on-the-town-christmas-special-dec-18thSimple storyline: three sailors on 24 hour leave in New York set about painting the town red. With snappy dialogue, song and dance from Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin as the sailors, together with Ann Miller, Betty Garrett and Vera-Ellen as the wise?cracking, savvy broads, we are elevated into the fabulous. Original score by Leonard Bernstein. (Cert U)
Dirs: Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen 98 mins USA 1949

Programme Notes

On The Town
USA 1949 98m Cert U

Based on the eponymous 1944 musical, On the Town focuses on three sailors, named Gabey, Chip, and Ozzie, on twenty four hours’ shore leave in New York where, like the original tag-line when released back in the day, “they paint the town with joy!”

Having previously worked on such films as Anchors Aweigh and Ziegfeld Follies (both 1945), tonight’s film marks Gene Kelly’s feature-length directorial debut (he previously directed the short Combat Fatigue Irritability (1945)) and was a bold and ambitious project for numerous reasons. Firstly, it was the first MGM musical to be shot on location – because Ann Miller (Claire), who “hadn’t seen New York”, persuaded the chief of MGM at the time, Louis B. Mayer, to do so. It also endured opposition throughout the entire production, particularly from Mayer, who nearly shelved the project for being “smutty” and “Communistic”, until Kelly insisted on its revival during pre-production. Its producer Arthur Freed – who penned such songs as Singin’ in the Rain and Make ’em Laugh (featured in Kelly’s next major film as a director, Singin’ in the Rain (1952)) – had his own problems trying overcome his concerns with Leonard Bernstein’s original score for the 1944 Broadway production. He ended up using a musical score from Betty Comden, Adolph Green and associate producer Roger Edens (Funny Face (1957) and Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)), which would go on to win the 1950 Oscar for Best Music and Scoring of a Musical Picture.
Acknowledgements: Various contributors, IMDB.com, David Parkinson, Rough Guide to Film Musicals

“On the Town has all the necessary ingredients to be a great musical. Great songs with witty lyrics and catchy melodies, inventive, energetic dance numbers, talented performers playing sympathetic characters with funny dialogue in ridiculous situations” Patrick Nash, ThreeMovieBuffs.com

“We made better pictures than that but that was the apex of our talent. That was it.” Gene Kelly – in a 1975 BBC interview about why he held this film in such high regard.

Gabey – Gene Kelly
Chip – Frank Sinatra
Ozzie – Jules Munshin
Ivy Smith – Vera-Ellen
Claire Huddeson – Ann Miller
Brunhilde Esterházy – Betty Garrett
Madame Dilyovska – Florence Bates
Lucy Schmeeler – Alice Pearce

Directors – Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
Producer – Arthur Freed
Screenplay – Adolph Green, Betty Comden (based on their 1944 Broadway musical)
Cinematography – Harold Rosson
Original Music – Leonard Bernstein, Roger Edens, Betty Comden, Adolph Green
Orchestration – Conrad Salinger


“Wonderful choice of film – thank you.”

“Fantastic dancing and music. High pace kept up all through.”

“Highly enjoyable. Great film – very enjoyable. How did they keep up that pace?”

“Wonderful dance sequences. Sheer escapism – a real treat.”

“Pure entertainment – let’s have another one!”

“Great to see this film as intended – on a big screen, in the dark.”

“Great to see this film on a big screen, having seen it many times on TV with all the distractions of home!”

“Great music, great dancing and great acting. A lovely piece of entertainment.”

“Good feeling film. Good colour, music and choreography. Well done.”

“An excellent rough diamond in the MGM canon. Whilst not as polished as Kelly’s more famous films, the imperfections made it essential viewing for anyone who loves American screen musicals.”

“Lots of good, clean but politically incorrect fun, with nothing that would offend the North Korean leadership!”

“A bit dated but good fun.”

“Good fun but too drawn out”

“Immaculately well done though not really my thing!”

“Picked up a bit in the last third but I found it hard to believe that those songs – most of which seemed very ordinary to me – were the height of film music, even in 1949.”

“Very disappointing. Wonderful dancing but lacking in charm and ideas.”


A:16, B:13, C:7, D:0, E:0 to give 81%