On The Town

Lava LampLava LampLava LampLava Lamp
Our rating: four lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.


On the Town!
Three smart girls and three slick fellas.
Thank goodness Frank Sinatra had a Hollywood career. Otherwise, the only concept we might have of the man is that of "Ol' Blue Eyes," that love-song crooning voice on the radio in the soda shop. In films like On The Town, we actually get to see him have some fun.

In this movie, Sinatra plays Chip, one of three sailors on a one-day leave in New York City during the late Forties, after World War II. Chip and his buddies, Gabe (Gene Kelly) and Ozzie (Jules Munshin), head into the city looking for a "good time." Chip wants to go sightseeing, but Gabe and Ozzie seem more interested in the local wildlife -- the kind wearing skirts. Nominally the most "manly" of the trio, Gabe falls in love with the current "Miss Turnstiles," the monthly calendar girl featured on the subway. When he accidentally runs into her during a quick photo shoot, his infatuation is complete.

Chip: What's happened to you?
Gabe: I don't know. All I know is, I gotta find this girl.

Gabe has "gotta find" her because she slipped away from him into the city before he could ask her out.

While Gabe searches for the girl, named Ivy (Vera-Ellen), Chip and Jules find love serendipitously. Chip's girl, Hildy (Betty Garrett, aka "Mrs Babish" from Laverne and Shirley), drives a cab. ("A lady cab driver? The war's over!" "I never give up anything I like.") Jules meets Claire at a museum, where she fawns over his similarity to prehistoric men. She calls him "specimen" for the rest of the film.

On the Town!
Sinatra woos Betty Garrett.
Although Gabe does eventually find Ivy, the movie falls back on that reliable standby of so many film genres: the mistaken identity plot. Gabe, in his small-town way of thinking, assumes that being Miss Turnstiles must be a big deal. In truth, Ivy is from his own hometown and is struggling to make ends meet in New York, but she allows Gabe to think that she's a star anyway. Actually, Ivy holds a certain occupation that we will not mention because certain of our readers have an aversion to the word "cooch." When the other girls catch on to Ivy's white lie, they do their best to help maintain the illusion for her sake. Apparently the moral here is that lying and cheating are perfectly OK, so long as your motives are pure.

On the Town is Kelly's directorial debut (in partnership with Stanley Donen, who also directed Singin' In The Rain), and like many of Kelly's later films, includes an expositional ballet piece towards the end of the film. It seems that expositional ballet was Kelly's thing, and though some audiences may find it tedious, it does provide the man with the perfect excuse to show off his amazing dancing and choreography talent.

As the movie winds down, Our heroes lead the New York City police on a madcap chase through streets. Once they get caught, they manage to talk their way out of the numerous charges they've wracked up on the grounds that they did it all for love (awww!). And people say that New York City cops are corrupt.

This may be one of the only times in the movie where any of the main characters are completely honest with each other. During most of the movie, they lie to each other and everyone else compulsively. Ivy lies to Gabe about her occupation, Chip and Ozzie lie to Gabe about whether or not they were looking for Ivy or making out with their girlfriends, and the girlfriends lie to cover for Ivy. Deceit seems second nature to everyone in this musical, although if you watch Singin' In The Rain or any number of other musicals of the time, you'll find that it was fairly common practice -- in the movies at any rate.

On the Town!
Ann Miller makes the museum fun.
On The Town really shines in its humor and its music. The laughs in this film should easily translate to modern audiences. They mostly involve staples of human nature like voyeurism, pride, and cross-dressing. Also, as unrealistic as it may be, there's something about the emotions conveyed when characters spontaneously burst into song that "normal" films just can't duplicate. We've seen several modern movies lately that we thought should have been musicals (My Best Friend's Wedding, for one), and it's a telling fact that Woody Allen's most popular movie in years was a musical. Why has Hollywood forsaken this genre?

On The Town is the perfect prescription for those folks who have seen too many Nora Ephron movies, most of which feature or refer to classic romances like this one anyway. It's a great date film, and best viewed in the company of friends -- even those who don't like the word "cooch."

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 3/4/98

This review is © copyright 1998 Chris Holland & Scott Hamilton. Blah blah blah. Please don't claim that it's yours blah blah, but feel free to e-mail it to friends, or better yet, send them the URL. To reproduce this review in another form, please contact us at guys@stomptokyo.com. Blah blah blah blah.