Monday, March 5, 2012

"Anchor's Aweigh"--Exposing the Boosters

YELLOWS, REDS, blues and oranges lit up against the neon pink sunset.  Street carts selling fruits, handmade dolls, trinkets, skirts, hats lined the cobblestone streets as the scent of tamales wafted through the air.  Dark-haired men wearing sombreros and women wearing big flowing skirts are playing instruments and waiting for the occasional passerby to buy an item from their cart. Gene Kelly, followed by Frank Sinatra, dressed in a blue Navy uniform, walks up to one of these carts and to ask the vendor a question.  Although it may seem like these two famous actors from the 40’s are taking a vacation in Mexico, they are actually just outside of the MGM Studios lot in, none other than, Los Angeles. 

LA was founded upon this false identity forged by its founding boosters. I never realized how prevalent it was until I watched a one of the classics from its time that replicated all these ideals that the boosters promoted. “Anchors Aweigh,” a 1945 movie starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly tells the story of two sailors that are on leave in Hollywood, Los Angeles.  The scenes switch between what was then, the MGM studio lot and this little two that was previously described.  This is what the boosters promoted, the mending together of the dreams of fame and the promise of warm weather, in a beautiful town surrounded by Hispanic influence.

At the end of the film, we meet Frank Sinatra’s love match and the illusion of the boosters is broken through.  She is a beautiful blonde from Brooklyn, New York, who, like many, came to Los Angeles because her “nose and the rest of her body were blue.” The allure of the LA weather and the utopian world was the true pull on her to come to the “magical land.” However, as she finds herself working in a Mexican restaurant as a waitress, a true oxymoron of the utopian ideal and truth behind its mask, tells Sinatra’s character, “My nose isn’t blue anymore, but the rest of me is.”  It is still interesting to me that even in a lighthearted film of that time, filmmakers can find the cracks behind the façade.

Like it did for many, Los Angeles  told the false tale that built them up to break them down.

-- Elise Fornaca

Photo: Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh, top; bottom Kelly dances with Sharon McManus
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