‘It’s Always Fair Weather’ or — On The Town Part II?

‘It’s Always Fair Weather’ (1955) would be a decent enough musical if it wasn’t for two, slight deficiencies — namely its story and music. Admittedly story and music tend to be somewhat essential components to a musical so it’s fortunate that ‘It’s Always Fair Weather’s are just a little forgettable as opposed to outright bad.

The story concerns three ex G.I.s who return to their local New York bar after the War where they swear to meet up again in the exact same bar on the exact same date in ten years time to prove they are now friends for life. However, as the years pass the three men follow different paths so when they do finally reunite they discover they don’t have much in common with each other and might never have done so to begin with.

Before they can go their separate ways, presumably to never see each other again, they are pulled together again by a combination of washing detergent, a rigged boxing match, a live TV show, some roller-skates, the mob and socially acceptable alcoholism. By the end of the movie the three friends are together again after realising that what originally brought them together in the first place was good old-fashioned American violence.

‘It’s Always Fair Weather’ doesn’t shy away from portraying the disappointments many soldiers must have felt on returning from conflict. Each of the G.I.s has to contend with various failings and failures as well as the feeling of being judged by the other two for not fulfilling their individual potential.

What stops ‘It’s Always Fair Weather’ from fulfilling its potential though is a choppy story, somewhat uninspired music and the nagging feeling of being not quite sure what the main focus of the plot is. The three friends soon go their separate ways which kills the bro-mance angle dead and once Gene Kelly hooks up with Cyd Charisse any possible romance between them gets hijacked by the rigged boxing match and live TV show. So nothing gets to feel fully developed or realised.

Another annoying aspect, for me anyway, was the excess of the Comden and Green-isms. By that I mean their tendency to cram as many gags, bits of business, overly energetic exclamations, tom-foolery and irritating behaviour to the point it becomes grating. When the three G.I.s enter the bar at the start of the movie they’re so hyped-up, so desperately and frantically attempting to wring out a laugh every micro-second that they become so annoying I started wishing the Nazis had shot them.

This suspicion of frantically trying too hard runs throughout the movie so even though there are plenty of moments for tender reflection the movie just bashes and clashes it way along regardless. This isn’t helped by André Previn’s score which although it isn’t bad also isn’t particularly memorable; the only number I remember is ‘Why Are We Here?’ but that’s only because it’s set to the melody of The Blue Danube. The songs also very rarely drive the narrative forward with, instead, characters bursting into song simply to exclaim the emotions we already know they are feeling.

Yet it’s not all bad by any means. The film is eminently watchable, there are some great dance numbers (Gene Kelly on roller-skates is up there with his best work) and Cyd Charisse shines when she’s actually given something of substance to do. Kelly and Donen’s directing is solid, sometimes hitting on technical brilliance and innovation, and the huge sets help sell the thrum of New York City.

‘It’s Always Fair Weather’ is a somewhat overlooked MGM musical but it’s kinda easy to see why as although it’s spirited and watchable it also lacks those emotional, narrative or musical hooks to really get under your skin and pull you in. It’s one of those musicals that ‘West Side Story’ must have blown away a couple of years later.

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Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.

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Colin Edwards

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.