This pocket-sized musical from Warners, a mash-up of ON THE TOWN/’49 and the recently released THE BAND WAGON/’53, isn’t very good . . . but it sure is peculiar. Gordon MacRea, Gene Nelson & Jack E. Leonard are three sailors on leave who bump into producer Sam Levene & his putative B’way star, ultra-petite Jane Powell. Naturally, the boys have a duffle bag of cash they’re hoping to invest and Levene’s got an unfunded show to hustle. The show flops out of town, gets fixed with the help of B’way legends Moss Hart, George Abbott & Ira Gershwin, and becomes a big hit with the boys doing specialty spots before they have to get back to their sub. Even by the standards of a let’s-put-on-a-show fable, this one’s hard to swallow; the Sammy Fain/Sammy Cahn score is forgettable; the four stars end their big group ‘numbo’ in pseudo-BlackFace; Messrs. Hart, Abbott & Gershwin are played by lookalike ‘ringers;’ poor Gene Nelson seems to disappear halfway in; and then there’s obese/fey ‘insult’ comedian Jack E. Leonard as one of the guys, singing, dancing and generally threatening to tip over. Peculiar.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The obvious choices are mentioned above: ON THE TOWN, mostly for the great shot-on-location opening, or THE BAND WAGON, wildly overmatched for the task. Why not give the old Eleanor Powell/James Stewart BORN TO DANCE/’36 a shot. It’s got just about the same silly plot (submarine sailors help out a B’way bound show) and even the same director, Roy Del Ruth, in palmier days. Plus, you get to hear Stewart introduce an honest-to-goodness Cole Porter standard, ‘Easy To Love.’