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