Anchors Aweigh (1945) is the first of 3 MGM musicals that paired up Gene Kelly with superstar Frank Sinatra… obviously the pairing proved perfect!
Kelly plays Joe Brady, a sea-wolf and all around ladies man with a heart of gold (naturally.) Meanwhile Clarence Doolittle aka Brooklyn (Sinatra) plays a naive young sailor with no skills at impressing the ladies. (FICTION!) The two are awarded with a special leave in San Diego and both hitch a bus to LA. Sinatra clings on to Kelly to learn how to snag a “dame” but the two wind up caught in a hollywood adventure filled with love, laughs, and music!
Throw in a young and annoying whippersnapper in the form of the cherub faced Dean Stockwell , who happens to have a beautiful guardian in the form of Aunt Susie, played by soprano Kathryn Grayson, add a love triangle, the Hollywood Bowl, Olvera Street and a tap dance scene with Jerry the cartoon mouse and you’ve got 143 minutes of musical fun.
The first person we see in Anchors Aweigh is celebrity conductor Jose Iturbi, who goes on to be the elusive goal for Kelly and Sinatra’s quest. In an effort to impress aspiring singer Aunt Susie, the two sailors lie and say they have set her up with an audition for Iturbi… They then spend the rest of their leave trying to make it happen.
Overall, the story is a bit all over the place, but the film is brimming with such wonderful songs and dance numbers, it actually doesn’t matter. It’s just plan fun to watch. The dance scenes with Kelly are particularly strong… By far some of his best, inventive dance numbers, with his duet with Jerry the mouse standing out as an amazing feat in animation for the time.
There’s a famous story about the making of this film and task Kelly had of teaching Sinatra to tap dance. The pair do one number together and if you watch closely you can see how hard Sinatra is concentrating and following Kelly. Apparently, they had to do 73 takes of the dance before Frank got it right!
The Verdict: Anchors Aweigh is a great musical comedy that’s fun for all ages. Great dancing, good music, a really sweet love story, and a fun portrayal of Hollywood in the 1940’s. Watch it Here!