05.17.2010

Anything Goes (Film)

Posted by AJ Harbison at 8:54 pm

If you’re interested in the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes, and you’re considering seeing the 1956 film of the same name starring Bing Crosby and Donald O’Connor, here’s a word of advice: Don’t bother.

Anything Goes is one of my wife’s favorite musicals, not least because she acted in a production of it in high school. She introduced me to it, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the music by listening to the soundtrack at work. It sounds like a great show, and I’d really like to see it live someday. I thought that getting the movie from Netflix would be the next best thing, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

The film has a completely different plot with completely different characters, features multiple new songs not in the show, and takes a few of the songs from the musical and puts them in a completely different context–not to mention rewriting the feel and orchestration of the songs so they’re sometimes barely recognizable. The style of the movie is the same style of every Bing Crosby movie from the 50s, White Christmas being the example coming most readily to my mind. Crosby plays the exact same character, Donald O’Connor plays the exact same character as Danny Kaye does in White Christmas, the music style is exactly the same, even the plot is very similar (two male entertainers who get romantically tangled with two female entertainers as hilarity ensues). It’s a perfect example of a formulaic movie, made simply to feature Crosby singing songs in a particular style. There’s nothing inherently wrong with formulaic movies, I suppose, but in this case they took a perfectly wonderful musical and disfigured it to the point of being unrecognizable in order to shoehorn it into the formula.

I’m not a fan of that general style of music, either. It all tends to sound the same, and in many ways it’s just as formulaic as the movie. The melodies can often be bland and staid, the harmonies are predictable, and the orchestration is always in the same style without much variation in timbre or texture. There’s much more energy and creativity in the music for the show.

So, unless you’re a fan of the Bing Crosby formula, you can avoid Anything Goes. Just get the soundtrack to the show, or better yet, see it live instead!

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