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A young man falls in love with a beautiful blonde. When he sees her being forced onto a luxury liner, he decides to follow and rescue her. However, he discovers that she is an English heiress who ran away from home and is now being returned to England. He also discovers that his boss is on the ship. To avoid discovery, he disguises himself as the gangster accomplice of a minister, who is actually a gangster on the run from the law. Written by
The original Broadway stage production of "Anything Goes" opened at the Alvin Theater in New York City on November 21, 1934 starring Ethel Merman and ran for 420 performances. See more »
In olden days a glimpse of stocking / Was looked on as something shocking, / Now, Heaven knows, / Anything goes!
[as she sings the words "anything goes", the title of the film appears onscreen]
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The closest you'll ever come to hearing a faithful recording of Cole Porter's original score is by listening to the faithful 1988 studio cast recording directed by John McGlinn, which uses (as much as possible) the original orchestrations of Robert Russell Bennett and Hans Spialak.
However, that doesn't mean you should ignore this revamped film version, which has historical interest because it preserves one of the few film performances of Ethel Merman. The Broadway show, which opened in 1934 and ran for 420 performances (quite a long run in those days), actually gets better treatment than other Porter musicals adapted for film. I have in mind "DuBarry was a Lady," the 1943 vehicle that stars Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly and Red Skelton, and "Something for the Boys" (1944).
"Anthing Goes," which was renamed "Tops Is the Limit" to prevent confusion with the 1956 remake, again starring Bing Crosby, is more of a vehicle for Crosby than anyone else, which is why outside songwriters were brought in to provide him with material more suited to his vocal skills.
Only three of Porter's songs are given anything resembling a full treatment (albeit with laundered lyrics): "You're the Top," "I Get a Kick Out of You" and "There'll Alway Be a Lady Fair." Other songs are used as background or underscoring (e.g., "All Through the Night," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow.").
In the original cast, Merman was joined by two big Broadway stars -- William Gaxton and Victor Moore -- as well as a lady named Vivian Vance, while the film gives us, besides Crosby and Merman, Charles Ruggles, Ida Lupino and the veddy, veddy English Arthur Treacher.
The plot, such as it is, hardly matters. In her autobiography "Who Could Ask for Anything More," Ethel Merman tells why:
" ...the writers who used to think up the books that were wrapped around Gershwin or Cole Porter scores, started from scratch, which only their bare cupboards and an unmanageable sense of humor to guide them. First a producer signed a cast; then he hired writers to rustle up some material for that cast to use. 'I've got Bert Lahr,' he'd say. Or 'I've got Victor Moore. Get going' buddy. Make with the Moore-type yoks.' " In the mid-1950s, Merman and Frank Sinatra performed in "Anything Goes" on television. The program was later released on a bootleg album. If enjoy the film, with a little research you'll even find it on DVD.
Enjoy the hijinks, singing and production numbers.
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