During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.
Ahoy, 1945! We arrive back in the land of the color motion picture. This time for “Anchors Aweigh”, a feature length fever dream and commercial for the United States Navy. Stars include Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and of course the cartoon characters Tom and Jerry. All aboard for a romantic, musical, comedy adventure!
And that is all the excitement and enthusiasm I can possibly muster. This film has not aged well. And, unfortunately, no one has seen fit to release a cut that leaves all the extraneous, contrite, and predictable nonsense on the cutting room floor.
But I guess a movie has got to have some kind of plot …
“Anchors Aweigh” stars Gene Kelly, the so called “biggest wolf in the Navy”, who sings very questionable things about women, implies the romantic female lead is a slut who has had sex with nearly every man in the US Navy, and even “comedicly” hints at violence in a song about not getting a kiss from a woman who doesn’t want to kiss you that you want to kiss you. And despite all of that, Gene Kelly is still charming.
His co-star, ole blue eyes white dragon Frank Sinatra is less so. Everytime the man is on the screen, I worry he will “aw shucks” his way back off it. Yet, despite having the spine of an Andy Griffth extra he has the voice of an angel. It is incredible really. Sinatra effortlessly hits all of the deep notes in his songs. His dancing is subpar, of course, but this is a movie with Gene Kelly in it, so why would anyone else bother to keep up?
“Anchors Aweigh” is a romantic comedy, but the plot is paper thin and horribly contrived. It is really more of an excuse to get from dance number to musical number and vice versa. There is no point in getting invested in any of the characters, and I don’t see modern audiences rooting for a man like Gene Kelly’s Joe even as he leaves behind his womanizing ways for true love with a dame he’s only known for two days.
Skipping over all the bits I hated (the little kid, Kathryn Grayson as the female lead, the plot, the ending), there’s a lot of fun bits of entertainment scattered throughout the film. It is strange to see a movie like this as its only real purpose is to feature two of the best known performers of the time who are still renowned today. No one went to see “Anchors Aweigh” for anchors aweighing. No – they went for Gene Kelly dancing and Frank Sinatra singing.
The best thing about seeing this film is finally getting the context of Gene Kelly’s acid trip of a dance sequence where he dances and sings with Jerry from the cartoon Tom & Jerry. And that happens after he tells Mr. Owl he is going to bring singing and dancing back to the other woodland creatures! Even with context, there is no explaining the scene’s existence. It is by far the best thing about “Anchors Aweigh” because most romantic comedies are conservative films just looking for an easy payday. This film tried to do a little bit more and I commend it for it!
So, should you also see this movie if you haven’t already? No. I’d catch the best parts on YouTube and then go listen to Frank Sinatra after he filled out a little bit.