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Anchors Aweigh marked Frank Sinatra's first film under his new contract with M-G-M, following his departure from RKO, and his motion picture dancing debut. Gene Kelly began his service in the Navy a short time after the film was completed. An October 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Eleanor Powell was originally set for the female lead, and that M-G-M later cast Marilyn Maxwell in the role. The same news item indicates that Jackie "Butch" Jenkins, Nancy Walker and Ben Blue were originally set for roles. According to an April 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, Ann Miller was considered for a dancing role opposite Kelly. Various news items in Hollywood Reporter in 1943 and 1944 indicate that Jack Haley, Keye Luke and Phil Silvers were considered for roles, but they did not appear in the released film. Although their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed, contemporary news items and Hollywood Reporter production charts include the following actors in the cast: Jack Lambert, Ella Logan, Dean Murphy, January Gilbreath and Peter Whitehead. A December 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Sara Berner "completed recording" on the film. Berner, a cartoon voice specialist, May have provided the voice of "Jerry the Mouse." Modern sources note that Sinatra's role was originally intended for actor Eddie Bracken, and that Elizabeth Taylor was considered for a starring role.
The cartoon sequence in which Kelly enters a mythical kingdom is frequently shown in documentaries about film and film musicals. The experimental technique of combining live action with animation had been used since the 1920s but had not been used extensively until the 1945 Disney film The Three Caballeros (see below). The cartoon mouse featured in the Anchors Away sequence is "Jerry the Mouse" of the Tom and Jerry cartoon series. According to a December 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M formed a new cartoon unit of animators, writers and other specialists to handle the extra footage for the live-action and animation sequence. Modern sources note that Fred Quimby was one of the animators of the cartoon sequence, and that M-G-M had initially sought permission to use "Mickey Mouse" for the part of the mouse king. Disney, however, refused to allow "Mickey" to be used in the film. A biography of choreographer/director Stanley Donen indicates that Donen spent one year working on the "Jerry the Mouse" sequence, and that the picture was held from release until the sequence was completed.
Hollywood Reporter production charts and a July 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item lists Thomas Richards as the film's editor, but only Adrienne Fazan is credited onscreen. In a 1947 interview, composer Jule Styne stated that the song "The Charm of You," which Sinatra sang to Pamela Britton in the film, was originally intended to be sung to Kathryn Grayson. The five songs composed by Styne and Sammy Cahn were written especially for the film. In addition to the songs listed above in Songs, the film contains an unidentified tango composed by Carmen Dragon, according to the Variety review. A 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that twenty-three musical numbers had been completed for the film. Musical numbers that were considered or recorded and that were not used in the final film include: "It Could Only Happen in Brooklyn," a duet planned for Sinatra and Britton, composed by Styne and Cahn; "I'll Be Waiting Here," a song planned for Britton, composed by Earl Brent; "Caro nome," from the opera Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, and a selection from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti, to be sung by Grayson; "Another Kiss," composed by B. G. DeSylva and Ted Grouya, to be sung by Sinatra and Grayson; "Loveland" by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane; "The Kid That I've Never Seen" by Herman Ruby, Bert Kalmar, Al Jolson and Harry Akst; "My Follies Girl," by Jolson and Akst; and "As I Recall," "When I Get to Town," "Love and I Went Waltzing" and "Don't Be Subtle, Don't Be Coy" by Styne and Cahn.
Some filming took place on location at the Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles, CA CA, and at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD. Sinatra, Grayson and Kelly recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story, which aired on December 29, 1947. A Hollywood Reporter news item in January 1946 indicates that M-G-M planned a sequel to Anchors Aweigh entitled All Ashore, written by Columbia Pictures producer Robert Taplinger. The sequel was to reteam Sinatra, Kelly and Grayson under the direction of George Sidney. Although All Ashore was shelved in September 1946, a film bearing the same title, and with a similar story, was released by Columbia in 1952. The 1952 film was directed by Richard Quine and starred Mickey Rooney and Dick Haymes.
Anchors Aweigh received an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, and was nominated for awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Gene Kelly), Best Cinematography and Best Song ("I Fall in Love Too Easily").