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The play Shore Leave was given another and final musical adaption in
1955 serving as a great showcase for some mighty talented stars at MGM.
Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar wrote the original musical Hit the
Deck for Broadway in the twenties and an film adaption was done in 1930
starring Jack Oakie. Then Irving Berlin did his own version for the
screen in Follow the Fleet for Fred and Ginger.
Come 1955 and we have still another script retaining some of the Youmans-Caesar songs and adding several Youmans numbers from other shows. The songs are well integrated into the story since it involves some sailors on shore leave in San Francisco involved with some musical performers.
The sailors are Tony Martin, Vic Damone, and Russ Tamblyn. Martin and Damone are two of the best voices around and Tamblyn is a good dancer. They pair off with Ann Miller, Jane Powell, and Debbie Reynolds.
Martin is having trouble with Miller, they have a Nathan Detroit/Adelaide relationship long distance and she's tired of it. In the mean time Powell who is Tamblyn's sister is involved with a Broadway wolf played with relish by Gene Raymond. Both are the offspring of Admiral Walter Pidgeon.
Anyway our sailors rescue damsel in distress Powell and spend most of the film hiding from the Shore Patrol. One of the two Shore Patrolmen is played by Alan King who was appearing with Martin in his nightclub act and Martin got the part for him in Hit the Deck.
Powell and Damone had already been a screen team in Rich, Young and Pretty and also had appeared in Deep in My Heart together in a musical number. They do a two nice duets with a couple of noted Youmans songs I Know that You Know and Sometimes I'm Happy. Martin's big solo number is the famous More Than You Know trying to win Miller back. And our Ann dances to Keeping Myself for You, Bayou, and the Hallelujah finale number.
Up till Showboat, musicals in fact had thin plots for stories and were just an excuse for singing and dancing. Hit the Deck is a throwback to those days. But a nicely done throwback.
Of course Ann Miller is just fine, but why oh why didn't MGM cast Cyd Charisse opposite her husband? Missed another opportunity.
Look for Richard Anderson who has a small role as the aide to Walter Pidgeon. In a very understated way he's the one who brings about a satisfactory conclusion to one and all.
This may have been made in the dying days of MGM musicals.
No Sinatra. No Kelly.
But it has some spectacular classic songs by Vincent Youmans.
Plus 2 of the finest voices of all time singing together:
Tony Martin & Vic Damone. AND superior musical arrangements & Russ Tamblyn dancing.
Never mind the negative reviews elsewhere. They do not make them like this any more. For sure. So enjoy it! Great musical!!
When this movie first came out, we had just been exposed to Cinamascope, Cinerama, VistaVision, SuperScope, and Todd-A-O. People where in their living rooms watching television and movies were not making any money, so they had to think of a way to get everyone from in front of the television and back into the theaters, and the WideScreens, 3-D, and Stereophonic Sound did the trick! But, here's the problem, years later, with watching films like "Hit The Deck": We were all fans of actress' like Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds because most of us watched them grow up from children to adult players in films. Tony Martin was a very popular singer. Russ Tamblyn had the look of a Mormon making movies because Russ Tamblyn was/is an Mormon. Ann Miller took over as the Queen of the Taps when Elinor Powell retired, and Kay Armand was a very popular singer at the time. So, we enjoyed these performers and loved seeing them on that immense screen with the 3 channel stereophonic sound which was the Miracle of that Century, and, once again, if you have never experienced these movies like "Hit The Deck" on the large screen with its 3 channel stereophonic sound, then I can see why others in the later generations to come would not appreciate them. Especially when you have song writers like Vincent Youmans, who wrote the score for Hit the Deck, and other composers like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin. Thank God, we can still enjoy these composers music today because it's been saved, and if you grew up in this age of the wonderful M.G.M. musicals, yes, even you, would admit that todays music, as the kids say, "Sucks"! This movie is just good old fashioned entertainment. Who needs a story line to get in the way of all this great music and dance numbers! Of course, sometimes things were predictable, such as when Tony Martin is singing "More Than You Know" to Ann Miller, and the look on her face is the same look she had when Fred Astair sang "It Only Happnens When I Dance With You" in the movie "Easter Parade", but who cared? So, we knew the formula: Give meets Boy, Girl and Boy Fight: Gir and Boy Get Back Together; Boy and Girl Find Out That All Along They Were in Love and Didn't Know It, and then the Extravagant Musical Finale with everyone in the audience feeling good that they saw the movie! The finale to this film with the whole cast singing "Halleluah" and Ann Miller tapping her feet off; the general energy you get from the last scene, made you want to dance out of the theater and on to the streets. Hell! Who needed anti-depressants in those days? Our anti-depressants were the energy that these wonderful musicals gave us! It's just a shame that they don't make musicals like this anymore! But, of course, I can see why! Who are you going to put in a song and dance movie musical? Leonardo Di Caprio?
Three sailors can't stay out of trouble. Be it with the girls, mom, or conniving dandies. Plenty of action is provided through song and dance routines where everyone gives fine performances. While this was not a great musical, it was still a nice little story with some good funny spots supplied by J. Carroll Naish and Alan King.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a really fun musical with all likable character. Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds & Ann Miller play the girls and Tony Martin, Vic Damone & Russ Tamblyn play the guys. The great Walter Pidgeon plays the father of Jane and Russ. Tony tries to win back his old gal Ann. Russ romances Debbie and Jane is stuck with a womanizer until she meets up with Vic. I liked all three pairings in the film, they fit perfectly. Ann & Russ show their talents as great dancers. Jane, Tony & Vic show off their wonderful voices and Debbie does both well. Ann and Debbie have some number to show off their great pair of legs. I just love the blue dress Debbie wears at the end. Her legs are gorgeous. I think they gave Debbie the best three musical numbers. I felt Jane was underused a little bit. Jane does a cute number with a penguin and does a couple of nice duets. I would have liked to see Jane's legs showcased. She also has a great body. I don't know why some people pick on this film. The cast is just wonderful and there are some nice songs and the devil's fun house dance number with Debbie and Russ is a highlight. It's not my favorite musical, but it is one of the better ones.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sing Hallelujah and Get Happy! Entertainment is on its way! The
composers who wrote "Tea For Two" and "I Want to Be Happy" for "No No
Nanette" also wrote a musical about the Navy in port long before
Bernstein & Comden & Green got together for "On the Town". There
weren't Jerome Robbins ballets or Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in
uniform, no world war, just sailor on leave coming to see their girls.
"Shore Leave", the original play this was based upon, was also made as
the Astaire/Rogers musical "Swing Time" with songs by Jerome Kern and
Dorothy Fields. 25 years later, the Broadway version of the original
musical was back on the screen (a 1930 film version has apparently
vanished from the face of the earth) and filled with MGM's best musical
Tony Martin, Vic Damone and Russ Tamblyn are the sailors; Ann Miller, Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds are their girls. Miller tap dances (barefoot this time!) to "The Lady From the Bayou", indignant to the fact she hasn't heard from Martin in ions; Powell is hoping for an audition from producer Gene Raymond who has only one thing on his mind, and Reynolds is the plucky youngest of the trio who is just out for romance. She finds it inside a carnival haunted house in a dance with Tamblyn in one of the most underrated sequences from an MGM musical. Why it was not even briefly included in any of the "That's Entertainment!" films is beyond comprehension. Powell sings the beautiful "Sometimes I'm Happy" as only she could with her delightful soprano. Then, there's the very Italian Kay Armen along to sing the crowd-pleasing standard "Ciribiribin" and takes center stage in "Hallelujah!" at the finale.
There are so many wonderful moments in this "let's just have fun" musical comedy that there's really nothing to complain about. It's not "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers", but it's certainly no "Kissing Bandit" either. Such veterans as Walter Pidgeon (as Powell's father), Jane Darwell and Alan King pop up as well to make this an entertaining treat that is sure to delight you!
Enjoy viewing Classic Musical films that were made in the 50's and this film was full of great talented actors, singers and dancers. Jane Powell, (Susan Smith) was at the top of her career along with a great performance by Debbie Reynolds, (Carol Pace) who put her heart and soul into her role as a girl whose father was Walter Pidgeon,(Rear Adm. Daniel Xavier Smith. Vic Damone, (Rico Ferrari) sang some great songs along with Tony Martin,(Chief Boatswain's Mate William F. Clark). J. Carrol Naish, (Mr. Peroni) played the role of a florist who wanted to marry Rico Ferrari mother and his acting kept me laughing at his great performance. If you looked close, you will see the great comedian Alan King perform as a Shore Patrol Petty officer. I almost forgot that Ann Miller, (Ginger) showed her great talent as a fantastic dancer. Enjoy
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some observations. Dancers I love. Ann Miller. Russ Tamblyn. Debbie
Reynolds. Jane Powell. Singers I love. Tony Martin. Vic Damone. Naish a
hoot as always. Damone's mother very nice and good singer. Raymond long
in the tooth.
Shades of On the Town. Annie again. Amusement park again. Three sailors again. Three women again. Sailor looking at picture of woman again. No female taxi driver here?
Great to see Russ Tamblyn soon after Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and before Tom Thumb. Good to see Debbie Reynolds after Singin' in the Rain. Same for Jane Powell some years after Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire. Annie of course had earlier been in Kiss Me Kate. Walter Pidgeon was not with his classic co-star Greer Garson. Martin signing reminding me of Till the Clouds Roll By.
Military critique: after Korean War. Way after WW II. Sailors are trained to get trained to defend their country and possibly get killed aboard ship or in the waters in some foreign land, but here they are happy and non-stop singing and dancing on stage, and chasing the dames ashore. They are worried about being grabbed by the shore patrol. War and military movies about WW II kept on for decades after that war ended in 1945 -- even up to and during after the Vietnam War. Army soldiers are not the only military personnel killed in wars, however. I see more singing, dancing sailors in the musicals, however, such as Anchors Aweigh, On the Town, Hit the Deck, etc. one singing, dancing Army guy movie was the one in which Army veterans are dancing with trash can lids.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the most expensive musical comedy films of the 1950's, its high technology cinemascope friendly presentation and its star cast, with Walter Pidgeon, J. Carrol Naish, Richard Anderson and Alan Hale supporting an unusual set of Principals - Jane Powell, Ann Miller,Debbie Reynolds, Tony Martin, Vic Damone and Russ Tamblyn, it seems to have generated surprisingly little recent buzz. The Hubert Osborne play, later a musical comedy play by Herbert Fields, then a Hollywood film whose plot seems surprisingly similar to "Follow the Fleet" and "On The Town", offer particular strong and memorable episodes though not a strong and memorable film. Perhaps its time period, the 1950's Hollywood musical whose unwelcome attempts to meld dance style set pieces with crooning style set pieces pleased neither the generic dance audience nor the generic crooner audience, is to blame.
HIT THE DECK is a 1955 cinema scope mop up of MGM stars and talent whose contracts would have been soon to expire. A bit like a aircraft carrier version of DEEP IN MY HEART it hangs together a roster of singing and dancing talent but this time with ultimately fairly just-OK songs and energetic dance numbers. Still, even at its most bland it is still unable to be made in Hollywood today. The women are the most interesting talent on offer and whoever said Tony Martin had an audience apart from Mummas in delicatessens was truly misled. He is the most annoying part of this B grade musical with A grade MGM production values. Like he did with the Marx Bros films in the 30s. Kelly was making ITS ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER another 'sailors on leave' 1955 cinema scope MGM musical at the same time and that film with its Comden Green script and songs is light years ahead in sophistication and quality. Still HIT THE DECK has a two of very entertaining 'big' dance numbers, in particular the "finale" and the "Bayou" sizzler with its very erotic and blatant imagery and choreography. It is so out of place in this 'suburban' film as it is sooo good. The color is also very good for Eastman since MGM saw the error of their ways and stopped using horrible Ansco color which visually marred several big films in 53 and 54. This must have been as safe a bet in which MGM could expect to play out as many stars as possible in yet one more sailor musical. Russ Tamblyn and Debbie Reynolds are always cute in this era though.
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