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All Ashore

All Ashore(1953)

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teaser All Ashore (1953)

Columbia Pictures teamed a quartet of stars adrift after leaving their home studios with two of its own fast-rising creative talents to create the sprightly 1953 musical All Ashore; a tale about three sailors on shore leave who end up getting into a storm of trouble before finding true love. Although clearly modeled on MGM's On the Town (1949), All Ashore lacked its hit parade quality score, and the later film's Catalina locations weren't quite as dramatic as the earlier one's location shooting in New York City. Nonetheless, at 80 minutes, the film moved quickly and has surprised fans with Mickey Rooney's scene-stealing performance and Peggy Ryan and Ray McDonald's high-spirited hoofing in the last of their three films together.

The early '50s were a difficult period for Rooney. He had left MGM in 1949 after studio head Louis B. Mayer turned down his plea to produce a radio version of the Andy Hardy films. Even though his last contract picture, Words and Music (1948), was a hit, he had trouble finding his footing as an independent actor. After attempting to toughen his image with two low-budget crime pictures, he reverted to comic form with He's a Cockeyed Wonder (1950), which kicked off a short-term contract with Columbia Pictures that continued with another military comedy Sound Off (1952). The studio on Gower Gulch was moving up in Hollywood, having survived the loss of its top director, Frank Capra, to develop a line of gritty modern dramas such as All the King's Men (1949) and From Here to Eternity (1953), but it was a still a step down from MGM. It was far from the bottom for Rooney, who would also make films for Poverty Row studios like Eagle-Lion and Republic. It would be another year before he finally reinvented himself as a character actor in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), followed by an Oscar®-nominated supporting performance in The Bold and the Brave (1956) and acclaimed work in the television dramas The Comedian (1957) and Eddie (1958).

Rooney's singing co-star, Dick Haymes, had been floundering, too. One of the most popular big-band crooners of the '40s, second only to Frank Sinatra, he had signed a contract with 20th Century-Fox, where he co-starred with Betty Grable in Diamond Horseshoe (1945) and The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947). But though his record sales were still going strong, the disastrous Carnival in Costa Rica (1947) had brought a premature end to his studio contract. Subsequent films were less than successful, and as his singing career started to wane in the '50s, he became more famous for his disastrous marriages than anything else. His whirlwind romance with Columbia's biggest star, Rita Hayworth, brought him to the studio, where she convinced her boss, Harry Cohn, to give him starring roles in this film and Cruisin' Down the River (1953).

All Ashore's dancing team, Ryan and McDonald, could at least claim to have found love after leaving the majors. She had been a prominent musical star at Universal, most often teamed with Donald O'Connor. But when the studio changed management while she was out on maternity leave, she returned to find herself out of a job. McDonald had started with great promise at MGM, but the studio already had Rooney for the most important juvenile leads, so he only worked sporadically. His contract ended with Good News (1947). After that, he moved to Eagle-Lion, where he teamed twice with Ryan, in Shamrock Hill and There's a Girl in My Heart (both 1949). When her marriage to actor James Cross ended in 1952, the team started dating. They would marry in 1953. All Ashore would be the last film for both, though they would continue performing together in nightclubs and on television until their divorce in 1957. When McDonald died a few months after Ryan's re-marriage (to Hawaiian real-estate developer Eddie Sherman), the story spread that he had taken an overdose of sleeping pills in despair over his declining career and the loss of Ryan. Actually, his television career was picking up at the time and the coroner's report found no drugs in his bloodstream. He apparently died after choking on food in his hotel room.

While the film's stars were, at least temporarily for Rooney, on the way down in Hollywood, its writing-directing team was among Columbia's brightest new talents. Director Richard Quine had started out as an actor on Broadway, scoring a hit in the 1939 Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein musical Very Warm for May. After a few films, he joined the MGM stock company as one of "The Three Balls of Fire," a musical act featuring Rooney and McDonald, in Babes on Broadway (1941). He would continue at MGM until 1948, at which time he got a taste of directing as an assistant on the Columbia boxing film Leather Gloves (1948). Columbia would give him his first solo feature in 1951 (When My Baby Smiles at Me), and he would direct former co-star Rooney for the first time a year later in Sound Off. After undertaking a variety of projects, he would establish his niche as a director of light comedies with stars like Judy Holiday and Kim Novak, almost marrying the latter. One woman he did marry was Fran Jeffries, on the rebound after her divorce from Haymes.

Quine's writing partner at the time was Rooney's former roommate, Blake Edwards. A former actor, Edwards teamed with Quine as a writer after working with him on Leather Gloves. Eventually, he would move into directing, eclipsing his partner with such hits as Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and the Pink Panther movies.

Producer: Jonie Taps
Director: Richard Quine
Screenplay: Blake Edwards, Richard Quine
Based on characters created by Eurania Rouverol
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Art Director: Walter Holscher
Score: Morris Stoloff
Cast: Mickey Rooney (Francis 'Moby' Dickerson), Dick Haymes (Joe Carter), Peggy Ryan (Gay Night), Ray McDonald (Skip Edwards), Barbara Bates (Jane Stanton), Jody Lawrence (Nancy Flynn), Jean Willes (Rose), Joan Shawlee (Hedy), Ed Fury (Tennis Player), Emil Sitka (Bartender).

by Frank Miller

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