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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER (1955)

This fascinating, flawed (and commercially doomed) musical from Betty Comden & Adolph Green plays out like a grim second act to their earlier hit ON THE TOWN/'49. But instead of WWII sailors on a one-day leave in NYC, three bosom-buddy army grunts return to the city 10 years after the war for a reunion & find they now have nothing in common. Andre Previn proves he’s no Leonard Bernstein in the popular song racket (not that M-G-M kept much of Lenny's original ON THE TOWN score), but with Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen repeating as co-helmers, and helplessly mirroring the sour storyline in their own relationship behind the camera, WEATHER sounds some unusually touching, even painful, dramatic overtones. Dan Dailey shows tremendous presence & power as a miserable PR man while Kelly nails his big specialty 'numbo' (the one on roller-skates). Odd man out is Michael Kidd whose star turn got axed by Kelly (the remains can be seen on the DVD). His acting is a bit stiff, but he sure looks great in the CinemaScope formatted trios. Cyd Charisse gets but a single gig (a second got clipped), but Dolores Gray, as a sexed-up tv hostess, scores in her over-the-top comic turns. (Her warm up song, ‘Music Is Better Than Words,’ got the full treatment it deserved in Minnelli’s DESIGNING WOMAN/'57.) Faults & all, the film stays with you in a way ON THE TOWN doesn't. (And dig that great pull-back effect shot at the end of both the prologue & the finale.)

READ ALL ABOUT IT: DANCING ON THE CEILING: Stanley Donen & His Movies by Stephen Silverman is an unusually frank Hollywood bio with lots of revealing input from Donen.

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