Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

On the Town (1949)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

On The Town (1949)

In co-director Stanley Donen's and dancer/choreographer Gene Kelly's musical comedy - a fresh, energetic, exuberant, kinetic and innovative landmark MGM musical that was the first major musical to be filmed on location - the exuberant musical masterpiece won the Oscar for Best Musical Score; most of the film was composed of dances of a trio of sailors in the NYC streets (often with their three female companions):

  • three sailors performed in the opening show-stopping, two and a half-minute song-and-dance number "New York, New York (It's a Hell of a Town)"; they were : Gabey (Gene Kelly), shy Chip (Frank Sinatra) and Ozzie (Jules Munshin), who were looking for romance during a 24-hour shore leave/furlough after docking in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, beginning at 6 AM: ("New York, New York, a wonderful (helluva) town. The Bronx is up and the Battery's down")
  • the number included their viewings of many prominent sights of New York City, such as Wall Street, Little Italy, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson River, the Elevated Subway, Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, Grant's Tomb, Riverside Church, Central Park, the observation deck of Rockefeller Center, and the Statue of Prometheus
"New York, New York" - Sights of NYC
  • during the dream sequence about 'Miss Turnstiles' of the Month, the selected June subway billboard 'dream girl' - Gabey fell in love with Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen) via her poster; in the number, she portrayed a high-society girl as well as a sporty athlete with various suitors
Dream Girl Ivy Smith ("Miss Turnstiles Ballet")
  • other musical numbers were also performed with their new girlfriends - with the sailors always in white, and each of the females represented by a different color scheme - Claire (green), Hildy (yellow), and Ivy (pink):

    - sexy, toe-tapping anthropologist-student Claire Huddesen (Ann Miller) (whom Ozzie met in the fictional Museum of Anthropological History) performed the song/dance "Prehistoric Man" (also one of the museum's displays) with Ozzie, before the group accidentally collapsed the anthropology museum’s dinosaur skeleton [Note: it duplicated the ending of Bringing Up Baby (1938)]

    - lust-crazed female Globe Cab driver Brunhilde "Hildy" Esterhazy (Betty Garrett) advanced on innocent-minded and shy Chip in "Come Up to My Place", and they together performed the duet "You're Awful" atop the Empire State Building

    - ballet dancer Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen) performed a traditional boy-meets-girl duet with lovelorn Gabey in "Main Street" after he met her studying classical ballet with her imperious teacher Madame Dilyovska (Florence Bates)

  • the film's climactic title number "On the Town" was performed by the three couples on the Empire State Building's open rooftop and then on a wide street-level sidewalk
"On the Town"
  • the stylized and innovative dream sequence titled "A Day in New York" - also performed by Ivy and Gabey, was mostly viewed in a red spotlight (with black silhouettes) in front of a balance beam [Note: It was significant in that the number presaged or was the forerunner of the magnificent final ballet of An American in Paris (1951)]
"A Day in New York" - Instrumental Dream Dance Between Ivy and Gabey
  • the final scene was the reunion between Gabey and Ivy on Coney Island where he found her performing as a cooch dancer at a Middle Eastern concession (in order to pay for her ballet lessons), before the three sailors dressed in drag to evade the police while being chased
  • they were captured by the shore patrol and taken back to their ship that was scheduled to depart at 6 AM (24 hours after their leave began); fortunately, the three girlfriends caught up to them on the dock just before they left, and offered lots of kisses, embraces, and goodbye waves, with a reprise of "New York, New York" (by a new trio of sailors leaving the ship)

Goodbye Kisses at the Dock

6:00 AM Departure

(l to r): Three Sailors on Leave: Ozzie, Gabey, and Chip

"Prehistoric Man" Performed Between Anthropologist Claire and Ozzie

"Come Up to My Place" and "You're Awful" by Cab Driver Hildy and Chip

"Main Street" Duet Between Ivy and Gabey

Gabey Reunited with Cooch Dancer Ivy at Coney Island

Sailors Dressed in Drag to Evade Police


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