Anchors Aweigh (George Sidney / U.S., 1945):

The paradise at the end of the war turns out to be an MGM backlot, "if the Army and the Navy ever look on heavenís scenes..." (cf. Godardís Notre Musique). An overture of band formations positions the aircraft squarely on the shores of Hollywood, the sea wolf (Gene Kelly) and the Brooklyn virgin (Frank Sinatra) hop off to enjoy their furlough and promptly run into the tiny runaway (Dean Stockwell) in nautical cap and jammies. Love and career are shifting matters for servicemen and gals, the unseen bombshell is split into the aspiring soprano (Kathryn Grayson) and the brassy cantina waitress (Pamela Britton) "and everything gets sort of... mixed-up and interesting." A composerís kingdom for George Sidney, a screen test is the ultimate dream, Josť Iturbi passes through like a sort of twinkly overlord: "Give me the Tchaikovsky Concerto, and get yourself a chocolate sundae." Kelly at his physical peak assumes the Fairbanks mantle in a boisterous Zorro interlude, cheers up a sad-eyed lass with an impromptu Mexican Hat Dance, and teaches Jerry the Mouse the joys of intricate choreography. (The famous overlap of Hanna-Barbera and Balanchine is a mini-movie literally projected on a second-graderís forehead.) Skinny enough to hide behind a bassoon, Sinatra sings "I Fall in Love too Easily" so silkily that the candle flame by his side trembles like a bobbysoxer. Together, the two use military cots as trampolines and turn "If You Knew Susie" into an ode to the imaginary sluttiness of their kewpie-doll beloved. Gratifying swatches of Hispanic gold and green and crimson spike the Technicolor gloss, the cluster of burnished pianos at the Hollywood Bowl affords a swooping camera that takes from Ophuls (Valse Brillante) and passes on to Russell (Lisztomania). "Please, soldier, leave us not talk mutiny!" The charmed rose from An American in Paris is already visible, so is Lolaís slow-motion, On the Town gives the jangly New York view. With Rags Ragland, Billy Gilbert, Henry OíNeill, Edgar Kennedy, Grady Sutton, and Leon Ames.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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