On the Town (film)

On the Town is a 1949 Technicolor 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),[3] 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.

On the Town
theatrical release poster
Directed byGene Kelly
Stanley Donen
Produced byArthur Freed
Roger Edens
Screenplay byAdolph Green
Betty Comden
Based onBased on an idea by Jerome Robbins[1]
Based on On the Town
(1944 stage musical) by Adolph Green, Betty Comden, and Leonard Bernstein
StarringGene Kelly
Frank Sinatra
Betty Garrett
Ann Miller
Music byLeonard Bernstein
Roger Edens
Lennie Hayton
Adolph Green (lyrics)
Betty Comden (lyrics)
Conrad Salinger (uncredited)
CinematographyHarold Rosson
Edited byRalph E. Winters
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • December 8, 1949 (1949-12-08) (US)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,428,000[2]

The film was directed by Gene Kelly, who also choreographed, and Stanley Donen in their directorial debut, and stars Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, and Ann Miller, and features Jules Munshin and Vera-Ellen. It was a product of the Arthur Freed 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, including at the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Rockefeller Center.

The film was an immediate success and won the Oscar 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.

In 2006, the film ranked No. 19 on the American Film Institute's list of Best Musicals. In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[4]


Three sailors  Gabey, Chip, and Ozzie  begin their shore leave, excited for their 24 hours in New York ("New York, New York"). Riding the subway, Gabey falls in love with the picture of "Miss Turnstiles", who is actually called Ivy Smith, and fantasizes about what she's like in real life ("Miss Turnstiles"). The sailors race around New York attempting to find her in the brief period they have.

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. 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". Finally finding Ivy, Gabey takes her on an imaginary date down his home town "Main Street" in a studio in Symphonic Hall - not realising that she is also from the same town. 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 an ashamed Ivy walks out on Gabey to get to her late night work as a cooch dancer, the friends tell a despondent Gabey, "You Can Count on Me", joined by Hildy's annoying, but well-meaning roommate, Lucy Schmeeler. They have a number of adventures before reuniting with Ivy at Coney Island just as 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).


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 Haney's screen debut[3]
  • Bea Benaderet has an uncredited cameo as a girl from Brooklyn on the subway, her film debut in a speaking role.
  • Bern Hoffman has an uncredited role as the shipyard worker who sings the opening song, and reprises it at the end.
  • 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 worker (from Leonard Bernstein's score)
  2. "New York, New York" – Gabey, Chip, and Ozzie (from Bernstein's score)
  3. "Miss Turnstiles Ballet" (instrumental) – Ivy and ensemble (from Bernstein's score)
  4. "Prehistoric Man" – Claire, Ozzie, Gabey, Chip, and Hildy
  5. "Come Up to My Place" – Hildy and Chip (from 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 (from Bernstein's score)
  11. "I Feel Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet"/"New York, New York" (reprise) – Shipyard worker, three sailors, and chorus


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.[3] Shooting in New York City was Kelly and Donen's idea, which studio head Louis B. Mayer refused to allow, pointing out the studio's excellent New York sets in its backlot. Kelly and Donen held their ground, and finally Mayer relented and allowed a limited number of days shooting in New York. The primary problem experienced by the production was dealing with crowds of Frank Sinatra's fans, so some shots were made with the camera located in a station wagon to reduce the public visibility of the shooting.[6]

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".[3]


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.[2]

The film was also a critical success, receiving good reviews in various publications, including Variety and The New York Times.[7][8]

Awards and honors

American Film Institute
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also

  • Arthur Freed
  • USS Nicholson, DD-442, the three sailors' ship, which appears in the opening and closing scenes.


  1. On the Town at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  3. "Turner Classic Movies". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  4. https://www.npr.org/2018/12/12/675384976/jurassic-park-the-shining-and-23-other-movies-added-to-national-film-registry
  5. Green, Stanley; Schmidt, Elaine (rev. and updated) (1990) Hollywood Musicals Year By Year (2nd ed.) Hal Leonard Corporation ISBN 0-634-00765-3
  6. Mankiewicz, Ben (February 19, 2017) Intro to Turner Classic Movies showing
  7. Staff (December 31, 1948). "Review: 'On the Town'". Variety.
  8. Crowther, Bosley (December 9, 1949). "'On the Town,' Yuletide Picture at Radio City, Is Musical to Please the Family". The New York Times.
  9. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  10. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
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