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  Anchors Aweigh Follow The Fleet
Year: 1945
Director: George Sidney
Stars: Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly, José Iturbi, Dean Stockwell, Pamela Britton, Rags Ragland, Billy Gilbert, Henry O'Neill, Carlos Ramírez, Edgar Kennedy, Grady Sutton, Leon Ames, Sharon McManus, James Flavin, James Burke, Henry Armetta
Genre: Musical, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: At this award ceremony held by the U.S. Navy, Clarence Doolittle (Frank Sinatra) is given a medal for remaining at his post under enemy fire, while his best friend Joe Brady (Gene Kelly) is rewarded for saving his life when he went overboard. As a result they are offered shore leave for a few days, something they gladly accept as they both have girls who are waiting for them in Hollywood - or at least Joe does, as Clarence is bluffing his way through conversations on that topic, because he doesn't have a girl at all. He tags along with Joe, hoping his luck will change...

Remember when Frank Sinatra was meant to be cute? If you do, you must be very old, because he was one of the first stars to enjoy the adulation as a teen phenomenon back in the nineteen-forties. Here he was in that role, playing the innocent to fellow up and coming star Kelly's more experienced lothario, crooning a few tunes and almost keeping up with his athletic co-star in a couple of dance routines he got to perform with him. Nowadays Anchors Aweigh is mainly recalled for one routine that Sinatra had nothing to do with, as Kelly found a different partner for that one, someone who wasn't even human.

That someone was Jerry Mouse of Tom and Jerry fame, who showed up in a fantasy sequence as Joe regaled a group of little children with a fairy tale of his own devising. This involved a king who had banned dancing, and we quickly find out the king is Jerry - Tom, if you're wondering, appears for a few seconds as his servant and not looking best pleased about it. Joe teaches him to dance, and suddenly what had been strictly run of the mill springs to life: it's no wonder people remember this bit above the rest of the film, because it's a slice of movie magic the other parts of the story fail to live up to. Not that this was a terrible movie, but after that you'll wish this was all about Gene Kelly and Tom and Jerry.

It's not, and for the first half it seems to be more about Joe's sexual frustration than anything else as he is continually thwarted in his attempts to get close to the ever-unseen Lola, a woman he rhapsodises about and is often on the phone to. Thanks to Clarence, that union is never realised, and they both end up taking an orphan boy home as a favour to the police; the boy is Donald, played by then-cherubic child star Dean Stockwell, and he wants to join the Navy so had run away to do so. Did I mention he's an orphan too? Not only does that tug on the heartstrings, it also means we're introduced to his Aunt Susan (Kathryn Grayson), his guardian and possible love interest for one or other of our heroes.

Susan is a promising singer but as yet can only get work as an extra in Hollywood, so is still awaiting her big break. After a mix up, the boys fool her into thinking they know orchestra leader José Iturbi (one of many such entertainers who played "themselves" in musicals of the time) and they tell her she has an audition with him that they have arranged, something they regret and spend the rest of the movie trying to set up or get out of, whichever will let Susan down gently. Really this was simply a framework for the stars to do their thing, so Grayson gets to trill a couple of times, Sinatra does his bit for the teens, and most impressively, Kelly tapped and leapt around the soundstages to various tunes, which are probably the most diverting sequences. If you were looking for a far more memorable arrangement of this kind of plot, Jerry aside, then it's On the Town which arrived soon after you would most likely be more satisfied with, but Anchors Aweigh filled a gap if you were so inclined.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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