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on May 10, 2004
Although Kelly, Donen, and Comden/Green would go on to movie greatness together ("Singing in the Rain", 1952) this one comes up short. The problem is simple: MGM didn't respect the original material enough (the Bernstein/Comden/Green Broadway musical of the same name)-- most of the fine Bernstein songs were jettisoned in favor of distinctly second-rate stuff ("Main Street", "You're Awful", etc.), as well as dumping all the great dance numbers save two ("A Day in New York", "Miss Turnstiles"). The other problem is that after Gabey, Ivy, and their friends finally get together atop the Empire State Building, the movie really goes downhill; the whole denouement at Coney Island is silly and takes much too long. There are some good performances, esp. from the women (Betty Garrett and Ann Miller really give the movie oomph and a sense of fun, and Alice Pearce's "I got the gargle!" bit is classic). Sinatra and Kelly are fine as always, but you have to be a big Jules Munshin fan to weather his supershticky performances, both here and in "Take me Out to the Ball Game" (also with Sinatra, Kelly, and Garrett).
I know this movie is a big fan favorite; I just hope that people who think On the Town is a fine musical take the time to check out the really superior products of MGM's famous Freed unit: "Singing in the Rain", "Gigi", "Meet me in St. Louis". When the Freed unit clicked on all cylinders, as they did in those three movies, nobody made better movies of ANY kind.
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on June 11, 2003
It's a wonderful town! And a wonderful movie as well. One of the best of Gene Kelly's career (part of the three year stretch that produced 'Singin' In the Rain' and 'An American in Paris'), this movie has everything. Singing, dancing, and comedy. Ann Miller shines in her "Prehistoric Man" number, one of the best to showcase her talents. And Gene Kelly, well, he's Gene Kelly.
Do I really have to elaborate on that. The cast also includes the comedy of Jules Munshin and Betty Garrett, the dancing talents of the lovely Vera Ellen, and, of course, the riot-inducing crooning of a pre Rat Pack Frank Sinatra. The plot (three sailors on a twenty-four hour leave) is somewhat thin, but the musical numbers more than make up for that. I've never seen or heard the original play, but I understand they cut quite a few of the original numbers out and changed some others. Chalk it up to politics of the time and the strict Hays Office. It doesn't undermine the spectacular peformances that are given in this movie. Definitely one of the gems of MGM.
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ON THE TOWN [1949] [Blu-ray] [US Import] M-G-M's Big Color By Technicolor Musical! The Freshest, Most Invigorating and Innovative Screen Musical of Its Decade!

New York, New York, it's a wonderful town, especially when sailors Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin have a 24-hour shore leave to see the sights . . . and when those sights include Ann Miller, Betty Garrett and Vera-Ellen.

Co-directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, based on the Broadway hit and set to an Academy Award® winning adaptation score, 'On the Town' changed the landscape of movie musicals, opening filmmakers' eyes to what could be done on location. And when brilliant location and studio production numbers are blended, it could be as here and ebullient, up-and-at-'em perfection. The Bronx is up and the Battery's down, but no one can be down after going 'On the Town.'

FILM FACT: The film was an instant success and won the Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Cinematography (Color). Screenwriters Adolph Green and Betty Comden won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical. Judy Holliday was uncredited as the voice of Daisy Simkins. The musical numbers staged on location in New York were the first time a major studio had accomplished this. The location shots in New York took nine days.

Cast: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen, Florence Bates, Alice Pearce, George Meader, Bette Arlen, Dorinda Clifton, Jeanne Coyne, Gloria Marlen, Hans Conried, Peter Chong, Bern Hoffman (Shipyard Singer uncredited) and James A. FitzPatrick (Trailer Narrator uncredited)

Directors: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen and Jack Gertsman [Assistant Director]

Producers: Arthur Freed and Roger Edens

Screenplay: Adolph Green, Betty Comden and Jerome Robbins (idea)

Composers: Leonard Bernstein, Roger Edens, Adolph Green, Betty Comden and Conrad Salinger (uncredited)

Cinematography: Harold Rosson

Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English: 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, French: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish [Castilian]: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono and Spanish [Latin]: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish [Castilian] and Spanish [Latin]

Running Time: 98 minutes

Region: Region A/1

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Warner Home Video

Andrew's Blu-ray Review: 'On the Town' may not be the greatest Hollywood musical ever produced; compared to the likes of Singin' in the Rain,' 'The Wizard of Oz,' The Band Wagon' and several others would all garner consideration with 'Singin' in the Rain' probably receiving the most attention. But 'On the Town' is so unconventional for its time, is separate from the rest for several very special reasons, Most significantly, the film was partially shot outdoors; it instigated the use of increased on-location shooting for films of that genre. 'On the Town' is one of the few features in which the talents of two filmmakers are so happily blended; Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, the co-directors, later went on to make 'Singin' in the Rain' and 'It's Always Fair Weather.'

'On the Town' [1949] is undoubtedly one of the key works in the development of the Hollywood musical. Up to that time, musicals were entirely studio-bound, with rare exceptions such as the Brooklyn Bridge sequence in It Happened in Brooklyn (1947). Directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen wanted to use extensive locations, but the studio allowed only one week of shooting in New York. It proceeded at breathless pace, often using hidden cameras to avoid crowd problems. Another innovative feature, also part of the Broadway stage production, is their use of modern dance to advance the plot in sequences such as "Miss Turnstiles" and "A Day in New York." Gene Kelly's interest in using modern dance would develop further in the climactic ballet of 'An American in Paris' [1951] and 'Invitation to the Dance' [1956].

Gabey, Chip and Ozzie have exactly 24 hours' shore leave in New York and are determined to see all the sights and find some romance along the way. Chip is pursued by Brunhilde "Hildy" Esterhazy, an aggressive taxi-driver. Ozzie hits it off with Claire, an anthropologist, while visiting the Museum of Natural History. Gabey, on the other hand, has his hopes pinned on a seemingly impossible dream: "Miss Turnstiles," whose poster he sees on the subway. However, this is New York and a lot can happen in one day. Frank Sinatra, in one of his first starring roles, gets his chance to croon, Gene Kelly to dance, and Jules Munshin to pull in the yuks, while the rest of the cast, particularly Vera-Ellen and Ann Miller, shine brightly in their own set pieces, with ballet and tap dancing showstoppers, respectively.

Characterisations are established not only by dialogue and performance but in terms of song and dance: "Prehistoric Man," set in the Museum of Natural History and tap-danced by anthropology student Ann Miller displays her character's aggressiveness in pursuing Jules Munshin; in "Come Up to My Place," shy Frank Sinatra finally succumbs to the charms of taxi driver Betty Garrett. These two women are certainly no standard, passive heroines, and are unusually liberated for their day by the manner in which they relate to, and compete with, men.

The two aforementioned dance numbers, along with the songs "New York, New York" and "Come Up to My Place," were the only musical numbers retained for Leonard Bernstein's original score. Betty Comden and Adolph Green, were hired by M-G-M to write new lyrics. Roger Edens composed six new songs, receiving an Academy Award® along with Musical Director Lennie Hayton in the process.

'On the Town' is an energetic, effervescent combination of reality and fantasy, especially compared to 'West Side Story' and 'Funny Girl' and so many other subsequent musicals owe their very existence to the creativity and vision of Gene Kelly and company. If modern audiences are able to keep an open mind to the prevalent views of the times the film had been made in, there is more than enough in 'On the Town' to recommend for lovers of musicals, particularly those who enjoy the dancing of Gene Kelly and co., and the singing of Frank Sinatra. It's charming, humorous, effervescent, and a perfect postcard to all that exemplifies the infinite paths and possibilities of New York City at its 'Big Apple' finest.

Blu-ray Video Quality ' 'On the Town' was shot in three-strip Technicolor by Harold Rossen, and Warner Home Video's 1080p encoded image on this Blu-ray was clearly not beneficiary of the patented "Ultra Resolution" process recently featured on Warner Home Video release of 'The Band Wagon.'

Blu-ray Audio Quality ' The 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono is in fine shape and, within the limitations of the era, does justice to the musical numbers and vocal performances, which were studio-recorded. The dynamic range is limited, but the highs aren't harsh and the lows aren't bad. Both dialogue and lyrics are clearly rendered. 'On the Town' has always sounded a bit like this and I am not entirely certain as per the reasons why. But, Warner Home Video has done the utmost to preserve and remaster where possible. You will surely not be disappointed with the results. I know I wasn't. Finally, what a shame Warner Home Video have provided and audio commentary and isolated score too.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Vintage Feature: John Nesbitt's Passing Parade: Mr. Whitney Had a Notion [1949 M-G-M B/W Short] [1949] [1080i] [4:3] [10:46] This Passing Parade entry tells of a little-known story in American history. Eli Whitney, famous for inventing the cotton gin, was given a US government contract to produce a large number of rifles over a two-year period. In order to fulfil the contract, he developed the concept of mass production. Instead of one person crafting a whole rifle, several persons make individual parts that are assembled later. Cast (in credits order) Lloyd Bridges, Erville Alderson, Howard Negley, Harry Hayden, Mitchell Lewis and John Nesbitt. Screenplay and Narrated by John Nesbitt.

Vintage Cartoon: Doggone Tired [1949 M-G-M Cartoon] [1949] [480i] [4:3] [7:36] First great variation on the topic of the noise, rather obsessional in Tex Avery's work. An energetic dog needs a night's rest if he's going to be ready for rabbit hunting at dawn. A crafty rabbit overhears a hunter tell his dog that he'll have to get plenty of sleep if he wants to catch the rabbit in the morning. In the interests of self-preservation, the rabbit devotes his entire night to keeping the dog awake in a variety of creative ways.

Trailer: On the Town with James A. FitxPatrick ' The Voice of the Globe [1949] [480i] [4:3] [3:00] This a Special Theatrical Trailer for the M-G-M 'On the Town.' One unfortunate thing with this particular trailer, especially for its time, is the wording at the end of the trailer, where is states, 'Twice as gay as 'Anchors Aweigh.' American documentary film director. After completing training in the dramatic arts, he worked for a while as a journalist. In 1925 he entered films and specialized throughout his career in travel documentaries. Besides directing, he also wrote, produced, and narrated many of his films. M-G-M distributed a series of his travel films under the umbrella titles "Fitzpatrick Traveltalks" and "The Voice of the Globe," as did Paramount as "VistaVision Visits." The hallmarks of James A. Fitzpatrick's films were Technicolor photography and stolidity.

Finally, some people consider 'On the Town' to be more Gene Kelly's film than Frank Sinatra's, and it's true that Gabey is considered the lead role on Broadway. Still, the show remains a brilliant quintessential ensemble piece, that has been an all-time favourite Hollywood Musical film of mine, and especially with the strong performances by all six actors and actresses playing the sailors and their whirlwind romantic partners. As directors, Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen found the right chemistry, which is why the film worked so well despite a watered-down script. Since Warner Home Video is unlikely to re-master the Blu-ray, this is the best we will ever probably get, but despite this, I am so happy to have it in my Warner Home Video Collection, as it is far superior to anything that was previously released on the inferior NTSC DVD format. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller ' Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
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on February 11, 2004
Three sailor friends take a zany, madcap tour of New York City in the Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green musical ON THE TOWN -- refashioned here as an MGM vehicle for Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin as the sailors and Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett, and Ann Miller as their girlfriends-for-a-day. Although I think that the original stage score, composed wholly by Bernstein, is superior, the movie does have several fine "new numbers," including "Prehistoric Man" (in which Miller, in a stunning tap dance routine, proves herself to be no cold scientist but a hot-blooded woman) and "You're Awful" (a golden vocal moment for Sinatra) -- as well as Bernstein's "I Feel Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet," "New York, New York (A Wonderful Town)," "Come Up to My Place," and the ballet "A Day in New York." Usually thought of as one of Kelly's "big three" MGM films (along with AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN), ON THE TOWN in fact has no real "star"; the roles are all about equal in size. Kelly, so often cast in "tough" roles, is here touching in his pursuit of the lovely and talented "Miss Turnstiles" (Vera-Ellen). Sinatra is charmingly boyish and Munshin adorably hilarious, while their "girlfriends" -- Garrett the comedienne and Miller the dancer -- are well contrasted. "A Day in New York" is a highlight and prefigures both "Broadway Melody" in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and "An American in Paris" -- two other "dream ballets" in which Kelly's character is the sad and dejected lover. This movie may not be Broadway's ON THE TOWN, but it is a colorful MGM musical with a first-rate cast.
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on September 27, 2002
On The Town is a great movie. Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin star as three sailors on 24 leave in the Big Apple. This movie was so much fun to watch. The big dance numbers are hilariously entertaining.
Ann Miller has a big dance number in a museum that really showcases her talent as a dancer. Betty Garrett is hilarious as a cab driver who develops an immediate crush on Frank Sinatra. She was my favorite character in the film. Vera-Ellen was good but she was mainly used as a plot device so she didn't get as much screen time as the other two.
Frank Sinatra's character is more interested in seeing the New York sights than romancing the pretty cabbie, but everything changes when he sings, "You're Awful" to her. I wish someone would sing that to me. Jules Munshin is hilarious. I've never heard of him before and that's a real shame because he's great in this movie. Gene Kelly (a.k.a. the reason I saw this movie) is great. His character is sweeter that the one he played in "Anchors Aweigh." All I want to know is, can we clone him?
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on March 14, 2002
So many things make this an unforgettable film: a thoroughly integrated musical score (song and dances which actually advance the film's plot and aren't self-contained diversions), the decision to film in actual NYC locations, snappy dances, slightly corny songs- but hey, it's a musical, not brain surgery. The plot *is* anorexic, with three sailors on a 24-hour shore leave- but part of its exhilaration is the fact that we get to follow their 24 hours every step of the way (with a clever Wall-Street timestrip crawling along at the bottom of the screen). We see "Miss Turnstiles," we get involved in her search, and we simultaneously see new romances develop without missing a beat. My favorite scene, by far, is with Ann Miller, doing a FULL-SCALE TAP ROUTINE in an art museum in a flashy green dress- with a backup chorus, yet!! The film sags a bit in the third half, but that has a lot to do with the fact that MGM's Louis Mayer insisted on cutting and replacing most of the original score- primarily in the film's first 60 minutes. (I also recently learned that Mayer didn't approve of the original Broadway characters because one couple was interracial, but what could you do back in 1949?) At the end of the 24-hour shore leave, I'm always just a little sad. That's why you have to own this one and make the memories last forever.
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on February 8, 2002
I saw a clip of ON THE TOWN on THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT (MGM's tribute film of its muscials circa 1970's) and never saw the actual movie until it came out on video back in the 80's. A musical probably overshadowed by SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, HIGH SOCIETY or AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, but this MGM Musical is just as good. The basic premise of 3 sailors on 24 hour shore leave in New York City and finding romance makes for great fun. It's as simple as that!! Boasting actual location shots in New York City, great songs, dance numbers, and of course...Gene Kelly and pre Eva Gardner and Rat-Pack Frank Sinatra, this is a must see musical from MGM's hey-day. Great supporting cast by Betty Garrett(who went on to TV sitcoms ALL IN THE FAMILY and LAVERN & SHIRLEY),Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, and the very forgotten, beautiful and talented Vera Ellen. The song New York, New York - - Its a Wonderful Town! used in the opening sequence in the New York City Location shots should have won an OSCAR. They just don't make 'em like this anymore!!
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on December 5, 2001
Here's an idea: Get a group of exceptionally talented performers together, sketch in an outline of a story based on a successful Broadway show, then supply the score, songs and setting in which they can individually and collectively showcase their respective gifts, turn them loose and see what happens, see if it works. Of course, by the time this film was made in 1949, MGM knew it would work, as it had for them many times previously; there was no guess work involved. The result this time around was "On The Town," a lively musical which marked the directorial debut of co-directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, with Kelly starring and also doing the choreography. The plot is simple: Three sailors get twenty-four-hour shore leave in New York and set off to make the most of it. Chip (Frank Sinatra) wants to see the sights; Ozzie (Jules Munshin) wants to play; and Gabey (Kelly) immediately falls into an obsession over a girl he sees on a subway poster, "Miss Turnstiles" of the month, Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen), and vows to find her. Along the way they run into a quirky cab driver, Brunhilde (Betty Garrett), and a young woman, Claire (Ann Miller), doing some research at a museum. But what this movie is really all about is entertainment, and it delivers it by the songful.
Kelly and Donen bring it all to life through the words and music of Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein, and the score, which earned an Oscar for Roger Edens and Lennie Hayton. it kicks off with Sinatra, Munshin and Kelly doing "New York, New York," in which they enlighten you to the fact that "The Bronx is up and the Battery's down, and people ride in a hole in the ground--" a dynamite opening that sets the stage for all that comes after. And it's pure entertainment that just sweeps you away with it while you hum along with the six stars of the show as they do what they do best, and it's a delight from beginning to end.
Without a doubt, Kelly emerges as the star among the stars, and his solo numbers and the ones he performs with Vera-Ellen are especially engaging; but this is one of those musicals in which one memorable number follows another, with each of the principals getting their own moment in the spotlight. Vera-Ellen has a great number early on in the film, in which Miss Turnstiles is introduced; Ann Miller taps her way through a rousing routine in the museum (in which she is joined by Sinatra, Munshin, Kelly and Garrett) that really gives her a chance to show her stuff; and Sinatra and Garrett engage in a memorable bit in song, as she attempts to get him to "Come Up To My Place." Through it all, Sinatra exudes a certain boyish charm while Garrett and Munshin provide the comic relief. All of which makes for a fun and thoroughly entertaining movie experience.
The supporting cast includes Alice Pearce (Lucy), Sid Melton (Spud), Hans Conried (Francois) and Florence Bates (Madame Dilyovska). Some movies are made simply to transport you to another place for a couple of hours, put a smile on your face, a song on your lips and just make you feel good; and "On The Town" is certainly one of them. This is pure, uplifting and satisfying Entertainment, beautifully crafted and delivered and guaranteed to make your day a little brighter. The fact is, they just don't make 'em like this anymore, and it's a shame. Because this is what the magic of the movies is all about.
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on April 13, 2001
Some critic--I can't remember who--defined the musical parts of a musical as "explosions of joy." Which makes 1949's "On the Town" one of the most joyfully explosive movie musicals ever. Before the three sailors (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin) get to leave their ship on 24-hour shore leave, they are "serenaded" by a heavy-equipment operator who stretches and musically moans "I feel like I'm not out of bed yet." A digital ticket-tape-type clock marks the exact time our boys can leave ship as they launch into the theme song, "New York, New York, a Wonderful Town," (which was bowdlerized from "a Helluva Town" on Broadway).
The plot is a nifty number where all three gobs pick up gals but one of them loses his--through neither of their fault--then spends the rest of the day looking for her. The satiric vein is mined along the day with references to museum snobs, overcrowded nightclubs, hillbilly music, taskmaster Russian ballet coaches and that Manhattan favorite--eavesdropping on the subway.
Just briefly, there are two paradoxical reasons why I think this film works so well. First, we have here a repertory cast whose areas of expertise hadn't quite jelled yet. So Frank Sinatra was allowed to play a shy kid instead of a heavy, Ann Miller was allowed to play light comedy instead of just tap-dance, and Betty Garrett was allowed to BE in the movie before her husband crossed the red-baiters of the Fifties (back then, the idea usually was to blacklist first and ask questions later). Gene Kelly seems to be at his relaxed and versatile best, and Vera-Ellen is a simply wonderful dancer.
The second reason this flick is so good is that it pioneered techniques that were new to movies at the time, particularly a mixture of location and studio shooting (try to figure out when the cast is on top of the REAL Empire State Building and when it's the MGM lot); musical numbers that advanced the plot instead of just providing entertainment (clearly, Hollywood had been looking at Broadway, in particular Rodgers and Hammer-stein's "South Pacific"); and the dream-ballet complete with symbolic decor and an ever-frustrated Gene Kelly symbolically looking for and losing love. (This particular device shows up in "An American in Paris," "Oklahoma," and in backstage form in many other flicks, not necessarily musicals.)
There are people who don't like this movie. It's a little too street-wise or proleterian, call it what you will. But their numbers are in decline, possibly because the Manhattan this movie celebrates has ceased to exist and in the long view has become almost as synthetic and charming as a backstage movie lot. If you think you can handle real-life locations, go with this one; you won't be disappointed.
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on November 16, 2000
I'll skip the diatribe about why musicals are great, blah blah blah because if you're reading this, then you must have some interest already. As far as On the Town goes, it IS great. One of the famous Kelly/Sinatra pairing (also see Anchors Aweigh and Take Me Out to the Ballgame), this is definitely the most exuberant. It's the first large MGM musical to be partially filmed on location, and the scenes from NYC back in the day make you wish you had a time machine to go back yourself. The songs are musical goodness at it's finest -- from hilarious romps like "Come Up To My Place," "Prehistoric Man," and "You Can Count on Me" to the obligatory fantasy dance number. Sure it's predictable, sure it's dated, there's no high-tech effects, and smooching's all you get on the romance front, but it's still a gem. Sure Frank Sinatra is the predictable shy young thing (as always), Gene Kelly is the predictable wolf (as always), and the fabulous Ann Miller, whose legs go up to the moon, is man-crazy (as always), but there's a car chase! On the Town features great dancing and good times, songs that you'll be humming on your way to work tomorrow, and the feel-good flavor that MGM musicals are renowned for.
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