How Disney Helped with Anchors Aweigh

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Anchors Aweigh was the first time Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra paired up for a musical. At the time, Sinatra was known for crooning to the crowds while Kelly was the big dance man on the screen. In order to keep up with his co-star, Sinatra practiced six days a week for two months, learning to hone his confidence and on-screen persona thanks to Kelly. Go further behind the scenes of the hit musical below!

1. Walt Disney helped.

Anchors Aweigh features a unique and groundbreaking dance sequence with Kelly and Jerry from Tom and Jerry. However, the number had a hard time getting off the ground because Louis. B. Mayer couldn’t envision how it would work. So they called Walt Disney to get his input. “To his eternal credit, Walt immediately phoned [the general manager of the studio] on our behalf and told him what a great idea he thought it was, and that technically it was certainly possible to achieve,” Kelly said. Disney was even asked to help, but his team was unable to, given their commitment to making war effort movies. Still, the sequence might not have made the cut if Disney hadn't sung its praises.

2. Gene Kelly was a perfectionist.

Some days Kelly worked 10 to 12 hour days. He often worked long hours with the screenwriter (Isobel Lennart) to punch up scenes. He also made sure his co-star Frank Sinatra, who hated to rehearse, gave his all. Sinatra said, “Gene somehow tricked and cajoled me into working harder than I had ever done in my life before, and I found myself locked into a room rehearsing some of the routines for as long as eight weeks!”

3. Gene Kelly joined the Navy after filming.

Kelly played sailors in two films, On the Town and Anchors Aweigh. In November 1944, MGM granted him leave to join the Navy for real. He spent thirteen weeks in boot camp, then went on to make a film for those experiencing battle fatigue. While he encountered some who looked down on his job as easy, he actually assisted in photographing experimental tactics and equipment which was vital to the effort.