Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On the Town (1949)

Four years after World War II, all the men are back and ready to get it on.  What we call the baby boom! 
I love pre-feminist movies about human sexuality.  On the Town is a movie about three sailors who are in New York, trying to meet girls.  And they are singing and dancing.  It is a happy, fun, amazing movie.  I am so living in the wrong era.  This is healthy sexuality.  This movie can't exist in our era, because in our era aggression is bad.
On the Town is a movie about sex, getting it on with your sexual opposite, like a caveman.  Woo-hoo!  Being open to love and feeling it.  It's a passionate movie, an aggressive movie, a romantic movie.  It's a movie for young men feeling their oats.  This film is pre-feminist and unapologetically shows sexual pursuit as a good thing.  Man's aggressive chase after woman is seen as happy and fun and normal.  If you're not chasing after a woman, she's gonna chase after you.
Once feminism hit, with its war on masculinity and its policing of sexuality, art followed orders or rebelled.  Our musicals became gay or girly.  Screwball comedies became talky chick flicks.  And there was a massive, unspoken revolt by men from music and dance in film.  What do we watch?  Violent movies.  Taxi Driver or Kill Bill.  Unhealthy, aggressive, homicidally violent movies.  The attempt to neuter men has made our art more violent.  On the Town is from a happier time. 
On the Town is a musical, but it's not a chick flick.  It's aggressive and fun.  And why not?  Dancers are amazing athletes.  Capturing Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire on film is a miracle, like seeing Jackie Chan in his prime, or Buster Keaton.  You have to train for years and years to get your body to be so good at something.  So don't put lame ass John Travolta or Burt Reynolds or Dolly Parton or Olivia Newton-John out there and pretend like you've made some amazing musical.  Just cause you're dancing doesn't mean you rock.
What's awesome about this movie is the innocence of it, how nice its assumptions are.  Now, 1949 was a pretty cynical year.  You know it had to be, four years after the atom bomb and the Holocaust.  Sometimes you throw art out there to show what life can be.  What it should be.  And On the Town is like that.  Fun and happy and cool.  My vote for the happiest movie ever made. 

1 comment:

edutcher said...

There was a lot of optimism in '49, though.

They had survived the Depression and the war. Now was the time when all that sacrifice was going to pay off and they wanted their movies to show it.

And note it was the movies giving the people what they wanted, not the movies giving people what the movie execs thought they should be seeing.

Saint Croix said...

What do we watch? Violent movies. Taxi Driver or Kill Bill. Unhealthy, aggressive, homicidally violent movies.

I think you can make a very good case people like Tarantino are very disturbed.

Louis B Mayer or Jack Warner wouldn't have let someone like that near the lot.