Vincent Youmans' 1927 musical Hit the Deck!, based on the 1922 Hubert Osborne play Shore Leave about sailors' romances on land, was the composer's third and final major success (following Wildflower and No, No, Nanette). Typically tuneful, it featured the hits "Hallelujah!," a stirring march, and "Sometimes I'm Happy," a melodic ballad. Youmans wrote a new song, "Keepin' Myself for You," for the 1930 movie adaptation. In 1936, the play was adapted into a movie vehicle for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Follow the Fleet, with an Irving Berlin score, and the 1940s stage and movie musical On the Town, with songs by Leonard Bernstein, Adolph Green, and Betty Comden, used the same idea. By the mid-1950s, the concept was a bit stale, but that didn't stop MGM, which had acquired the property, from putting together a lavish new Cinemascope version of Hit the Deck that made use of a raft of its contract players. Among the women, Jane Powell was the closest thing to a major star, with young Debbie Reynolds already a familiar name and Ann Miller, a veteran as always, given a dancing showcase. Tony Martin and Vic Damone were better known as singers, while Russ Tamblyn, the youngest of the major players, was more of a dancer. (In fact, two singers, Rex Dennis and Clark Burroughs, were used to dub his singing.) The score was revamped. Seven numbers -- "Hallelujah!," "Join the Navy," "A Kiss or Two," "Loo Loo," "Lucky Bird," "Sometimes I'm Happy," and "Why, Oh Why" -- were retained from the show, as was "Keepin' Myself for You," with two other Youmans hits, "I Know That You Know" from Oh, Please and "More Than You Know" from Great Day!, interpolated, and the score was filled out with the old Italian song "Ciribiribin" and "The Lady from the Bayou," which was created from an unused Youmans melody. (Lyrics were also refurbished here and there.) Despite the elaborate production, the film was not a big hit, probably because it simply came along too late. But it was well sung and, with its extra Youmans songs, served as something of a sampler of his work. The original soundtrack album, containing the main versions of the 12 songs, was a 33-minute monophonic LP. On Nov. 21, 2000, Rhino, in conjunction with Turner Entertainment, which owned the MGM film vault, released a CD reissue of the soundtrack that expanded it significantly and presented it in true stereo for the first time. The new version was more than 25 minutes longer, adding lots of orchestral and dance music as well as reprises of some of the songs and a brief outtake of "Dormi Dormi" sung by Kay Armen and Damone. The orchestrations, most of them by Robert Van Epps, made the music sound much more like it came from the '50s than the '20s, but the score retained its charm and the performances remained sparkling.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann