Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tonight's Movie: It's Always Fair Weather (1955) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER (1955), the last musical co-directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, is now available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive.

IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER followed Donen and Kelly's TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME (1949), ON THE TOWN (1949), and, of course, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952). It's the story of three close Army buddies who reunite a decade after the close of WWII and are dismayed to discover they no longer have anything in common -- in fact, they might not even like each other anymore.

After the war Doug (Dan Dailey) and Angie (Michael Kidd, choreographer of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS) married and began careers as an ad man and cook, respectively, while Ted, depressed after receiving a Dear John letter at war's end, seemingly wastes away his life as a womanizing gambler. He's now part of the fights racket.

When the men meet up they become involved with a TV broadcast and a businesswoman (Cyd Charisse) who charms Ted. By the end of the film's 101 minutes, the reunion has helped the men work through some of their personal issues, hopefully heading toward a brighter future.

MGM musicals have always been very special to me, but -- despite the presence of Cyd Charisse, an all-time fave -- IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER is one of my least favorite musicals because of its relatively dark tone. (Ironically, that aspect seems to have won the film greater appreciation in these more cynical times.) The guys' characters aren't very appealing, and the mostly unmemorable score by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Andre Previn doesn't help.

There are lots of great individual moments in the film and it's definitely worth seeing, but it's not one I return to over and over again like so many other MGM films. Even so, my recordkeeping shows I've seen it half a dozen times, which bears out that even a lesser MGM musical is worth multiple repeat visits!

Highlights include the opening number with Kelly, Dailey, and Kidd dancing with trash can lids, Cyd's gym number "Baby, You Knock Me Out," and Kelly's roller-skating routine. Dolores Gray is a hoot as a temperamental TV star.

The film also makes especially good use of CinemaScope, including the guys doing a number in a triple split screen.

Besides marking the end of the Kelly-Donen collaborations, IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER would also be Kelly's last film with Cyd Charisse, who danced with him in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and then costarred in Vincente Minnelli's BRIGADOON (1954), an underrated personal favorite which I'll be reviewing here at some future date. Unfortunately their only number together in this was cut, but it's included in the extras (more on that below).

IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER was filmed in Eastmancolor by Robert Bronner, who also filmed Charisse and Fred Astaire in SILK STOCKINGS (1957) a couple years later.

The Blu-ray generally looks very crisp and sharp, although like SILK STOCKINGS, the lack of Technicolor gives the film a more bland, sometimes brownish look. While most of the film looks good, there are a couple random shots which are strangely...awful, but a little research after seeing the movie turned up the information that it was due to a problem with the original negative.

IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER was nominated for two Oscars for Best Writing (Story and Screenplay) and Best Scoring.

Numerous extras have been carried over to the Blu-ray from the Warner Bros. DVD of a decade ago, including a trailer, featurette, MGM PARADE TV episodes, Tex Avery cartoons, an audio outtake, and best of all, three really interesting dance outtakes which musical fans will find fascinating. I especially like footage in which we can briefly see Kelly, Dailey, and Kidd just before or after they shoot a scene.

The Warner Archive's next MGM musical release is Minnelli's BELLS ARE RINGING (1960), a charmer starring Judy Holliday and Dean Martin. It's due out this week, and I anticipate reviewing it here in February.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


Blogger Bill O said...

It's noirish aspect does make it special - a predecessor to things like Chicago and All That Jazz. With a title supposed to remind you of Singing In The Rain.... I've always called it a film about bitter, disappointed people made by bitter,disappointed people. Friendships strained behind the scenes as the MGM musical machine was winding down.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Bill!

I wouldn't have thought to call it noirish but I can see what you mean -- there's also a touch of Cyd's later (and really wonderful) "color noir" PARTY GIRL in the mood and look.

Have also read about the behind-the-scenes strains, which does add to the movie seeming kind of dark and sad in some ways. (Until, at least, you watch a scene like Cyd dancing in the gym!)

I feel the need for a nice palate-clearing dose of something like SUMMER STOCK (1950) now...LOL

Best wishes,

2:19 PM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Guess I should mention Hollywood's futile subtext here :
TV Is Evil. Intrudes on peoples' lives. Dailey regains his soul only after quitting the advertising jingle game. Dolores Gray as the ultimate phony unctuous tv star - somewhat based on Dinah Shore, whom she resembled.'Course on a realistic level, MGM bowed to the inevitable, and actually advertised it on tv.

8:30 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Sadly I don't care for Musicals,in fact I don't really like "Feelgood Movies"
I'm what is known in the UK as a miserable old git...think Victor you have
him in the USA?
Furthermore I have no intention of seeing La La Land-the clips I have seen of the film seem
to be the stuff of nightmares to me.
I did however buy the lovely Warner Blu Ray of IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER I think I need one
Musical in my collection.
The game changer was the adult theme and the 2.55 ratio which I love.
The extras are great especially the two cartoons. I loved the Droopy cartoon in standard def
but still looking great. Even better was the 2.55 anti nuke cartoon in high def.
So unusual to see a Fifties cartoon in CinemaScope.
I did not expect a 50's MGM cartoon to have an anti nuke message no more than I expected
The Sons Of The Pioneers to record an anti nuke song "Old Man Atom"
It sure is a funny old world the MGM cartoon is both charming and chilling.

6:21 AM  

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