Anchors Aweigh (1945) isn’t a particularly amazing film.
But with its gorgeous technicolor cinematography, the beautiful voices of Kathryn Grayson and Frank Sinatra, and the always spectacular dancing of Gene Kelly, it’s easy to see why Anchors Aweigh was such a financial success for MGM: the film earned $4,498,000 in the US and Canada, and an additional 2,977,000 abroad. Considering that the average price of a movie ticket in 1945 was about $0.35, the earnings of Anchors Aweigh are even more impressive.
Anchors Aweigh: Slim on Plot, Big on Talent
The plotline of Anchors Aweigh is extremely thin: two sailors go on leave in Hollywood, and they both fall for the same girl, an aspiring actress who is also the caregiver for her young nephew. There’s lots of singing and dancing as we wait to see which sailor gets the girl in the end. (Well, it’s actually pretty obvious from the beginning who she will choose, but MGM wasn’t going for suspense here.)
Kathryn Grayson may be at her loveliest as Susan in Anchors Aweigh. Her hair, make-up, and clothes are absolutely flawless. The sunflower dress Kathryn wears in the film is truly a showstopper.
In addition to the lovely singing of Kathryn Grayson, we’re treated to the pure voice of young Frank Sinatra. This is pre-rat pack, pre-scandalous Ava Gardner love affair Sinatra. He’s a string bean with relatively awful hair. (But it’s Sinatra, so we don’t let the terrible hair distract us.). Sinatra expertly plays the shy, awkward- with-girls character that was typical of the three films he made with Gene Kelly, and the complete opposite of the real Frank Sinatra off camera.
And Gene Kelly! Boy could this guy dance. (And entertain in general.) He’s no Sinatra, but as usual–in my opinion, Gene’s voice holds its own next to the spectacular voices around him, in this case those of Sinatra and Grayson. His dancing, also as usual, is absolutely spectacular, graceful and masculine at the same time. Gene’s dance with Jerry Mouse is quite charming, and was no doubt a huge attraction for audiences as the first major movie sequence to combine animation and real life.
Anchors Aweigh and Mickey Mouse
It’s rumored that initially, Gene was to dance with Mickey Mouse in the film. Walt Disney was apparently on board and ready to allow MGM to use Mickey. However; Roy Disney was not enthusiastic about the idea, and his “no” eventually won out.
Though it’s easy to see why the film was such a money maker for MGM, I’m not sure Anchors Aweigh deserved the Academy Awards Best Picture nomination it received. Perhaps it was just the right film at the right time: uplifting and patriotic entertainment was exactly what WWII-era audiences needed, and Anchors Aweigh delivers both of these elements in spades.
Don’t forget to tune in to TCM next week to see Ms Grayson in: