Did you ever watch On the Town and find yourself wondering what might have happened to those three guys when the war was over? In a way, It's Always Fair Weather is the answer.
Originally conceived as sequel to On the Town, the sailors have morphed into soldiers with only Gene Kelly returning as a main character. He's joined by Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd to make up a trio of army buddies whose war experiences have made them the closest of friends. When the war is over and the three prepare to go their separate ways, they make a pact to meet again in ten years.
While you might think that three such very good friends would try to keep in touch during the intervening years, the story is about them coming back together and realizing they now have nothing in common, except for perhaps their disillusionment with life. Cyd Charisse enters the picture as a TV producer ready to use the reunion as fodder for a sappy reality show which ends up bringing the guys together in an unexpected way.
The cynical perspective that pervades makes for a darker movie than most MGM musicals. Television is satirized in the movie's Midnight With Madeline program, with Delores Gray playing the show's star as an over-the-top, insincere diva. The corporate world is also a target, with ad-man Dailey's character song "Saturation-Wise" making fun of business jargon (five years before The Apartment did it).
But there's also moments of sheer fun and joy, like the three friends dancing with garbage can lids on their feet and Gene Kelly's "I Like Myself" solo on roller skates. The film is also interesting to look at as it makes full use of CinemaScope, filling up the widescreen format and using split screens and montages to tell the story.
A major theme of the movie is how people change over time and what happens to friendships. One of my favorite scenes is when the reunited pals go to lunch. The same trio that once sang about being friends until death now sing about their disappointment at being back together. To the tune of the Strauss waltz "The Blue Danube", each friend in turn asks "why am I here?" and labels the other two with names like hick, square, snob and punk. This funny bit gets right to the heart of the matter: each friend, in recognizing how the other two are not what he expected, also realizes he is not the person he once wanted to be, either. While it's a less-than-rosy look at life and friendship, there is an underlying truth here about how dreams and relationships shift over time. And there's a hopeful undercurrent of finding a way to change or accept the person you've become.
While it's no Singin' in the Rain, if you're looking to expand your range of musicals and you like Gene Kelly, add It's Always Fair Weather to your list.
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