My first musical of 2009 was MGM's 1955 offering It's Always Fair Weather. I had never seen this one before, although it stars two of my favorites, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. Apparently it marked the end of MGM's great era of movie musicals and didn't do too well in theaters. It was intended to be a sequel to On the Town, but Frank Sinatra wasn't available, so the story was reworked. I think this was a good thing, as it allowed Gene Kelly to break away from being type-cast as a dancing sailor and be a dancing soldier instead.
For a very detailed synopsis, see the TCM site here. Briefly, three GIs (Gene Kelly, Michael Kidd, and Dan Dailey) return from World War II in 1945. They are best friends and vow to meet again in 10 years. They part company to follow their post-war dreams and the years pass. Gene Kelly plans to become a lawyer, Michael Kidd a chef, and Dan Daily an artist. After 10 years they meet again only to find they have nothing in common and have not achieved any of their goals. Gene Kelly has become a gambler and ladies' man in New York. Dan Daily has sold out to corporate America and is creating ads, not art, in Chicago. Michael Kidd is not a chef, but a cook at a hamburger stand - in Schenectady, NY, of all places. Over the course of the day, they go from not remembering why they were friends in the first place, to regaining their self-respect - and friendship - all with the help of TV producer Cyd Charisse.
This was a likable musical with some great dancing, but few memorable songs. My favorite part was the scene when each buddy privately regrets meeting the others again to the tune of The Blue Danube:
Courtesy of marxfan8 on YouTube
The most memorable song (not necessarily in a good way) was Situation-Wise:
Courtesy of marxfan8 on YouTube
There was some impressive dancing including the three buddies dancing with trash can lids and Gene Kelly tap dancing on roller-skates:
Courtesy of Reggieray12 on YouTube
I have to admit these dance routines made me anxious while watching them. I was afraid they would trip on the trash can lids and I didn't see how Gene Kelley could possibly roller skate and tap dance at the same time, since I can't do either separately, let alone together.
I did have some issues with the theme of this musical, though. Initially, it soothed my nagging conscience about all the friends I've lost track of over the years. That's OK, I thought. We've grown apart and wouldn't have anything in common anyway. But then I realized it's because I've sold out to corporate America and I live in Schenectady (well, the suburbs of Schenectady - I guess that's even worse!). Why this Schenectady bashing? It's not that bad (that could be their new slogan). It must have been a very nice town in 1955, and I think it received unfair treatment in the film. Also, I would have been proud to create Miss Klenzrite, the anthropomorphic mop that Dan Dailey is ashamed of drawing. At least I don't gamble.
So the first musical of 2009 didn't turn out to be the uplifting experience I would have hoped for, but I was still happy to see a classic for the first time.