Lady luck – in conjunction with the BFI Southbank – has granted our Christmas wish to see this brassy 1955 musical back on the big screen. If you’re not familiar, it’s the one where ultimate odd couple Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra play charismatic cats in hats and spats on the mean (but very clean) streets of New York. Jean Simmons is the pious Salvation Army gal who stumbles into their unholy, hustling schemes. There are songs you’ll already know – ‘Luck Be a Lady’ is the big number – and others you’d probably rather forget, including a series of interminable sex-kitten routines featuring Sinatra’s on-screen squeeze, Vivian Blaine.
The real draw is the script: based on stories by Damon Runyon and spruced up by ‘His Girl Friday’ scribe Ben Hecht, it strikes such a perfect blend of salty and sweet that it’s almost a shame when the band strikes up and the jazz hands come out. That said, musical-phobes are going to have a much easier time here than with your average Old Hollywood stage adaptation: Brando is hulking charisma personified, scrawny Sinatra still has the most remarkable voice ever committed to two-channel audio, and the pastel-shaded, neon-lit sets are a marvel. Oh, and lest we forget, the two main characters are called Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, which should give you some idea of the depth of deep cool we’re talking here, pops.