Sunday 5 November 2017

Movie Review: Anything Goes (1956)

A flighty musical, Anything Goes enjoys a few good moments but runs out of plot early and never recovers.

Established Broadway star Bill Benson (Bing Crosby) agrees to team up with rising television star Ted Adams (Donald O'Connor) for his next big musical. With rehearsals due to start, the search is on for a leading lady. Bill and Ted travel to Europe separately. In England, Bill is impressed with stage performer Patsy Blair (Mitzi Gaynor), and signs her up. In Paris, Ted is enchanted by cabaret performer Gaby Duvall (Jeanmarie) and signs her up for the same role.

The two ladies don't know about each other, and neither man gives way. Patsy has the added complication of her father Steve (Phil Harris), a gambler wanted on tax evasion charges. All of them board the ship back to the United States, and during the long journey, romance blossoms as Bill and Ted try to extract their way out of the awkward situation without insulting either Patsy or Gaby.

Adapted from a 1934 stage play by Cole Porter, Guy Bolton, and P.G. Wodehouse, Anything Goes does feature a couple of decent musical numbers: Anything Goes, performed by Gaynor, is filled with seductive energy, while It's De-Lovely by Gaynor and O'Connor, is a playful celebration of budding romance.

Unfortunately, there is little else to generate excitement. Once the cast get onto the so obviously studio-created ship, the plot drops anchor and is pronounced dead in the water. To prolong the frivolous misunderstanding, everyone avoids saying what needs to be said, and the characters are stuck with not much to do except contrive their way to the next bland musical number.

Robert Lewis directs with a distinct absence of inspiration. A dreamy ballet is thrown in for Jeanmarie, Crosby warbles a nondescript ballad, and romance blossoms with predictable speed under the moonlight. O'Connor kills more time with a childish musical number performed with, yes, children. Memorable moments are few and far-between, and the 106 minutes of running time drag on.

Bing Crosby glides through the film with a vague sense of disinterest and discomfort, with more than 20 years of age difference between him and his designated romantic partner. Donald O'Connor is his usual animated self, while Mitzi Gaynor emerges with the most credit thanks to a glowing performance.

Anything Goes seeks lighthearted entertainment, but anything does not always amount to something worthwhile.

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