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On the Town (film)

On the Town
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gene Kelly
Stanley Donen
Produced by Arthur Freed
Roger Edens
Screenplay by Adolph Green
Betty Comden
Based on On the Town (musical) 
by Adolph Green and Betty Comden
Starring Gene Kelly
Vera Ellen
Frank Sinatra
Betty Garrett
Ann Miller
Jules Munshin
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Roger Edens
Adolph Green
Betty Comden
Conrad Salinger (Uncredited)
Cinematography Harold Rosson
Edited by Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • December 8, 1949 (1949-12-08) (US)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,133,000[1]
Box office $4,428,000[1]

On the Town is a 1949 musical film with music by Leonard Bernstein and Roger Edens and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It is an adaptation of the Broadway stage musical of the same name produced in 1944 (which itself is an adaptation of the Jerome Robbins ballet entitled Fancy Free which was also produced in 1944),[2] although many changes in script and score were made from the original stage version; for instance, most of Bernstein's music was dropped in favor of new songs by Edens, who disliked the majority of the Bernstein score, for being too complex and too operatic. This caused Bernstein to boycott the film.

The film was directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, and stars Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller, Betty Garrett, Jules Munshin, and Vera-Ellen. It also features Alice Pearce and in small, bit part, Bea Benaderet. It was a product of producer Arthur Freed's Unit at MGM, and is notable for its combination of studio and location filming, as a result of Gene Kelly's insistence that some scenes be shot in New York City itself, including at the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Rockefeller Center.

The film was an instant success and won the Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Cinematography (Color). Screenwriters Comden and Green won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical.

Judy Holliday was uncredited as the voice of Daisy Simkins.[3]

In 2006, this film version ranked No. 19 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.


As three sailors – Gabey, Chip, and Ozzie – begin their shore leave, Gabey falls in love with the picture of "Miss Turnstiles", who is actually Ivy Smith. The sailors race around New York attempting to find her in the brief period they have ("New York, New York").

They are assisted by, and become romantically involved with, two women, and pair up: Ozzie with Claire, an anthropologist; and Chip with Hildy Esterhazy, an aggressively amorous taxi driver; and eventually, Gabey with Ivy, an aspiring actress. Claire claims that she's found her passionate "Prehistoric Man" in Ozzie at the Museum of Anthropological History. Hildy invites Chip to "Come Up to My Place". Gabey takes Ivy on an imaginary date down "Main Street" in a studio in Symphonic Hall. Later, Chip sincerely falls for Hildy telling her "You're Awful" – that is, awful nice to be with. That evening, all the couples meet at the top of the Empire State Building to celebrate a night "On the Town".

But when Ivy must leave early to work as a cooch dancer, the friends tell a despondent Gabey, "You Can Count on Me", joined by Hildy's hilarious roommate, Lucy Schmeeler. They have a number of adventures reuniting with Ivy at Coney Island before their 24-hour leave ends and they must return to their ship to head off to sea. Although their future is uncertain, the boys and girls share one last kiss on the pier as a new crew of sailors heads out into the city for their leave ("New York, New York" reprise).

Main cast

Cast notes
  • Carol Haney, Gene Kelly's assistant, performed with Kelly in the Day in New York ballet sequence, but was not credited. This was Carol's screen debut[2]
  • Bea Benaderet has a small, uncredited role as a girl from Brooklyn on the subway. Bea also made her film debut in this film.[2]
  • Bern Hoffman has an uncredited role as a shipyard singer.
  • Alice Pearce was the only original member of the Broadway cast to reprise her role.

Musical numbers

  1. "I Feel Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet" – Shipyard builder
  2. "New York, New York" – Gabey, Chip, and Ozzie (Original to Bernstein's score)
  3. "Miss Turnstiles Ballet" (instrumental) – Ivy and ensemble (Original to Bernstein's score)
  4. "Prehistoric Man" – Claire, Ozzie, Gabey, Chip, and Hildy
  5. "Come Up to My Place" – Hildy and Chip (Original to Bernstein's score)
  6. "Main Street" – Gabey and Ivy
  7. "You're Awful" – Chip and Hildy
  8. "On the Town" – Gabey, Ivy, Chip, Hildy, Ozzie, and Claire
  9. "Count on Me" – Gabey, Chip, Ozzie, Hildy, Claire, and Lucy
  10. "A Day in New York" (instrumental) – Gabey, Ivy, and dream cast (Original to Bernstein's score)
  11. "New York, New York" (Reprise)[4] – Shipyard builders, three new sailors, and chorus


Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $2,934,000 in the US and Canada and $1,494,000 overseas, resulting in a profit to the studio of $474,000.[1]

The film was also a critical success, receiving good reviews in various publications, including Variety and the New York Times.[5][6]



The musical numbers staged on location in New York were the first time a major studio had accomplished this. The location shots in New York took nine days.[2]

The Breen Office of the MPAA refused to allow the use of the word "helluva" in the song "New York, New York", and so it was changed to "wonderful".[2]

See also

  • Arthur Freed
  • USS Swanson, DD-443, the three sailors' ship, which appears in the opening and closing scenes.


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ a b c d e "Turner Classic Movies". 
  3. ^ "IMDB – Judy Holliday". Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  4. ^ "Hollywood Musicals Year By Year", Second Edition, 1990, Green, Stanley, Revised and Updated by Elaine Schmidt, Hal Leonard Corporation, ISBN 0-634-00765-3
  5. ^ "Variety". 31 December 1948. 
  6. ^ "New York Times". 9 December 1949. 

External links