Sailor Danny Xavier Smith and two other gobs try to save his sister Susan's virtue. She wants to get a role in the show "Hit the Deck". After wrecking the producers hotel suite, they land ...
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Sailor Danny Xavier Smith and two other gobs try to save his sister Susan's virtue. She wants to get a role in the show "Hit the Deck". After wrecking the producers hotel suite, they land in the brig. But Danny's father is a Rear Admiral... Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If three sailors on shore leave in New York made "On the Town" a hit, then three sailors ashore in San Francisco should make "Hit the Deck" an equal success. Not quite, but not for lack of effort. MGM cast three top female musical stars, Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell, and Ann Miller; hired choreographer Hermes Pan to stage the dance numbers; added veteran support from Walter Pidgeon, Jane Darwell, and Gene Raymond; used George Foley to crisply photograph the lavish sets and production numbers; and included some tuneful songs like "Hallelujah" and "Join the Navy." So, why is "Hit the Deck" only intermittently entertaining and a prime example of a film that is less than the sum of its parts?
Principally, "Hit the Deck" was torpedoed by a silly script; the boy-girl situations are childish, fluffy, and ridiculous even for a light-weight musical. Rather than hire a Vincente Minnelli, MGM employed director Roy Rowland, who was a novice at musicals and whose prior work was a string of largely forgotten movies. The male casting did not help either. While Russ Tamblyn is a terrific dancer and has a bright boyish presence, he alone cannot carry a movie. His two male co-stars, Tony Martin and Vic Damone have great voices, but their bland good looks and colorless screen personalities cannot compare with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Even Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds are not at their best, which leaves Ann Miller to carry the show, and she gives it her all. Miller is at her tap-dancing best, and her performance as the eager-to-wed Ginger is quite good. When Miller is on screen, the film takes off, even when the musical numbers are less than sterling.
But even the best musical sequences often seem forced and tacked on, rather than connecting with the story, although Debbie Reynolds and Russ Tamblyn have an amusing, if irrelevant routine in a fun house. The rousing finale, which features legions of sailors in their dress whites, serves only as an all-singing all-dancing curtain call for the cast. Lacking the touch of producer Arthur Freed or director Stanley Donen or star Gene Kelly, "Hit the Deck" is an MGM musical from the years after the Golden Age had passed. While the film is harmless and fitfully entertaining, only Ann Miller at her best makes "Hit the Deck" worth seeking out.
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