Despite the presence of Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, Michael Kidd and Cyd Charisse, a script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and co-direction by Kelly and Stanley Donen, It's Always Fair Weather (Delores Gray and Michael Kidd, right) isn't considered one of the great MGM musicals.

There's a reason. American musicals (screen musicals especially) had to be up; all-singing, all-dancing tributes to national innocence and true grit - the American spirit packaged as hummable propaganda. It's Always Fair Weather (1955) is none of these things. Fair Weather is resolutely post-WWII: cynical and sour, thick with lost hope, the very opposite of Kelly and Donen's On the Town (1949), the exhilarating story of three sailors spending 24 hours' shore leave in New York. Impossible dreams triumph: 'Up' couldn't get any higher.

After the high, the hangover. Fair Weather marks the screen musical reaching maturity. On one level it's The Best Years of Our Lives with songs; on another it's more like Pal Joey, the stage musical about a complete bastard that launched Kelly's career (a musical Hollywood wouldn't touch for years). The ex-GI buddies can barely stand one another and Dan Dailey can barely stand himself. He went to war to fight for liberty and now he's in advertising. When he does a drunken dance satirising his profession, Fair Weather foreshadows the smart New York blues as practised by a certain Mr Sondheim. Like his work, Fair Weather refuses to climax in the musical's traditional goal of happiness. The most offered here is a chance of renewal or maybe rediscovery. The film was a box-office disaster in its time, but modern audiences will understand.

'It's Always Fair Weather' is at the Rio cinema, 2.30pm today Kingsland High Street, Hackney, E8 (071-254 6677)

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