It's Always Fair Weather, Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

It's Always Fair Weather, Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
By Ron Falzone

Why is It’s Always Fair Weather, available on Amazon, always left in the backwater when talking about the great MGM musicals? 

The failure of It’s Always Fair Weather at the box office signaled the beginning of the end of the glorious Arthur Freed unit at that studio as well as the acrimonious end of the collaboration between co-directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen who had earlier given us On the Town and Singin’ in the Rain.  I supposed it is that this movie has had to bear the stigma of those two events.

My response to such thinking is simple:  Get over it, people.  This is one of the movie’s greatest musicals.  Period.

Originally intended to be a sequel to On the Town, also written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, casting difficulties turned it into a spiritual if not literal descendant of that masterpiece.  And it’s probably a good thing.  Whereas On the Town practically bursts off the screen with giddy postwar life, It’s Always Fair Weather is much more in keeping with the beady-eyed questioning side of the mid-1950’s. 

Shortly after VJ Day, three GIs (Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd) who’ve faced the war as a team get together for one last drink and a wild dance (with garbage can lids no less) under the Manhattan elevated.  Their decision to meet at the same place and date in ten years inevitably reveals a shocking fact:  A decade later, the inseparable wartime buddies can no longer stand each other. 

Just like the Douglas Sirk classics of the same period, It’s Always Fair Weather uses standard genre conventions to question the go-go drive of 50’s ambition and the lust for consumerism.  The fact that these observations are revealed through musical numbers that are both exuberant and magnificently staged only makes these comments that much more trenchant.

It’s Always Fair Weather’s most iconic number, Kelly roller skating through the “New York” backlot to the surprising lyrics of “I Like Myself,” is terrific, but it has long overshadowed equally dazzling contributions from Dailey (“Saturation-wise”), Cyd Charisse (“Baby, You Knock Me Out”), Dolores Gray (“Thanks a Lot, but No Thanks”) and the ensemble garbage can jazz dance that fairly explodes the sides of the Cinemascope frame.

By turns exciting and contemplative, hilarious and moving, this is one of the very few musicals that well and truly earns a few tears at the end. It’s a great, unmissable experience.