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This movie is "On the Town" meets "American in Paris", but it is unique and highly entertaining. It is the only true musical which features Tony Curtis. (Sure, "Some Like It Hot" is sort of a musical, but Marilyn Monroe handles all of the musical numbers.) Curtis sings and dances and doesn't do a bad job at it. He is competing with Gene Nelson, one of the finest film dancers. Curtis keeps up nicely with Nelson and although his singing isn't spectacular, he does sing in tune. Also appearing in this film is the underrated comedian Paul Gilbert. In the 1950s, Gilbert appeared in three musicals: this one, plus "The Second Greatest Sex" and "You Can't Run Away from It". Gilbert has a nice feel for delivering punch lines and handles physical comedy like a champ. It is a shame that examples of his work are so few. The songs were written by the totally unknown team of Moody and Sherrill. They also wrote songs for Gilbert's "The Second Greatest Sex" and "Fresh from Paris". This is all that is known about them. The songs are melodic and catchy. It is not Sondheim, but it is not meant to be. The musical arrangements are by Henry Mancini; it is early in Mancini's career and he still has not found his trademark French horn and strings combination. He is still writing in a big band style. This film is fast, light and fun, and movie musical fans looking for some good, obscure songs will be delighted with it.
Yes, this is a sort of second string On The Town (without navy whites)
and no, Tony Curtis wasn't primarily and song and dance man. But early
in his career at Universal, he was up for all kinds of roles from
boxing noir (Flesh and Fury) to yeoman grade costume adventures (Black
Shield of Falworth). Tony brought a fresh, free-spirited likability to
just about every genre, and this light-hearted musical about three
sailors on leave in Paris is no exception; he sings well, he dances
with abandon, and he ingratiates the charm with a beginner's ease.
Co-star Gene Nelson was an expert dancer with years of experience, and gets several opportunities to charm the audience (and the girl) and Paul Gilbert saves the day during a final revue staged for a War Orphan benefit. Gloria De Haven, largely forgotten today, evokes a natural performance as a singer/dancer transplanted to postwar Paris, and Corinne Calvet and Mara Corday fill in the girlfriend gaps with looks and ease. All this in Glorious Technicolor and a well-paced 90 minutes makes a perfect popcorn movie for a Saturday afternoon.
As a side note: we often think as MGM and Fox as the primary purveyors of musicals, perhaps because the product has made itself readily available on DVD and TCM for so long, and certainly because MGM practically owned the genre at it's best. The disappointment is that this film, like so many from Universal, is not available to the general public, and never shows up on television (not unlike the boxing noir Flesh and Fury, with Tony and Jan Sterling). As so many companies like Turner and now Columbia are opening their archives for DVDS pressings, let's hope we soon get an opportunity to see these light-hearted treasures!
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