Adrienne Fazan and ANCHORS AWEIGH (1945)

This post is my submission to a different kind of collaborative blogging endeavor. Hosted by the Classic Movie and TV Cafe, this is the Built Your Own Blogathon (BYOB) in which 20 bloggers chose 20 films to be published on 20 consecutive days with each film connected to the previous entry in some way.

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Preceding me in this blogathon is the lovely, Kimberly Truhler of GlamAmor who chose Vincente Minnelli’s DESIGNING WOMAN (1957). I’m honored Kimberly passed the torch to me for day 8 of the BYOB. My choice is George Sidney’s ANCHORS AWEIGH (1945), which has Editor, Adrienne Fazan in common with DESIGNING WOMAN.

Before I get into the specifics of ANCHORS AWEIGH, I’d like to mention a few things about Adrienne Fazan and women editors in particular. I’ve always been fascinated by film editing and have often thought that if it had been in the cards for me to be involved in motion pictures it would have been as an editor, arguably one of the most underrated positions and/or least recognizable players in the movies.  

Along with screenwriter and actor, the role of film editor has historically been commonly played by women. This is true since the early days of the motion picture industry when D. W. Griffiths and Cecil B. DeMille used the talents of editing pioneers Rose Smith, Margaret Booth, Anne Bauchens and many other film cutters, as editors were called at the time.  These women cut such classics as THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) and CLEOPATRA (1934). In fact, Bauchens worked on 41 DeMille movies, yet few know her name.

I was reading an article that appeared in a trade magazine some time ago that focused on the invaluable contributions female film editors, past and present, have made to motion pictures. The article mentioned the names I’ve included here as well as several other women editors who have worked with major directors through time. Of those you might recognize the names Susan E. Morse and Thelma Schoonmaker who have impressive resumes for working on the films of Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese respectively. That list I mention, which was supposed to be a comprehensive list of notable women editors since the 1920s failed to mention Adrienne Fazan whose career spanned five decades and included 11 film collaborations with Vincente Minnelli.

Adrienne Fazan with Oscar
Adrienne Fazan with Oscar

Adrienne Fazan began cutting film in 1933 and she worked at MGM for many years. If we know anything about MGM at the height of its glory it’s that they employed top-notch talent.  Adrienne Fazan was one of them.  Aside from ANCHORS AWEIGH and DESIGNING WOMAN Adrienne Fazan cut such greats as SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) and received Oscar nominations for Best Film Editing for both AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951) and GIGI (1958), for which she took home the golden statuette.  Needless to say Ms. Fazan’s accomplishments deserve recognition and mention.  I dedicate this post to her.

Anchors Aweigh

ANCHORS AWEIGH stars Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly as sailors who are on leave in Hollywood.  Joe Brady (Kelly) is “familiar” with the ladies.  In other words, he’s a wolf while Clarence Doolittle (Sinatra) is a shy Brooklyn born and raised bumpkin who knows nothing about women and the world.  

During their first night on the town, Joe and Clarence encounter Donald (Dean Stockwell in his film debut), a little boy who’s run away from home to join the navy.  The police find Joe and Clarence in Navy uniforms and take them to the station to see if Donald will tell them where he lives.  The boy does and agrees to go home only if Joe, in particular, accompanies him.  

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Donald takes a liking to Joe

Joe and Clarence take the boy home and entertain him until his aunt Susie (Kathryn Grayson) arrives.  The two had expected an old, matronly aunt, but upon laying eyes on Susie Clarence is immediately smitten.  Susie, meanwhile, explains she’d been out trying to get a job as a singer and mentions her dream iS to work with Jose Iturbi at MGM.  Later, desperate to get rid of Clarence so he can dedicate the rest of his leave to dames, Joe tells Susie that Clarence knows Iturbi and has arranged an audition for her, which sets Clarence off on a chase to find Iturbi so he can impress Susie by setting up a real audition for her.

Susie and Clarence
Susie and Clarence

Attempt after attempt leaves Clarence unable to get close to Jose Iturbi at MGM Studios, which forces both he and Joe to come clean with Susie about the audition.  Except – they never get to confess because Susie inadvertently runs into the bandleader herself and although he’s unaware of the lie eventually agrees to test Susie.  And, basically, everyone ends up happy forever more with Susie falling for Joe who ends up falling for her, which forms a really nice home for Donald.  Clarence happens to meet a nice girl from Brooklyn during his attempt to impress Susie and the two hit it off.

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In ANCHORS AWEIGH we see Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra as musical partners for the first of three MGM outings in the 1940s.  While there’s a lot to enjoy in this film there’s no denying its story is weak and was, in fact, done much better in the Kelly/Stanley Donen directed ON THE TOWN four years later.  The duo’s third collaboration was Busby Berkeley’s TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME (1949).

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ANCHORS AWEIGH is worth seeing for several reasons – Gene Kelly, the MGM lot, Gene Kelly, Jose Iturbi, who plays himself – and Gene Kelly.  This movie presented Kelly with his first opportunity to choreograph an entire film himself and he met the challenge and then some.  One needs to mention only the spectacular sequence during which Kelly dances with the animated Jerry of Tom and Jerry fame, which is still impressive.  In fact, Jerry’s pretty impressed himself, “Look at me, I’m dancing,” he says in one of the rare moments the character speaks at all.

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Yep, Gene Kelly can make mice talk just as he can almost make Sinatra look like a dancer.  I’m not picking on Sinatra to be mean, but let’s face it as a dancer he’s adequate and only so thanks to Kelly.  The crooner’s best moments in ANCHORS AWEIGH are those during which he croons.  I mean, there’s no denying his wonderful vocal abilities.  But beyond that this movie is not worth watching without Kelly – did I mention that? – and I admit it bothers me a little that Sinatra gets top billing.  But, Gene Kelly would do OK for himself by continuing to break the mold after ANCHORS AWEIGH in the realm of grand musicals produced at MGM.

Adrienne Fazan continued her career as a sought after editor until 1970 when she retired from the business.  She died in Los Angeles in 1986.

Please be sure to visit the Classic Movie and TV Cafe to access all 20 entries in the Built Your Own Blogathon (BYOB), which runs through August 20th.

13 thoughts

  1. Aurora, it was interesting to learn about Adrienne Fazan (whom I knew nothing about). While SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN surpasses ANCHORS AWEIGH in popularity, I think the latter is its equal in terms of entertainment. And who could have imagined that Jerry the mouse was such a marvelous dancer?

  2. The picture you provided of Ms. Fazan winning her Oscar shows a very happy woman. Things like that tend to make me a little less jaded about the award system. She certainly deserved the honour.

    I pretty much have “Anchors Aweigh” timed to its musical numbers so that if it is running on TCM I can switch over for the parts I enjoy. I think Pamela Britton (“Brooklyn”) was a talented lady. Loved her on “My Favorite Martian” when I was a kid and I wish she’d gotten more of a break in the movies.

  3. I was glad to learn more about Adrienne Fazan and her work. I’ve been trying to focus more on editing with the films I’ve been watching lately, so your post is very timely in my little world.

    Also, “Anchors Aweigh” is a great choice for this blogathon. You’ve encouraged me to see this movie again!

  4. Bravo, Aurora, for putting the spotlight on women editors and Adrienne Fazan in particular. Like most, I’m much more familiar with the names of contemporary editors than those of the past.

    “Anchors Aweigh” is an excellent choice for BYOB! Big talents in different ways, Kelly and Sinatra were always a great team.

    1. Thanks! Wish I could’ve found much more information on Fazan, but all I included is all I found. Kinda gets my goat given her success and longevity.

      Aurora

  5. Well, damn, that was interesting! I’m a little star struck and I often miss the real work (other than the obvious ) that goes into making a great film. Thanks for a great post.

    1. Glad you liked this. It was SOOO difficult finding any information on her. I was surprised there’s not one mention of her in several books I have of MGM. For cryin’ out loud!!

      Aurora

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