The film contains remarkable location footage of New York City. Shooting outside of the studio was a rarity at that time, and Gene Kelly had to fight for permission to do so. As it was, the crew had to be careful about when and where they shot given the stars' fame--especially Sinatra's.
The film is based on the Broadway musical, which premiered in December 1944; that show, in turn, was inspired by Jerome Robbins's short ballet, "Fancy Free." Among the stars of the show were ballerina Sono Osato (as Ivy Smith), the play's writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green (as Claire and Ozzy), and Nancy Walker (as Hildy). It was a first for most of the show's young cast and creators, the majority of whom had not yet celebrated their 30th birthdays: It marked the Broadway debut for choreographer Robbins, composer Leonard Bernstein, and playwrights Comden and Green. Only director George Abbott was a theater veteran.
ON THE TOWN was also a first in other respects--most importantly, as the first Broadway musical to have an interracial chorus and to employ a black conductor/musical director. Reportedly, when Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, saw the show (which he had already bought the movie rights to), he considered it "communist" because of a duet danced by an interracial couple.
Much of Leonard Bernstein's Broadway score was scrapped for the film, which ultimately contained only four of his original songs. New songs were written by Roger Edens.
MGM was not alone in wanting the film rights to ON THE TOWN. In fact, Mayer and the other executives had to wrench them from another studio, which had already purchased them. This was the first time that a bidding war had erupted prior to a Broadway show's opening; most of the interest was generated by the popularity of Jerome Robbins's ballet.
Academy Awards Best Adapted or Musical Song/Score 1949 Roger Edens American Composer
Academy Awards Best Adapted or Musical Song/Score 1949 Lennie Hayton American Composer