Earlier we reported that Jackie Chan is retiring from action movies. He’s 58 years old now, exhausted, and he feels reluctant to do action films given all the violence in the world. (He left the door open for Karate Kid 2 and Rush Hour 4, however.)
I understand his concerns, and look forward to him pushing his acting chops further, like he did in The Shinjuku Incident. But like many others, I’d also like to see him reteam with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao for a reunion film of some kind. They were the shining stars of their Peking Opera class, and three of the biggest names in Hong Kong film through the 1980s. Chan and Hung collaborated on a few films since their last outing as a trio (Mr. Nice Guy, The Medallion, etc.); and Biao worked on Shanghai Noon and made an appearance in the 2006 Chan movie Rob-B-Hood.
They should get together again, at least as a send-off to the HK films of the past. And I have the perfect vehicle for them. It’s something bonkers and unexpected: a remake of the Gene Kelly movie It’s Always Fair Weather as a martial arts musical comedy.
Why remake It’s Always Fair Weather? Thematically, it’d make sense. The original film is an underrated gem about three soldiers who were thick as thieves at one time. At the end of the war, they make a pact to meet up again in 10 years and catch up. When they do reunite, they aren’t as close, their lives have changed, and we learn that their dreams didn’t quite pan out the way they wished. It’s a movie about faded friendships and the way people grow apart.
It’s not your typical MGM musical, and it’s somewhat dark and cynical at times, but it does feature Gene Kelly’s best dance sequence on film: he tap dances on roller skates (seen above). While that scene steals the show, each person in the film would’ve gotten a chance to shine if the full version of the film was preserved. (Sadly, Michael Kidd’s musical number was cut from the movie, and ditto a number featuring Kelly and Charisse together. Charisse still has a solo number in the film, and she’s remarkable, leggy, and downright sexy in it.)
It all seems ready made for Chan and company to take on the primary roles. Jackie is Gene Kelly in a heartbeat, Sammo does Dan Dailey’s part, Yuen is just right for Michael Kidd’s role, and you have to bring in Maggie Cheung for the Cyd Charisse character since she’s a quintessential Hong Kong actress and Jackie’s leading lady for several films. Bring Brigitte Lin out of retirement for the Dolores Gray part (and if that doesn’t work, get Michelle Yeoh), and there you go. And since the original was directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, go ahead and bring in Stanley Tong to co-direct this one with Jackie Chan — let’s get into trouble, baby!
The last movie that Chan, Hung, and Biao did together was Dragon’s Forever back in 1988. It was one of those classic HK action movies of the 1980s, with nutty fights and lots of broad Cantonese comedy. Maybe the It’s Always Fair Weather remake could reunite many of the HK stars of the 1980s, such as the recurring actors from the Lucky Stars series. Bring in some other actors as well, like Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton, and see what Yasuaki Kurata is up to. Again, it’d be a nice thematic tie with the ethos of an old-timey musical — let’s get our friends together and make a dang movie.
Perhaps it gets metafictional. It’s Always Fair Weather was about soldiers in post-war New York City; the remake could be about the HK movie scene after Hollywood came calling in the 1990s. Or maybe it’d be about three Peking Opera students who go seek their fortunes in film, are successful as a trio, drift apart, and then come back together. There’s potential there to explore the changing face of HK film as well as how Hong Kong itself has changed in the new millennium.
And really, how many martial arts musical comedies can you name? The idea is crazy enough to work, even as just a harebrained novelty. If you watch enough Hong Kong martial arts movies, you notice a rhythm to the movement. The fights are not just intricate bits of brutal dance choreography, but there’s this important percussive component as well. It lends itself to musical accompaniment because they are musical in nature. I remember Chan even mentioning this explicitly in the audio commentary for Gorgeous, emphatically humming and dum-dumming the theme to The Bridge on the River Kwai over a fight scene.
Chan’s a decent singer, belting out songs at the end of several of his movies and releasing a few albums as well. (Here he is singing over the credits and bloopers of Police Story.) He also choreographed the above homage to Singin’ in the Rain for Shanghai Knights, and though these are time intensive scenes, he’s got enough ideas sitting around to construct various musical sequences. Chan even demonstrated his ability to direct a lavish musical number in Miracles (aka Mr. Canton and Lady Rose). Maybe as a tribute to the late Anita Mui (another great HK leading lady), one of the dance scenes could be set to Mui’s rendition of “Rose, Rose, I Love You.”
This is all just a goofy idea, a garish unlikelihood with no money in it, but it’s something I thought about when I finally sat down and watched It’s Always Fair Weather a while ago. There are worse ways to get Chan, Hung, and Biao together again, and better ones as well, but those would be predictable. I’d like to see a sequel to Wheels on Meals and Dragons Forever like the next guy, but why not do something unpredictable and daring? Why not do a musical comedy as a cinematic stunt?
Chinese Zodiac looks like a vintage Hong Kong movie, so perhaps with Chan making his way out of the genre, he could do one last grand gesture that wouldn’t necessarily be a big action extravaganza. It’s Always Fair Weather was like a wave goodbye to the age of the MGM musical; maybe this could be a singing, dancing, fighting bow to an important era of Hong Kong cinema — a last hurrah for lucky stars.