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Sunday, July 21, 2013

'Anything Goes:' Crosby and O'Connor Revise Porter

Anything Goes (PMT)
The 1956 film version of the musical comedy "Anything Goes" that Warner Archive recently released on DVD is terrific for many reasons; the big one is this is the last film that Bing Crosby filmed in his 23-year professional relationship with Paramount.

Other reasons for loving this version of "Anything Goes" include TV god Sidney Sheldon writing the screenplay. Casting  Kurt Kasznar, who subsequently played "The Land of the Giants" villain Fitzhugh, as Broadway producer Victor Lawrence is another nice television connection.

This innovative production of "Anything Goes"  keeps the genuinely timeless classic Cole Porter songs from the original play and toss the accompanying story overboard. The film opens with Crosby's character veteran song-and-dance man Bill Benson wrapping up his long-running solo show and starting work on a new Broadway production with up-and-comer Ted Adams, played by song-and-dance man Donald O'Connor.

After Lawrence manipulates Benson and Adams into performing one of the movie's best numbers, Benson agrees to co-star with the already signed-up Adams in Lawrence's show. One hilarious bit in that scene has Benson and Adams being very agreeable regarding things such as the billing and division of songs in the show to each other's face only to covertly lobby Lawrence for greater prominence a minute later.

The decision that sets the primary action in motion relates to casting the Broadway show's leading lady. Crosby hires Mitzi Gaynor's Patsy Blair after seeing her perform in London. The problem is that O'Connor signs up French ballerina/actress Jeanmaire's wonderfully named Gaby Duval after catching Duval's act in Paris.

Benson and Adams quickly learn of the casting dilemma but delay informing their leading ladies of the conflict.

Somewhat truer to the original "Anything Goes" plot, and to the classic '70s series "The Love Boat," the activity then moves to the cruise ship on which the quartet is traveling from France to New York. Romantic entanglements and complications related to resolving the casting problem prompt hilarity and great musical numbers.

The best of a great lot of song-and-dance routines are a fantasy sequence in which Duval's dancing and beauty entrances both "Newsies" style young paper peddlers and older New York males and O'Connor's separate performance with a gaggle of young cruise passengers.

A particularly clever shipboard bit has squabbling (pun intended) French sailors drowning out discussions of plans that are central to the inevitable happy ending in which the proper boy gets the appropriate girl and the show goes on.

The entire cast does an awesome job with their roles and the film is as entertaining as the original show. Further, the Cole Porter lyrics are world-class clever.

Additionally, the new arrangements of the Porter tunes are very good. Hearing these familiar compositions in a style other than their traditional big Broadway show style truly is simply different and not at all bad.

Anyone with questions about "Anything Goes" is encouraged to email me. Expectations are that the responses will not be shocking.