Young Java became a classic movie fan by watching Hit the Deck (1955) because
- This movie is fun and energetic like other classic musicals, perfect for a kid to enjoy
- It's slightly different from the other classic musicals that Java had seen at the time, since the characters have much to lose.
- The gowns are gorgeous.
- It's the movie she was watching when she first noticed patterns in different films.
Hit the Deck is an Energetic Movie
Hit the Deck is a musical, making it fun and entertaining for Young Java. Musicals were not just movies, they were dance classes and gymnastic tutorials. Russ Tamblyn's tumbles in this film maintain a child's interest in a story otherwise filled with "grown-up problems."
Anything with Ann Miller in it deserves closer attention. She always seems to have fun. When Ginger (Miller), the night club performer growls that she's the lady from the bayou and she knows her way around, a kid doesn't exactly know what she's talking about, but the chorus boys seem excited.
The unsinkable Debbie Reynolds is practically synonymous with high energy; she was just out of childhood herself in the early 1950s, so a kid can't help but love her films. In Hit the Deck, she keeps up with Tamblyn in a thrilling theme park attraction which consists of treadmills, slides and people poking you with pitchforks.
Just like other classic musicals, Hit the Deck is great fun to watch and emulate. Still, what turned Java into a classic movie fan is what makes this musical different from others.
Hit the Deck is Slightly More Dramatic Than Other Naval Musicals that Java Had Seen
Hit the Deck is a slightly more dramatic military musical, a difference which captured Young Java's attention. We see the sailors on the job, which lends an air of reality to this fantasy. Also, the leads are dealing with pre-existing relationships of all kinds - romantic and platonic- not one night stands.
This means, during the film's crisis, they stand to lose, not a random woman's affections as in the other films, but everything they have worked for and every important relationship they have cultivated.
For the first time, Java saw a sober musical. It is more than just a picnic in the park with no real consequences. The kid took notice and she wanted to know more.
Hit the Deck Shows Military Personnel at Work, Bringing Reality to the Fantasy
Most of Java's relatives don't talk about their experiences in any war, making uniforms, the people in them and their work mysterious.
Hit the Deck helped to enter that world a little bit. In the film, three men - Chief Boatswain's Mate William F. Clark (Tony Martin), Rico Ferrari (Vic Damone) and Daniel Smith (Tamblyn)- battle extreme climates, from the soggiest swamps to the iciest floes.
This was the first time that Java had seen a naval musical with actual grime and the characters expressing a bit of resentment about certain aspects of their duties. In fact, this is the first time she'd seen a naval musical presenting ANY aspect of their duties since they are forever on shore leave in movies. Life is usually all sunshine and rainbows in these films. Not in Hit the Deck.
The Gowns are GorgeousMusicals showcase the best dresses for movement and elegance. Sometimes, especially in the late 1940s and 1950s, that meant the ladies would wear layers and layers of underskirt. Young Java was obsessed with crinolines and the like, so this musical was just heaven!
Hit the Deck's Connection with Other Movies Became an Obsession
Java liked the people and noticed patterns of casting. She noticed that Russ Tamblyn and Jane Powell play brother and sister in this film and brother-and sister-in-law in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
She began to wonder which movie came first and whether they spent their entire careers playing each others relative. She then began to search for Jane Powell in Tamblyn's films and vice versa.
Knowing facts about a film became a game, a fun game she's played ever since.
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