Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Summer Stock

MGM, 1950
Starring Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Eddie Bracken, and Gloria DeHaven
Directed by Charles Walters
Music by various

In the late 30's and early 40's, Judy Garland made four movies with her friend Mickey Rooney that had them as teenagers putting on shows in their backyards, barns, or old local theater. Hoping to recreate some of that magic, MGM wanted to put Judy and Mickey back together in a film that had them as a farmer who has to deal with a director who wants his theater troupe to perform in her barn. By 1950, Rooney was no longer a major star, and he was replaced with the far more popular Kelly. How do they work in their last film together? Let's head to Farraday Farm, as proprietor Jane Farraday (Garland) starts her work day, and find out...

The Story: Jane is in dire straits. The farm hasn't produced a good crop in three years, and it's facing foreclosure. She implores banker Jasper Wingnail (Ray Collins) and his son Orville (Bracken) to give her a tractor so she can get her work done faster. Even as she brings it home, she finds that her flighty sister Abigail (DeHaven) has returned with her acting troupe and their musical. In exchange for letting them use the barn to put on their show, Jane has them do chores around the farm. They aren't very good, and everyone in the community, including the Wingnails, is leery of them.

Jane, however, eventually realizes she enjoys singing and dancing and is fascinated by watching them work. Joe not only falls for her, but he's tired of spoiled Abigail who insists on prima donna treatment. Jane's tired of put-upon Orville, but marrying him may be the only way she can save her farm...

The Song and Dance: For all the trouble they had getting it together, they came up with a charming tale that has some terrific numbers. Kelly and Garland show all the off-the-charts chemistry that made For Me and My Gal and The Pirate so special. Bracken also has a few good gags as Jane's meek suitor who is totally dominated by his blustery father, as does Marjorie Main as Garland's devoted housekeeper. I like that the farm setting is fairly novel as well. Most of those "barnyard" musicals weren't set on actual farms.

 Favorite Number: Garland opens the film by showing us her daily morning routine, from showering to putting on her shoes (and shows Jane's independent nature), in "If You Feel Like Singing, Sing." She greets passer-by with the first version of "Howdy Neighbor" as she drives along in that coveted tractor. Kelly and Phil Silvers as the second-in-command of the troupe convince the actors to "Dig Dig Dig for Your Dinner" in the kitchen and help Jane out. "Portland Fancy" is the real New England folk dance performed by the locals at a town dance; Kelly, Garland, and the performing troupe barge in to jazz up the proceedings. Kelly gets a classic solo dancing on a squeaky floor and part of an old newspaper that really shows off his amazing dexterity.

By far the most famous number from this one is "Get Happy." Garland performs it in the top half of a tuxedo, with the male chorus in tuxes and a pale pink sunset backdrop. It's pretty obvious this one was filmed long after shooting ended. She's not only noticeably thinner than in the rest of the film, but has three times more vitality and energy, too.

Trivia: This would be Garland's last movie with Kelly and for MGM. She and MGM parted by mutual consent after she was fired from Royal Wedding.

What I Don't Like: For all her chemistry with Kelly, Garland is obviously tired elsewhere, especially the non-musical scenes. DeHaven is a bit bland as the sister who supposedly has enough ambition and spunk to run off and join a theatrical troupe. And yeah, the story is pretty cliche when you get past the unusual farm setting, and not always kind to country residents.

The Big Finale: A lovely end to Garland and Kelly's partnership. If you're a fan of them or the big Technicolor MGM musicals of the 40's and 50's, you'll really enjoy this one.

Home Media: Easy to find in all formats. The DVD and Blu-Ray were released by the Warner Archives.

Amazon Prime

No comments:

Post a Comment