Cast & Crew
During "Operation Ice Cream" at a U.S. Navy reservation in the Arctic, buddies Danny Xavier Smith and Rico Ferrari are exempted from a swimming lesson in the icy water when their friend, Chief Boatswain's Mate William F. Clark, recruits them to bake a birthday cake for the commander. Bill explains that a planeload of replacements is due in, and if they impress the commander with the cake, they may be selected to go home. When Bill leaves them in the kitchen, Danny and Rico admit that neither one knows how to bake, and they come up with the idea to poke holes in another sailor's failed attempt at a cake, fill the holes with rum, then dress the whole thing up with candles and icing. The commander is delighted, but the cake combusts when he blows out the candles, and the three friends find themselves transferred to "Operation Mud Pie" in a snake-infested swamp.
Later, on a two-day shore leave in San Francisco, Bill goes to the nightclub where his fiancée Ginger is the star performer. Ginger, who is angry about their six-year engagement, tells Bill that she has found someone else and breaks up with him. Meanwhile, Rico goes to see his widowed mother, who is entertaining her beau, florist Mr. Peroni. After Rico leaves, Peroni, who had been led to believe that Rico was only nine years old, looks at Mrs. Ferrari with new eyes, and they quarrel. Danny, meanwhile, goes to see his father, Rear Admiral Daniel Xavier Smith, one of a long line of admirals in the family. The admiral leaves for an out-of-town meeting, and Danny has a joyful reunion with his older sister Susan, who tells him she is dating actor Wendell Craig and might get a part in his new show. After Susan leaves on her date, Danny goes to the theater where Wendell's show, Hit the Deck , is rehearsing, and is immediately attracted to dancer Carol Pace. When Carol mentions Wendell's reputation as a womanizer, however, Danny becomes concerned for his sister's safety.
Meanwhile, Bill returns to the nightclub and jealously questions Ginger about her new boyfriend, but still declines to set a wedding date. Later, at Wendell's hotel suite, Susan sings for him, and the lecherous actor has just started to make his move when Danny and his friends barge in. While Danny and Bill are fighting with Wendell, Rico forcibly escorts Susan home, and finds himself falling in love with her. Susan gets away and returns to the hotel, and when the shore patrol shows up to investigate the incident, Wendell says he wants to press charges. Alarmed at her brother's predicament, Susan sneaks out and, encountering Rico in the hallway, tells him they must warn Danny and Bill. The two shore patrol men next go to the nightclub and question Ginger, but she tells them nothing about Bill's whereabouts.
Meanwhile, the sailors, Susan and Carol gather at Mrs. Ferrari's apartment, and she cheers them up with wine and song. Later, the admiral returns home early and learns from the shore patrol that Danny is in trouble. The following morning, the shore patrol returns to Mrs. Ferrari's apartment, but she delays them while the sailors sneak out and take shelter in Peroni's flower shop. To make Peroni jealous, Rico has Bill pretend to be Mrs. Ferrari's new suitor and send her roses. Peroni delivers the flowers himself and asks Mrs. Ferrari to marry him, and she happily agrees. Bill then calls on Ginger and finally proposes to her.
That evening, shortly before the opening of Hit the Deck , Wendell is attempting to cover his bruises with makeup when Susan shows up and asks him to withdraw the charges. Wendell agrees on the condition that the sailors apologize to him in person, and as Susan happily goes off to fetch them, Wendell picks up the phone. Right before the curtain, Susan brings the fellows to Wendell's dressing room, where they find the shore patrol waiting. The men flee, blending in with the chorus members in sailor costumes as the admiral and his aide, Lt. Jackson, watch in amazement from the audience. A melee erupts after the opening number, and Susan angrily punches Wendell. The sailors are captured and brought before the admiral, who dresses them down severely until he learns that the young lady whose honor they were fighting to protect is Susan.
After the admiral leaves, Mrs. Ferrari barges in, followed by Carol and Ginger, and the women insist on telling Jackson the whole story. Meanwhile, the admiral goes home and confronts Susan, who reproaches her father for jumping to conclusions, then adds that she is thinking of marrying Rico. Jackson comes to the admiral's house, accompanied by Wendell, who claims that everything was a misunderstanding and withdraws the charges. Jackson privately reveals that Wendell changed his mind to keep his wife from finding out about the episode with Susan. Later, the three sailors are happily joined with their loves.
J. Carrol Naish
E. C. Hallenbeck
John Mcsweeney Jr.
Wesley C. Miller
Robert Van Eps
Edwin B. Willis
Hit the Deck (1955)
But for the almost two hours that Hit the Deck runs, the film is a testament to the kind of razzmatazz that made even the weakest of MGM's musicals surefire crowd pleasers. The 1927 Broadway hit first filmed in 1930 had a dynamite score, mostly by Vincent Youmans, including such standards as "Hallelujah," "Sometimes I'm Happy" and "More Than You Know." And in 1955, MGM still had the best voices to showcase numbers like that, including Powell, Tony Martin and Damone. Just to up the energy quotient, choreographer Hermes Pan, who had worked on Fred Astaire's films with Ginger Rogers, came up with a barefoot tap-dance for Ann Miller and a rousing number set in a fun house for the more athletically inclined Reynolds and Tamblyn.
But it was clearly the end-of-the-line for the MGM musical. Although Powell had just scored a hit with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Hit the Deck marked the end of her MGM career. With changing styles and budget cutbacks, the studio didn't have any more roles for her and let her go. It probably didn't help that she had just ended her marriage as the result of a scandalous affair with singer-dancer Gene Nelson. It was one thing for sexy dramatic stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner to trigger scandals. But for the pure-voiced girl-next-door to do so was almost unforgivable. Press coverage had gotten so heated that Nelson, under contract at Warner Bros., was barred from visiting Powell at MGM, and rumors flew that the studio was going to replace her on Hit the Deck. Fortunately, she stayed around to deliver some of the best vocals in her career (particularly on "Sometimes I'm Happy" and "Lucky Bird"). But with all of Hollywood cutting back, she made only one more musical, The Girl Most Likely at RKO in 1957, before fading from the screen. More recently, she has returned as a character actress on various television series and with an acclaimed turn in the pre-Broadway tryouts of Steven Sondheim's new musical, Bounce.
Ann Miller and Vic Damone were at the end of their MGM tenure as well. Debbie Reynolds held on by developing her other talents. The same year Hit the Deck came out she scored a comic hit in The Tender Trap as the determined virgin who lands womanizing playwright Frank Sinatra. The year after that, she would show her dramatic chops as a working class bride in The Catered Affair, more than holding her own against such dramatic heavyweights as Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine. Although Russ Tamblyn would still have some shots at musical stardom -- the musical fantasy tom thumb (1958) and the Oscar®-winning West Side Story (1961) -- he, too, had to branch out into other roles, eventually moving into character work on the TV series Twin Peaks and developing his talents as a poet and visual artist. He's also watched his daughter, Amber Tamblyn, spearhead a new generation of stars with her work on the daytime drama General Hospital and the prime-time hit Joan of Arcadia.
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Director: Roy Rowland
Screenplay: Sonya Levien, William Ludwig
Based on the musical play by Herbert Fields and Shore Leave by Hubert Osborne
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse
Music: George E. Stoll
Principal Cast: Jane Powell (Susan Smith), Tony Martin (Chief Boatswain's Mate William F. Clark), Debbie Reynolds (Carol Pace), Walter Pidgeon (Rear Adm. Daniel Xavier Smith), Vic Damone (Rico Ferrari), Gene Raymond (Wendell Craig), Ann Miller (Ginger), Russ Tamblyn (Danny Xavier Smith), J. Carrol Naish (Mr. Peroni), Kay Armen (Mrs. Ottavio Ferrari), Richard Anderson (Lt. Jackson), Jane Darwell (Jenny), Alan King (Shore Patrol).
C-113m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
Hit the Deck (1955)
According to a May 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M first purchased the rights to the successful stage musical from RKO in 1947. A January 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Martin Rackin and Herbert Baker were writing the screenplay, but their contribution to the final film has not been determined. Pre-production news items include George Murphy, Bobby Van and Vera-Ellen in the cast, but they were not in the film. A July 14, 1953 item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that Jane Powell was being dropped from the cast, and that Ann Crowley would test for the role of "Susan Smith." According to a December 1953 news item, comic Jack E. Leonard was under consideration for a role, but he was not in the film. Hollywood Reporter news items add the following cast members: Dorothy Abbott, Virginia Maples, Edna Ryan, Blanche Taylor, Ann Templeton, Joan Whitney, Roy Damron, David Greene, Virginia Alberts, Jean Chaney, Peggy Mae O'Connell, Marilyn Gustafson and Austin McCrory, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Some background shooting took place in San Francisco, according to an August 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item. Kay Armen, who made her film debut in Hit the Deck, was a popular singer and radio performer.
Hubert Oscorne's play Shore Leave, which inspired the stage musical Hit the Deck, was first adapted for the screen in 1925. The film Shore Leave, distributed by First National Pictures, was directed by John S. Robertson and starred Richard Barthelmess and Dorothy MacKaill. RKO's 1930 musical film Hit the Deck was directed by Luther Reed and featured Jack Oakie and Polly Walker (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). In 1936, RKO released Follow the Fleet, which was based on Hubert Osborne's play with a score by Irving Berlin. The film was directed by Mark Sandrich and starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). Although M-G-M's version of Hit the Deck included songs from the Broadway musical, the plot differed from that of all previous stage and film versions. On December 11, 1950, scenes from Hit the Deck were featured on NBC's television program Musical Comedy Time, with John Beal and Jack Guilford.
Released in United States on Video March 14, 1989
Released in United States Spring March 1955
Released in United States Spring March 1955
Released in United States on Video March 14, 1989