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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.
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 ***
So, who's Kay Armen? Her minor character is essentially her only film
role: a bloody shame! She was a well-respected singer, composer, and
actress. With her Mediterranean looks(of Armenian ancestry), she was
cast as Vic Damone's mother. She participated in the occasional comedy
of flower shop owner Mr. Peroni(Chico Marx-imitating J. Carrol Naish)
as her skittish suitor. But, she also led 2 group sings : the informal
group of most of the stars in her house, singing "Ciribiribin", and
part of the grand finale, featuring a reprise of "Hallelujah". Thus, we
really have a superabundance of charismatic singing talent, both male
and female, along with sufficient dancing talent.
The screenplay is ultimately based upon the '20s play of the same name. Nearly all the songs are taken from the original play or other Youmans compositions from that era. However, the plot construction clearly owes much to the '49 MGM hit "On the Town", which also involved 3 sailors on leave, hooking up with 3 girls. Threesomes of stars of one or both sexes had become a popular format for MGM musicals in the '50s, after the success of "On the Town".
Debbie and Jane were rather similar cute perky young musical and acting talents, in this, their third pairing. However, Debbie was more known for her song and dance, largely thanks to Gene Kelly, while Jane typically specialized in dreamy romantic ballads, often without dancing. Here, we see this prejudicial division of their featured musical roles, with Debbie being the female lead in 2 song and dance stage productions, both including a bunch of sailors. In "A Kiss or Two", Russ Tamblyn makes it more than just a routine stage song and dance by incongruously sneaking into the ongoing production rehearsal, attempting to take over the lead male role, and stealing a kiss or two from the flabbergasted Debbie. In "Join the Navy" + "Loo Loo", singing and dancing with a company of sailors, she is sometimes tossed around like Eleanor Powell in one of her navy musical numbers. She also has a comical adventure with Russ in "The Devil's Funhouse".
Jane has an informal romantic number: "I Know That You Know" with Vic Damone, after an eventful audition song("Sometimes I'm Happy") and subsequent public tussle with Vic(unrealistic, but fun). Previously, she sang "Lucky Bird", alone in her bedroom, in anticipation of her audition.
The third female star is Anne Miller: also a versatile singer, dancer, comedian and actress: nearly always given a hard luck vamp image. She gets 3 dances. The first, with some other female dancers, isn't unusually interesting, although Tony Martin gets to sing some. In the next, she emerges as the tigress "The Lady From the Bayou", with a group of supporting male dancers: rather reminiscent of her vampish dance in "Lovely To Look At". She soon sends her shoes flying, and dances barefoot, thus foregoing her trademark tap dancing, which we see plenty of in front of a company of sailors, in the grand finale.
Unfortunately, the 3 lead sailors weren't as versatile in their relevant talents. Veteran Tony Martin had a great singing voice, as did Vic Damone, but they were not stage dancers nor notable actors. Sleepy-eyed Tony does a decent acting job here, in contrast to his early films. Vic also does OK as an actor. Russ Tamblyn had achieved wide exposure the previous year as a dancer and actor in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", and would later have an important role in the musical "West Side Story". However, singing was considered his weak talent.
Regal old Walter Pigeon makes an excellent admiral, and victim of his son's(Russ) and daughter's (Jane) misadventures relating to the middle-aged Wendell(Gene Raymond): director of the play "Hit the Deck". He is auditioning Jane for a lead role, in his apartment and, unfortunately, is caught by the trio of lead men responding to Jane's flirtatious overtures, during and after her song. They start a brawl with Wendell, wrecking his apartment, despite Jane's attempt to break it up. However, later, she blackens his still unblackened one eye after he wants to file charges against the 3 sailors, one of whom(Russ) is her brother, and another (Vic) her newest boyfriend, in the aftermath of the brawl. Eventually, Wendell gives in. Alan King and Henry Slate, as shore patrolmen for the navy, add a bit of humor in their search for the guilty servicemen....Meanwhile, Tony's and Anne's characters are having their problems, as Anne keeps demanding that marriage-shy Tony act on their 6 year engagement or disappear. Meanwhile, Tony pretends to be interested in Vic's single mom, to hopefully hurry a marriage proposal by the hesitant Mr. Peroni(It works). Then, he finally proposes to Ginger(Anne) in an eventful , musical, scene, that includes a parrot, a hidden picture of his imaginary competition, and "More Than You Know".
The film begins with the sailors doing some oddball duties: first in the arctic, then in a tropical swamp, before getting leave in San Francisco. Includes the caper of a rubber birthday cake with flammable rum inside.
Note: Walter Pigeon played Jane's father in her first and this, her last, MGM musical.
Sorry, I just don't have any significant criticisms. "Oklahoma" and this in the same year. Wow!
*** 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!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Attractive songs plus super-vivacious Ann Miller and well-voiced
newcomer Kay Armen, just manage to surmount an impossibly old-hat,
totally unbelievable screenplay, plus dull as a dry dock direction,
plus listless and mostly indifferent staging (except when Miss Miller
is on hand) and, worst of all, dreary acting from Tony Martin, Vic
Damone, Russ Tamblyn and even, alas, Debbie Reynolds!
However, In defense of Tony Martin and Debbie Reynolds, it must be said that their ridiculous and impoverished roles were simply impossible to play at all, let alone well!
On the other hand, however, Vic Damone seems be irritatingly content to be just naturally dull. And as for Russ Tamblyn, as usual, he gives the impression of trying too hard. (True, you're supposed to try hard, but you've got to make it look real easy. That, Russ and Vic, is the number one essence of movie acting).
Producer Pasternak has given the film some lush, but creatively empty, production values. In at least 90% of cases, it's no use spending money on costumes, sets and scenery, if your script, your director and your players are all three, well below par.
'Hit the Deck' is not one of the classic film musicals (made during
somewhat of a twilight period for MGM musicals), but there are far
worse film musicals around before and since. To me, 'Hit the Deck' is
problematic but underrated, and it's sad that it wasn't more of a hit
(it's not anywhere close to being bad enough to deserve making a loss).
It does have its problems that stop it from completely floating. While nobody really goes to see a musical for the story, more often than not being the least exceptional thing about even the classics, the story is barely existent and unevenly paced. Coming to life in the production numbers (which are full to the brim with liveliness), as well as the comedy of J. Carrol Naish and Alan King, but drags when bogged down by the often too talky scenes and in the scenes with Russ Tamblyn, Vic Damone and Tony Martin.
Of this trio of men, only Tamblyn (also the best dancer of the three) acquits himself well in the acting stakes, being lively and likable. Damone sings wondrously, then again when did he ever not, and has some charm but was never the most exciting of actors, being somewhat bland. Worse is Martin, who is very stiff and wooden throughout and generates very little warmth which does hurt the chemistry between him and Ann Miller (making one question what on earth she saw in him). Admittedly though Damone and Martin fare better as singers than Tamblyn, who actually was dubbed and while Rex Dennis does a good job the dubbing was just too obvious, the voice sounding too deep and muscular to come out of Tamblyn.
The ladies however fare much better. Ann Miller steals the show in the knockout that is the exuberantly choreographed and visually dazzling "Lady from the Bayou". Choreographically, a very close second best would be the inventive number in the fun house between Tamblyn and Debbie Reynolds, who beguiles vocally, radiates personality-wise and will make even the most cynical of people go weak at the knees at the sight of her in that blue dress. Jane Powell is cute as a button as always and sets hearts aflutter whenever she sings. Kay Armen kills it in "Ciribiribin" and "Hallelujah", while Walter Pidgeon effortlessly commands the screen whenever he appears and Naish and King are comic delights.
Visually, 'Hit the Deck' is shot in truly ravishing CinemaScope, looking especially fetching in "Lady from the Bayou" and "Hallelujah". The songs are very tuneful and while not unforgettable (generally the exuberant choreography of "Lady from the Bayou" and the fun house duet make more of an impression) they are not unmemorable or unhummable. "Sometimes I'm Happy", "I Know that You Know", and "Hallelujah" come off best, though "Why oh Why" entertains too.
On the whole, uneven and doesn't completely float but has enough great things that stop it from sinking or being a ship-wreck. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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