singin’ in the Rain – Gene Kelly (1952)

I never liked the film Singin’ in the Rain. Just need to get that out of the way. I did, like everyone, love the sequence that featured the titular song. It doesn’t work as well as a song if you know the dance sequence. This recorded version by Gene Kelly leaves some rather obvious dance breaks and sweeping strings which would have been impeccibly timed to his choreography. It’s also an interesting co-incidence that in the same blog post we have a Fred Astaire and a Gene Kelly song – I’m Team Astaire all the way.

Just Walkin’ in the Rain – The Prisonaires (1953)

Well done Mr/Ms. Editor for putting these songs back to back. The song itself is fairly standard, but it has an interesting story. The song list two writers when in fact you had the singer, Johnny Bragg, come up with the lyrics, but since he was illiterate had to have someone else physically write it down. It’s a sensitive song written by someone who had been put into prison with 6 99-year sentences for rape’s that he did not commit. His sentence was commuted, but a harrowing story just the same.

Please Love Me – B.B. King (1953)

We’re back again to a blues song that makes heavy use of an electric guitar. It’s a crossroads between rock and roll and blues with some interesting guitar picking during the vocals.

Crying in the Chapel – The Orioles (1953)

With the exception of some really Christmassy bells floating between the verses (seriously thought it would start on some ‘Jingle Bells’) this song is almost completely acapella. Personal preference here, but God and acapella don’t quite do it for me when mixed together.

Progress: 52/1021