Director: George Sidney
Writer: Natalie Marcin (story), Isobel Lennart
Cinematographer: Charles P. Boyle
by Jon Cvack
Contrary to On the Town, Anchors Aweigh’s song and dance numbers are second to its plot, which involves Clarence “Brooklyn” Doolittle (Frank Sinatra) and Joseph “Joe” Brady (Gene Kelly) as - once again - two sailors on weekend leave in Hollywood. With a woman at every port, Joe has a woman ready to call, while Clarence is the timid and shy sailor, begging for Joe to explain to him how to get girls, once again placing Frank Sinatra in a surprising role, which would eventually evolve into his famous stoicism and NYC coolness.
Unlike On the Town, this movie is more plot focused, with Clarence and Joe getting involved with Susan Abbott (Kathryn Grayson) and her Navy-destined son. Susan is an aspiring Hollywood movie singer, whose elegance takes on mythic proportions. Joe petitions Clarence to help him out with returning the lost son back to Susan, forcing Clarence to cancel his plans for a weekend of gallivanting. Similar to On the Town’s Ms. Turnstile, Joe convinces Clarence to help him find a way for Susan to get her big shot in a Hollywood film, eventually seeking the help of composer Jose Iturbi (who plays himself, which I expected while watching the film simply for how real of a person he was compared to the rest of the larger-than-life Hollywood character roles [it’s also interesting to realize that this subplot, involving the assistance of a big name person X in order to help out character/love interest Y and Z would get used ad nauseam in the 90s and 00s, such as Judd Apatow]). So starts a love triangle between Clarence, Joe, and Susan.
Yet again, though, in a surprising move given his superhuman stature, Frank Sinatra’s Joe eventually finds himself talking to a far far less interesting and attractive waitress who just so happens to have known him from his home town or something. Again, this isn’t to personally comment on the merits of one woman over another so much as that come the 1950s Sinatra would never get the less attractive person, nor he is even remembered for having gotten anything else.
Given the Hollywood setting, the story is more fun to watch than On the Town's New York City sets. We know that we’re in an imaginary world instead of having to buy an imaginary world. With a very Hitchcockian-vibe, the movie has a big scene at the Hollywood Bowl which shows it off in a way I’ve never seen before. The dance numbers are evenly scattered between the story, allowing us to appreciate when they come, but also excited for the story to continue when it all ends. It shows us the inner workings of wartime MGM studios and you really get a sense of how things were both so similar and how much they've changed; that while the operation has remained the same, we get a glimpse and feel for when movies were at the very top of cultural awareness, with nothing except books to compete with in terms of quality.
It’s a great film and also the first taste of Disney’s shift into the giant it now is, when during the cartoon dance number, what was suppose to be Mickey Mouse had to be replaced minute when Disney pulled out, forcing the film to reanimate the sequence at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Given its recent feud with Tarantino, this is one of the elements that’s seem to have never changed.
BELOW: The bizarre dance number that today - with inflation - would have cost about $2.6 million to fix
Thoughts on films, old and new
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