TCM’s star of the day is Cyd Charisse, and my film pick for the actress is It’s Always Fair Weather, which airs today at 10:00 P.M. (EST).
It’s Always Fair Weather follows three soldiers returning home after serving in WWII. Ted Riley (Gene Kelly), Doug Hallerton (Dan Dailey), and Angie Valentine (Michael Kidd) share a drink together at a New York City bar before the part ways, and vow to meet each other at the same location in ten years. The three reunite on the appointed date, but soon discover they have little in common and have outgrown one another. Then comes Jackie Leighton (Cyd Charisse), a program coordinator who finds out about their reunion and convinces them to come together again to televise the event.
The film’s screenwriters, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, originally conceived It’s Always Fair Weather as a sequel to their musical hit On the Town, having the new film reunite Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin. Their initial plans didn’t come to fruition, but the film did bring together Kelly and Stanley Donen as co-directors for the third and last time. Both successfully helmed musical staples On the Town and Singin’ in the Rain, but the two didn’t reach the same heights on their final collaboration. While the film received good reviews upon its release, it wasn’t popular with audiences, as it was unusually downbeat for a musical, with its story centering on friends growing apart. In the sense of life imitating art, the friendship shared between Kelly and Donen ended permanently after production wrapped, as the two men clashed over many creative differences they couldn’t get over. But despite the friction between the two directors, they crafted another great musical, which ended on much a better note on-screen than it did off.
Cyd Charisse is a welcome presence in the film among all the pessimism stemming off the three men. While she often displayed her dancing skills in musicals, she only has one number in It’s Always Fair Weather called “Baby You Knock Me Out”, which sees her dancing alongside boxers in a gym as she shows off her knowledge on the sport. This was also her third and last film with Kelly, following her big break in the “Broadway Melody” number in Singin’ in the Rain and a proper on-screen partnership in Brigadoon. Though they had filmed a musical number together, the scene didn’t make the cut so the two didn’t share any dances in their final film together. Fortunately the scene was restored for the film’s DVD release, which you can watch here (it doesn’t include audio in the first minute and a half for the dialogue, but does for the song they perform).
The film received two Academy Award nominations: Best Musical Score for André Previn (who went on to win four of his thirteen Oscar nominations) and Best Story and Screenplay for Comden and Green. The two writers were previously nominated in the same category for penning The Band Wagon, which also starred Charisse and another dancing giant, Fred Astaire.
While not a hit with audiences at the time, It’s Always Fair Weather has aged well since as the odd “cynical musical” from the genre’s glory years. Released in 1955 near the end of the genre’s popularity, it’s also considered the last of the major MGM dance-oriented musicals. Unlike most musicals of the era, it’s much more grounded in its reality of postwar America, but at the same time it’s a clever satire of the American dream and the television industry. Filled with characters that are more drawn out than what can be found in a typical musical, It’s Always Fair Weather is well worth checking out.
I wrote this as a part of the 2016 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon, where bloggers are celebrating the channel’s honorees and movies playing throughout the month. Click the banner below to read more posts!