I have been wanting for some time to see any version of Anything Goes I can manage to because I am such a big Cole Porter fan. The version I found is one of three featuring Bing Crosby in a lead part. He starred in the Broadway play, a 1936 version and this one, which has a different plot than the other two. In this instance (1956), Donald O’Connor teams with Crosby (Imagine my delight!) in a story that pits the two men against two women, in a way.
Crosby as Bill Benson is a big-time song-and-dance stage star and is looking to make a show that requires another strong male lead and a woman. O’Connor’s Ted Adams is a new star to the scene who thinks he is doing the old man a favor by starring in his show. The two basically agree that Bill will find the leading lady, but when they both visit Europe, each signs his own girl.
Ted has found a French dancer to play what was supposed to be an American role and signs her to a contract. Bill discovers an American in England who wows him during a musical revue. The two couples meet up on a boat back to the states already aware that they have hired conflicting actresses. Ted is meant to drop Gaby (Jeanmaire) before boarding but fails to, while Bill is forced to hide the other woman from his discovery, Patsy (Mitzi Gaynor).
The men end up falling in love with the woman the other had chosen for the role, but still seem to agree Patsy is best for the part. The gang also hits trouble when the arrival of Patsy and her father (Phil Harris) in New York means the old man will be arrested for past tax crimes.
Anything Goes is marked by fantastic dance numbers and songs, as would be expected from the leading men. Ballerina Jeanmaire is a welcome addition for her dancing talent far more than for her acting skills. She is also disappointingly unattractive, which makes it easy for the audience to favor Patsy for the job while making the romance between Gaby and Bill unfulfilling. The Cole Porter songs, however, do not disappoint. The routine for “You’re the Top” utilized an amusing screen divide of sorts as the respective professional couples rehearse in side-by-side rooms while singing the same song to each other. O’Connor and Gaynor engage in an entertaining romantic melody of “Delovely” while dancing on the more functional portions of the steamship, including the railing.
I enjoyed this version of Anything Goes but would have loved to see the Gaby part cast differently because I found her so intolerably undesirable. The story is otherwise charming and romantic at parts and a cute reimagining of the story that suits Crosby and O’Connor well.