While MGM was soaring to new creative heights with their screen adaptations of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate (1953) and Silk Stockings (1957) and originals High Society (1956) and Les Girls (1957), Paramount produced this watered-down completely new version of his Anything Goes. Paramount filmed Porter's Anything Goes twice, in 1936 and 1956, both versions starring Bing Crosby. They didn't get it right either time, but if you forget the source material the 1956 version represented here, while not a classic, is still an enjoyable movie in its own right.
This is a musical and what's most important are the songs and dances which are handled very well by the talented cast headed by Crosby and co-starring Donald O'Connor, Zizi Jeanmaire and Mitzi Gaynor. When the plot gets a bit stale which is often it's interrupted by a lively song or dance. Five of Porter's songs from the original stage production are represented here:
1) Anything Goes- a very colorful number with a typically exuberant Gaynor performance. Note the lyric change from "four-letter words" to "three-letter words".
2) I Get a Kick Out of You- performed by Jeanmaire with a male chorus in a style obviously influenced by Bob Fosse.
3) All Through the Night- sung well by Crosby by moonlight on shipboard and danced by Jeanmaire in the obligatory '50's dream sequence ballet.
4) You're the Top- performed by the four principals in a split-screen technique to show off the "wonders" of VistaVision.
5) Blow, Gabriel, Blow- the big finale with all four stars.
One number, It's De-Lovely, interpolated from Porter's 1936 stage show Red, Hot and Blue, is given enjoyable treatment sung and danced by O'Connor and Gaynor.
With all due respect to the very talented Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen the three new songs pale in comparison to the Porter tunes although they work better visually than just listening to them on the soundtrack album.
The DVD transfer is very good. The first few minutes display a bit of color fading, but after that the image becomes much more crisp with movie musical colors that pop. The soundtrack sounds good, also. Typical of studios other than Warner's, Paramount does not include any extras on this disc, not even the trailer if it still exists, which is a bit disappointing. It may have been interesting if they had included the 1936 version, however, I'm sure that ownership would be an issue since Universal owns most of Paramount's pre-1948 film catalogue.
Overall I recommend this movie as a chance to see four stars performing at their peak to a few of the best songs ever written in a motion picture of the type they don't make anymore. One thing that really comes across is that the four stars really seemed to enjoy working together. While this version of Anything Goes didn't break any new ground in the evolution of the movie musical, it's an agreeable time filler that moves very quickly.