Judge Bryan Pope fell asleep during this Bing Crosby/Donald O'Connor snoozer, only to be awakened by the sound of Cole Porter spinning in his grave.
Our review of Anything Goes (1954), published March 23rd, 2011, is also available.
Good authors too who once knew better words
Three-letter words? Funny, I thought authors now used four-letter words when writing prose. Whatever the case, I can think of a few four-letter words to describe this Bing Crosby/Donald O'Connor musical, which had the audacity to water down Cole Porter's sly, naughty lyrics and bore me to tears with its familiar showbiz shenanigans and limp production numbers.
Facts of the Case
Veteran entertainer Bill Benson (Bing Crosby) is looking for a new partner for his show when he gets paired with musical showman Ted Adams (Donald O'Connor). After a shaky start, the two agree to appear together on Broadway. But first they have to find a leading lady.
While on separate vacations in Europe, Bill and Ted (in a most bogus adventure) both stumble across the perfect woman for the part. Bill is smitten with sassy American Patsy Blair (Mitzi Gaynor), while Ted is bowled over by French bonbon Gaby Duval (Jeanmaire). Without first consulting each other, Bill and Ted each offer their ladies the plum part. Oh dear.
As the four hop aboard an ocean liner headed back to the States and a surefire Broadway hit, which lady will come out on top, and which of the guys will wind up overboard without his dinghy?
Woe to the person who thinks he's about to be treated to Cole Porter's classic musical comedy when he pops in this 1956 trifle. No Reno Sweeney belting it to the rafters. No Moonface. No fleet of tap dancers pounding out the title tune. No luxury liner. Wait, strike that. There is a luxury liner, and, except for a smattering of Porter's most recognizable tunes, that's the only thing this tired studio musical has in common with the stage show.
Sidney Sheldon's screenplay abandons the original story and becomes even less interesting than the scripts he would later crank out on I Dream of Jeannie, leaving the cast lost at sea. This is standard sitcom stuff, and all that's left for the cast to do is sink or swim. Crosby plays Crosby, natch, and he can barely stifle a yawn. Occasionally, he steps lively so as not to get trounced by O'Connor, who does his very best to liven up the proceedings as Crosby's young whippersnapper of a partner. Gaynor and Jeanmaire are on hand to look pretty, show off their gams, and engage in allegedly comical romantic misunderstandings, but even they deserve better material than this.
The foursome receive no support from the unremarkable sets and costumes, which add blandness to production numbers that already have strikes against them. "You're the Top" should be a boisterous showstopper, but, thanks to Nick Castle's clunky staging, instead has all the razzmatazz of a tax audit. The amusingly introspective "I Get a Kick Out of You" is turned into the kind of busy camp fest that would make Ann-Margret proud (seriously, headliner Jeanmaire has a far more masculine presence than her entourage of bare-chested, primping male dancers). Thankfully, O'Connor and Gaynor manage to salvage one number. Their "It's De-lovely" is a sweetly understated duet that preserves the spirit of Porter's song.
Falling into the "did I really just see that?" category is the sudden, unexpected sighting of Ms. Hathaway herself, Nancy Kulp, who pops up early on as a groupie. She's on screen no more than three seconds, and she doesn't utter a word, but there's no mistaking that face. In fact, let's talk about her for a while. It would be far more interesting than anything else I can say about Anything Goes.
Despite its unimpressive production design, Anything Goes has that rich, gorgeous VistaVision color palette that is a hallmark of pictures from this period, and it is nicely preserved on this package. The 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer is crisp and mostly clean of specks and blemishes. You can choose from a mono soundtrack or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Both are serviceable, but the 5.1 makes little use of the rear speakers. The package includes English subtitles, but not a single extra feature. Not even a trailer.
Anything Goes is as unexciting as movie musicals come, and this package, while offering a respectable transfer, does nothing to convince me otherwise. Reno Sweeney would have had a few choice words to say about this, believe you me.
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