Tuesday, August 2, 2011

31. "New York, New York"

Are you srsly not letting me embed the youtube video, blogspot?  Not cool, old friend, not cool.  Then you leave me no choice but to whip out my shiny new...

"New York, New York" from Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's On The Town.

As lively a way to kick off this project as I could have hoped for.  Here's the scoop.  It's 1949.  The golden age of Hollywood musicals has been over for a decade, and the rise of the modern stage musical is already well under way.  It's do or die for movie musicals, and they might well have keeled over were it not for the two whip-smart kids on the block, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.  They had already amply proved themselves by this point (and we will return to that soon enough) but in On The Town, an adaptation from the stage, they became the first to prove that movie adaptations were very capable of elevating the original material.  Three words they understood that might have saved many a future musical mishap: On, Location. Shooting.

That's why On The Town's morning wake-up call is simply movie magic.  The clock strikes 6 am and the ship comes alive and all of a sudden, we're like, "This is not my beautiful studio.  This is not my beautiful set."  You're there, in New York City, dashing out for a day with Gene and Frank and Jules, and it's like seeing the city for the first time.  Actually, imagine this: it's 1949 and you've never been to the Big Apple, and in all these movies you've no doubt seen, the streets of New York only look as golden as the studio lot can afford to make them.  And then On The Town washes over you and you're suddenly seeing movies in a whole new light.  You're letting the cinema take you places, which is something I feel we almost take for granted now.

Better opening numbers (not many) have come and gone over the years, but none carry the spirit of adventure that "New York, New York" wears so effortlessly.  Alas, if only that trend had been heeded sooner, imagine how many horrors of future stage adaptations we could have been spared.

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