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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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ANYTHING GOES (Paramount, 1936), directed by Lewis Milestone, a movie musical based on the 1934 Cole Porter Broadway play starring William Gaxton, Ethel Merman and Victor Moore, is given the screen treatment with Bing Crosby and Charlie Ruggles in the Gaxton and Moore roles, and Merman reprising her stage performance. The movie version, as with most adaptations from stage to screen, has been altered and revised, leaving some of the original score intact, otherwise a traditionally predictable, often silly, mildly entertaining musical comedy that could be categorized as being more faithful to the play than the 1956 screen adaptation also starring Crosby, which borrowed the original title, used some of its original songs but had an entirely different scenario nonetheless.
The story opens in a cabaret where American entertainer Reno Sweeney (Ethel Merman) is performing the very night she is to set sail over to London. She loves Billy Crocker (Bing Crosby), an ambitious young man whose boss has left him in charge while away on vacation. As Reno is performing, Billy notices an attractive young girl (Ida Lupino) sitting at another table who appears to be depressed or in some kind of trouble. Moments later, a couple of men (Edward Gargan and Matt McHugh), actually hired detectives, take her away. Fearing she's being abducted against her will, Bill attempts to rescue this damsel in distress, but takes the advise of the men to mind his own business. While on the dock bidding Reno bon voyage, Billy sees the young damsel (actually Hope Harcourt, a runaway heiress being taken back to her family in England by Evelyn Oakleigh (Arthur Treacher) to marry a man she doesn't love) boarding the same ship, and rushes on moments before its departure. While on board, Billy disguises himself to keep from being recognized by his employer (Robert McWade) and avoid arrested as a stowaway. Aside from following Miss Harcourt, who has taken a liking to Billy during the ocean voyage, he joins forces with con man "Moonface" Martin (Charlie Ruggles), Public Enemy No. 13, masquerading as a clergyman, accompanied by Bonnie (Grace Bradley). Because of Billy's association with Moonface, Hope mistakes him for or a notorious gangster and avoids him after he and Martin are arrested and placed in the brig.
A Cole Porter score with much from the play discarded ("All Through the Night" is underscored), and new ones composed by others, the motion picture soundtrack to the final cut is as follows: "Anything Goes" (briefly sung by Ethel Merman during opening credits); "I Get a Kick Out of You" (sung by Merman); "There'll Always Be a Lady Fair" (sung by Chill Wills and the Avalon Boys); "Sailor Beware" (by Richard Whiting and Leo Robin/ sung by Bing Crosby); "There'll Always Be a Lady Fair" (reprise/Avalon Boys); "Moon Burn" (by Hoagy Carmichael and Edward Heyman/ sung by Crosby); "My Heart and I" (by Frederick Hollander/ sung by Crosby to Lupino); "You're the Tops" (sung by Merman and Crosby); "Shanghai-de-Ho" (by Hollander and Robin/ sung By Merman): and "You're the Tops" (reprise by Crosby and Merman). With much of the songs worked within the contest of the plot, only two are given the production treatment "I Get a Kick Out of You" with Merman sitting in a ring shaped carrier suspended from the ceiling in the cabaret sequence; and the finale "Shanghai De-Ho" performed by Merman dressed in Oriental costume for the Paramount news reel set in England during a rainy afternoon. The Crosby and Merman duet of "You're the Tops" is tops, even with its dated lyrics and in-jokes that might not be understood by today's generation. The humor from that same number predates those 1940s "Road" comedies starring Crosby and Bob Hope where Merman briefly sings in Crosby's voice and Crosby hers.
For anyone familiar with Ida Lupino's dramatic movie career that took off in the 1940s, and her directorial work shortly afterwards, may be surprised seeing this brunette a blonde appearing in a musical. This would be one of her rare opportunities in which the British-born actress would portray a character of her true heritage on the American screen. Others in the cast include: Margaret Dumont (taking time away from The Marx Brothers) as Mrs. Wentworth; Richard Carle as Bishop Henry Dobson; among others.
ANYTHING GOES might be mistaken as a 1930s Crosby musical that never made it to television. Due to the 1956 remake in name only, which had been shown on American Movie Classics around 1991-92, the television title to this version was retitled "Tops is the Limit." In recent years, it's cable television presentations were limited, notably presented as part of its "Best of Hollywood" series on the Disney Channel also during the mid 1990s.
With the title that might have been suited for pre-code films produced during 1930-33, ANYTHING GOES is typical boy meets girl/mistaken identity/shipboard romance plot highlighted by songs and fine cast that should please any fan of musicals such as this. (***)
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