Sunday, January 2, 2011

Silver Screen Sunday {On the Town}

On the Town 003

On the Town is a 1949 musical starring, amongst others, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller & Betty Garret. The film centres on three sailors played by Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin, who are on shore leave in New York City for a day. Amongst many hijinks they each meet a girl they fall for, sing some songs, dance about and break a dinosaur.

There are many things that I love about On the Town: adorable scared-of-girls Frank Sinatra, fantastic songs, Ann Miller’s tap dancing (she never stops smiling!), sailors (swoon!), etc. But one of the things I love the most is its portrayal of the female characters…well, at least one of them, anyway.


Betty Garrett plays Hilde (Brunhilde Esterhazy), a female taxi driver who liked driving cabs so much during the war that she didn’t want to stop after. She’s sassy, smart and she knows want she wants: Chip (as played by Sinatra). She (quite literally at one point) chases after him and she’s not at all ashamed about it (and why should she be?) 

Actually, she has very similar intentions toward Sinatra in Take Me Out to the Ball Game, as well. If you compare her to, say, a stereotypical film noir femme fatale, I might be able to illustrate what I’m trying to say a little better. Many film noirs show the woman in control of her own sexuality as, basically, immoral* but Hilde is shown as a fun loving young woman who meets a man she likes and goes after him! I wish I could be a little more like Hilde, sometimes...

Ann Miller plays Claire, a young woman studying anthropology. Admittedly she is studying it to keep her mind off of men and she sings a song about how she prefers ‘primitive’ men to the ‘modern’ man…Hmm. Let’s not dwell on that shall we? Instead, look at Ann Miller’s amazing green dress. This is one of my (admittedly very many) dream dresses.

Green Dress

On the Town 058
I do love when she lays this big ol' kiss on Jules Munshin!

You can have your own custom Ann Miller inspired dress made by TopRunway on eBay, too.

Now, it's clearly not some kind of amazing feminist portrayal of women but, hey, it’s a lot better than so many (but not all, of course) other films I’ve seen from that era – heck, it’s a lot better than many modern Hollywood films! Some may think I'm overthinking it but I really don't think I am...I don't tend to put much in the way of my thoughts/opinions on the content of the films in these posts but I think I'm going to start to, from now on.

Vera-Ellen plays Ivy Smith – in this sequence Gene Kelly, who has fallen in love with her picture, imagines what she (as Miss Turnstiles) might be like.

Miss Turnstiles Montage 01

Miss Turnstiles Montage 02

These costumes, also from the Miss Turnstiles sequence, are both cute and chic. It’s all the details in these that I like the most – the belts (like the wide one on the woman wearing the green skirt), the gloves & scarves but I think I’m most in love with the large satchel the woman in the green skirt has over her shoulder. I’m searching for something very similar myself, right now.

Miss Turnstiles Montage 03

All of the extras have fantastic costumes, really. And they’re all so deliciously colourful.


I know Lucy Schmeeler isn’t meant to be an attractive character but I think everything about her look is adorable. Especially her hair.


And just look at these evening costumes – again, I love Anne Miller’s the best. The neckline, the sequins and the matching gloves! Oh my.

Evening Clothes

And that, my blog readers, is all. Oh, except you can take a look at more screencaps here on Flickr.

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Andi B. Goode

*I am aware that this is a very simplistic explanation, as I don’t feel like going down the femme fatale road, right now. I’ve also not used a specific example, as a lot of my favourite film noirs don’t really have your stereotypical femme fatale character.


  1. I have to check this out immediately! Hope you had a great new year honey. I am following you on Twitter now. I just changed my blog background. Check it out if you get a chance and let me know what you think! Kori xoxo

  2. Ahhhhh you're posting again! Yay!

    We (John and I) got this for his mum for Christmas – she loves these films. But then I think I am pretty keen to see it too! I haven't seen it before so I skimmed over the post – I want to be surprised! :D x

  3. Great entry!! I feel exactly the same about Betty Garret's character and Anne Miller's wardrobe!! The film was (is and will be) one of my favourites!

  4. Looks like a fun movie, I love how colourful it is! It's interesting that the woman who didn't want to stop working after the war got portrayed in such a positive light - I've seen all kinds of futurist fiction written during the war about society turning into a matriarchy because the women would refuse to give up their jobs when the men came home from war! Funny how scary they all found it at the time.

  5. Oh how much I love this movie! I was drooling because of these amazing costumes! :)

    autumn, coffee and inspiration

  6. I love that film so much. My Nan use to put it on all the time for me and my twin sister when we were small.

    much love

    Emilyanneash x

  7. Oooh I love this film! And I like your explanations!

    I've been browsing through your blog for a few months now - you are cute as a button :-)

    I love all your outfits and daily styling and I am especially in love with the checkered shirt you made. You are quite short aren't you? The blue swing trousers just look so good on you - gives me hope because I am quite short and I always think I am just TOO short for swing trousers.


  8. I'm going put it on my watch list one of my resolutions is to watch more old movies =)

  9. Oh man, I haven't seen this one since I was a kid!

  10. Ooh, I just love this movie! I've always wanted a green dress just like Ann Miller's.

  11. I haven't seen this movie in YEARS. thanks for reminding me.

  12. Hurrah. So glad so many others love this film, too. =D
    Marianne: I hope you enjoy it!
    Frl. Irene Palfry: Glad it's not just me who likes Betty Garrett's character for that reason then. ;]
    Miss Emmi: I agree! It is rare indeed. And probably why I like it so much. I'm sure there's a comment or two made about her still being a taxi driver, though, but she doesn't seem perturbed by it.

  13. One of my favorites! I love the green dress Ann Miller wears too.

  14. I love this movie, but I haven't seen it in years so thanks for reminding me. And your screen caps are great, as usual. I agree with what you said about Betty Garrett's and Ann Miller's characters. And since Betty and Frank played the same characters in all three movies, they were playing the reverse of the traditional gender roles but no one made a fuss since it was in musical comedies. This is a very interesting thread you've come across. Of course, characters in musicals do tend to be more complex then just Boy Meets Girl, or that might be because I just tend to rewatch musicals too many times.
    My favourite part is Ann Miller's green dress, which I'm saving up for. I also found the eBay dress on Etsy too:


I read and greatly appreciate each and every comment. Thank-you! x