It’s Always Fair Weather

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Three ex-G.I.s, Ted Riley (Kelly), Doug Hallerton (Dailey) and Angie Valentine (Kidd) have served in World War II together and become best friends. At the beginning of the film, set in October 1945, they dance through the street celebrating their upcoming release from the service (“The Binge”) and meet at their favorite New York bar. They vow eternal friendship, and before going their separate ways, promise to reunite exactly ten years later at the same spot.

In the years after the war, have taken entirely different paths (“10-Year Montage”). Riley, who had wanted to become an idealistic lawyer, has become a fight promoter and gambler, associating with shady underworld characters. Hallerton, who had planned to become a painter, has gone into a high-stress job in advertising, and his marriage is crumbling. Valentine, who had planned to become a gourmet chef, is now running a hamburger stand in Schenectady, New York that he calls “The Cordon Bleu,” and has a wife and children.

The three men keep their promise to meet at the bar ten years later, and quickly realize that they now have nothing in common and dislike each other. Hallerton and Riley view Valentine as a “hick,” while Riley and Valentine think Hallerton is a “snob,” and Hallerton and Valentine think Riley is a “crook.” Sitting together in an expensive restaurant as Hallerton’s guest, munching celery, they silently express their regrets in “Why Are We Here,” sung to the tune of “The Blue Danube.”

At the restaurant, they encounter some people from Hallerton’s advertising agency, including Jackie Leighton (Charisse), an attractive and brainy advertising person. Jackie gets the idea of reuniting the three men later that evening on a TV show hosted by Madeline Bradville (Gray). She and Riley gradually become involved, though Jackie seems motivated by wanting to get Riley on her show. She joins Riley at Stillman’s gym, where Jackie demonstrates a deep knowledge of boxing while cavorting with beefy boxers (“Baby You Knock Me Out”).

Riley gets into trouble with gangsters because he refuses to fix a fight. As he seeks to evade gangsters from a roller skating ring, he skates out on the streets of Manhattan, where he realizes that Jackie’s affection for him has built up his self esteem, and he dances exuberantly on roller skates (“I Like Myself”). Hallerton, meanwhile, has misgivings about the corporate life (“Situation-Wise”).

The three men are reluctantly coaxed into the TV reunion, with the gangsters tracking Riley to the studio. They jointly fight the gangsters, which brings them back together. At the end they are friends again, but go their separate ways without making plans for another reunion (“The Time for Parting”).

REVIEW:

My love for Gene Kelly knows no bounds. Even in films that aren’t that great, I still find him to be the shining star. Naturally, this leads me seek and watch each and every one of Kelly’s films, specifically the musicals. This leads me to It’s Always Fair Weather, but is this one of his good or bad films?

What is this about?

In this satirical MGM musical that garnered Oscar nods for Best Score and Best Screenplay, war buddies Ted (Gene Kelly), Doug (Dan Dailey) and Angie (Michael Kidd) promise to meet 10 years after parting at the end of World War II. But their get-together doesn’t turn out as expected. Each man has seen his youthful dreams evaporate, and now a network TV coordinator (Cyd Charisse) wants to feature their reunion on live television.

What did I like?

Dance. Usually in Gene Kelly films, there is an elaborate dance scene. This film is no exception and, as a matter of fact, it actually starts with a routine involving the three leads (and trash can lids). As impressive as this is, I was more taken aback by Kelly tap dancing while wearing roller skates. I don’t know about you, but I can barely walk in those things, let alone tap dance in them. The ability to do so is a testament to the amazing skill and talent that Kelly possesses.

Different. Most musicals that I’ve seen, even the ones that aren’t exactly “happy happy joy joy”, aren’t as much of a downer as this. West Side Story, which has a notoriously depressing finale, has nothing on the cynicism that this film has. In a normal musical, these guys would have come back from the war and stayed best friends, maybe having a blowup about their girls or something, but in the end they would have had a happy ending. Not to spoil anything, but that is not the case with these guys as they return 10 yrs later and discover that they are total strangers.

Cyd. Fred Astaire had Ginger Rogers as his partner du jour and it would appear that Cyd Charisse fit a similar role for Gene Kelly. They don’t have any numbers together in this film, though, but can anything really compare to that dance in Singin’ in the Rain, really. However, Charisse meets Kelly and immediately sexual tension sparked between the two, culminating with her kiss attacking him in the cab.

What didn’t I like?

Color. Coming out at a time when films were still using Technicolor cameras. Anyone who is aware of films from this era is more than knowledgeable of how bright and colorful this technique makes films. However, for some reason, the filmmakers decided to tone down the colors in this film, save for some brilliant green worn by Cyd Charisse’s character. Give the somewhat darker tone of this film, I can sort of understand it not being a rainbow explosion, but at the same time, a little color never hurt anyone, now did it?

Decline of the genre. This film was released at the time when musicals were going out of style. Looking at both Gene Kelly and Dan Dailey, you can see the wear and tear on their faces. That is nothing compared to the subpar songs that populate this score. It would have been nice to have at least one memorable showstopper, but we don’t get that. The closest we come is the number that Cyd Charisse performs with the boxers in the gym. Everything else just comes off as generic to my ears, but perhaps I’m a bit jaded because of the amount of musicals I’ve seen over the years.

Townies. When I was reading up on this film, I came across a tidbit of information that really disappointed me. As it turns out, this was meant to be a sequel to one of Kelly’s great musicals which also starred Frank Sinatra and Jules Munchin, On the Town. Something happened and plans were changed, though. I wish they wouldn’t have as that would have turned out to be a great film, especially given the chemistry and friendship between those three, as opposed to what passes for friendship amongst the leads in this film.

Ultimately, It’s Always Fair Weather delivers some good moments. It works as a satire on the television industry of the time. I could have done without the bookies and the reality television angle, though. Don’t we get enough of the crap forced down our throat in this day and age without having to have it shoved in our gullet in days gone by. That being said, do I recommend this film? Yes, while it isn’t one of Kelly’s best, it is still respectable and not horrible. Give it a shot sometime!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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