P.S. And who could blame you? ; )
Summer Stock (1950)
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P.S. And who could blame you? ; )
Judy barely got through Summer Stock. She had been replaced in Annie Get Your Gun by Betty Hutton and had not started Royal Wedding yet, but was also replaced there by Jane Powell. It was Gene Kelly's patience with her that got her through this film. Interesting also because Kelly was not known as the world's most patient man when working.
It was worth it because Summer Stock contains some of Judy's best musical moments. Most of the score was written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon, but someone was inspired at MGM to give Judy Get Happy by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. That is half of the team that wrote Over the Rainbow for her. Get Happy became another song identified with Judy Garland the rest of her life and into her legend.
But a favorite of mine is Howdy Neighbor. I do so love how that number is staged with Judy riding on a tractor through the fields and on the road near her farm. Catch her at the very end of the song and you can visibly see her breathing heavy. She was obviously under a strain doing this number and in fact the whole film.
Kelly doesn't do too bad either with a song that became identified with him, You Wonderful You. I still remember him singing it to Miss Piggy when guesting on the Muppets.
Summer Stock is another variation on a backstage romance and the discovery of hidden talent. Judy's sister Gloria DeHaven invites the cast and crew of her show to stay at their farm in Connecticut. But Judy's not happy with it. Of course Kelly charms her and discovers along the way who has the real talent in the family.
The film holds up well today and the talent of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly is absolutely eternal.
That said, I adored this movie because of the performances. Gene Kelly is absolutely stunning...a gorgeous man with a gorgeous voice and dance ability that would make the best Broadway "hoofer" jealous. His scenes and songs with Judy were top-notch.
I had never seen this film until recently, and I was delighted to see "Get Happy" was a part of this film. It's one of the highlights of the movie, along with a special tap dance routine Gene Kelly has with a creaky floorboard and a piece of newspaper (wow, is all I can say about that one).
See this movie because of the stars...they carried it. A truly fun and enjoyable film, despite its flaws.
The remarkable thing is how Judy Garland's weight problems, due to over eating and drugs, were covered up. She looks fresh and bubbly, along with here co-star, Gene Kelly, who was pushing 40, and hankering to get on to more ambitious film projects.
The two are perfectly paired and, with the comedy of Phil Silvers and "other woman" of Gloria DeHaven, this musical comes off swimmingly.
I really love Judy's renditions of the joyous "Hello, Neighbor," the lovely "Friendly Star," and the show-stopping, "Get Happy." Her voice is in fine condition, and is a pleasure to hear. Kelly dances up a storm, and the entire production smiles with good cheer.
As one of Judy's songs go, "If You Feel Like Singing . . . Sing!" She does, and we are the lucky recipients.
It goes on, and meanders, as so many MGM musical do, but it is still a satisfying, enjoyable example of the genre.
And, for all the "hokcum", sentiment and predictable outcomes, "Summer Stock" also offers Judy's best dancing sequence, ever--in any film. For Miss Garland to have risen to the challenge offered, in a movie that offered so few, and in her emotional distress...well, that's genius, folks.
But SUMMER STOCK is also the film that gave her her last chance to appear opposite Gene Kelly and to play a story line that she was familiar with. For here Judy returns to the story line of the musicals she made in the early 1940s with Mickey Rooney, regarding "putting on the show". The difference is that she and Mickey and the others were teenagers (or supposedly teenagers) showing up the dubious grown-ups. Here it is grown-ups putting on a show for an out-of-town preview in a small town.
Judy is living in a New England town, where her family has old, old roots (at one point we learn her great great grandfather set up an anti-theater law in 1698!). She and her sister, Gloria DeHaven, own a farm. Judy has been courted, and is engaged, to Eddie Bracken, the son of the town banker Ray Collins. Bracken is his typical weak type, with eyeglasses and hay fever. Collins is typically fatherly, but a bit of a bully to his son (not for any bad reasons). He looks forward to the marriage as a way of uniting the two oldest families of the area. And he even does Garland a favor, giving her a new tractor for her farm at cost.
DeHaven has always been the pampered younger daughter. She has been dating Kelly and invites him and the cast of his musical review production to put it on in the barn of her farm. The musical not only has Kelly as director, producer, and star, but also has Phil Silvers and Carleton Carpenter as his assistants (in Silvers' case, supposed assistant as he's a walking disaster area), and also been lucky enough to get a famous leading man named Keith (Hans Conreid, effective in his brief part but all too brief). They descend on the farm and Garland and her cook and helper Marjorie Main are uncertain about what exactly to do. Collins and Bracken are not too helpful. In fact their parochial attitude to theater people is very hostile.
As the film progresses Garland slowly gets dragged into the production, especially as DeHaven's interest flags. In the meantime the relationship of Bracken and Garland starts cracking seriously as he gets suspicious of the intentions of Kelly towards his intended.
The numbers are pretty good, particularly the songs "Howdy Neighbor", "You Wonderful You", "Heavenly Music", and the last minute show stopper, "Get Happy!" Oddly enough, in the discussions I see on this thread, nobody notes the ridiculous tune that Conreid (it's not his voice) and DeHaven sing "Alone on a Lonely Island". It is done in such a way to spoof the stiff, overly rich voice of Conreid's "Heath". As it does not show up in the final production it probably was only meant for that character.
It is too bad that SUMMER STOCK was her last MGM film...but at least Judy left on a high note.
The plot of the movie is really bad, but the movie is saved by the sensational dancing and one great song. It is also very interesting to watch the expertise used to hide Judy Garland's body shape as much as possible. I appreciated Judy Garland much more after seeing this movie. You can see the sadness and despair through all the smiles, dancing, and singing. If you are a Judy Garland fan, you must see this movie.
As Judy drives the tractor back to her farm, she sings this wonderfully hokey but somewhat bizarre song entitled "Howdy, Neighbor!" with music by the phenomenal Harry Warren (of 1930's Warner Bros/Busby Berkeley musical fame) and lyrics by Mack David. Technically, the song keeps twisting and turning in terms of it's harmonies, phrase lengths and rhyme schemes, as if the creators were having a great time turning what should be a simple, straightforward country tune into a sophisticated musical "brain-teaser" which never goes quite where you expect it to.
This sequence features two of the most god-awful jump-cut edits in film history, as the background ABRUPTLY changes, while Judy just keeps chuggin' along (one of these edits occurs BEFORE she pulls into town for gas, the other as she is LEAVING the town).
While she's gassing up, she is surrounded by one of the goofiest assortment of extras you'll ever see, including this strange, very tall young woman who is dressed in a sort of pre-hippie ensemble of purples and blacks, complete with a cooley-style hat hanging on her back; how this could POSSIBLY pass for 1950 backwoods garb is beyond me. As Judy sings to this motley assortment, she actually tells them that they will be "blessed with crispy lettuce in your jeans", which they all cheerfully shout back at her (as the studio back-up chorus takes over for them). I assume that the reference is to money, which used to be referred to as "lettuce".
At the very end of the song, as Judy belts out the final note with an almost-paralyzing gusto, the camera hovers above her open mouth for what seems like an eternity, as we seem perilously close to hurtling down her gullet; it's amazingly over-the-top, and Judy's final little expression to the camera, as if to say, "Man, I thought that note would NEVER end", perhaps lets us know that the entire number is intended to be a bit of a "send-up."
What does all of this have to do with the film?? Not much, really. It's just so...well....unique. This song is the only extended instance of outdoor location shooting in the film, and it's such a great example of that bright, innocent, up-beat early 50's feeling that seems to have totally vanished from films today, and indeed our world as a whole.
Summer Stock, while not really top-drawer MGM stuff, is a VERY enjoyable film, a spirited variation on the "let's put on a show in the barn" routine, with Jean and Judy as captivating as always. Marjorie Main, Eddie Bracken, and Hans Conreid are just some of the wonderful supporting players, and Phil Silvers (in those rare moments when he isn't doing his annoying, manic "Aren't I funny?" business) is also in fine form.
Gene and Phil Silver's "Heavenly Music" number near the end,(complete with blacked-out teeth, giant rubber feet, yodeling, barking dogs, etc) is MGM at its most outlandish and wacky, a nice way for the big-city theatre people to poke fun at the locals who resent them so keenly. And then there are the lovely ballads, and the film's real highlight, Mr.Kelly's late-night, squeaky floorboard, newspaper-shuffling solo dance routine in the barn.
Lots of good old-fashioned, classy fun. Is a DVD release in the future??
Now for the negatives: The minor characters' parts are a bit bland and/or unappealing: GloriaDeHaven plays a selfish brat, Carleton Carpenter barely registers despite his talents, Hans Conreid was creepy as the star of the show within the show, and Eddie Bracken and Ray Collins as Judy's wimpy fiancé and his overbearing dad are more annoying than funny. It's the writing more than the actors that's the problem, except for the biggest problem: I found Phil Silvers unwatchable. He starts off with an egregiously, jaw-droppingly offensive "Negro" accent on the "Dig Dig Dig" gospel type number, and then to make up for it, he does a white-trash hillbilly number with Kelly that would be too cheesy for Hee-Haw. Throughout the movie, he was grating without having the redeeming qualities of being funny.
The end of the movie was a bit of a let-down for me and it took a while for me to figure out why, but I think I have it: The best parts of the film for me were the farm scenes. Judy was fresh and vibrant, and the farm life was portrayed as extremely appealing --- like Dorothy Gale grown up, having realized that there is indeed no place like home. Then, by the end of the movie, Judy falls in love with Kelly and stars in his show, which is destined to be a hit. (If anyone thinks this is a spoiler, he needs to see more movie musicals.) And this is a bit sad for me, because the show biz types in the movie seemed either bland or selfish; when they registered at all, they were being recklessly destructive on the farm, or condescending toward the farmers. And the "show" itself, doesn't seem all that wonderful. More like a vaudeville montage. So while we are supposed to cheer that Judy is likely to leave the farm for show biz and run off with Kelly, I thought, "Well this is a damn shame!"
One final comment: this is the movie with Judy's "Get Happy" number in her fedora, tux jacket, black stockings and heels. And she looks 20 pounds skinnier and 20 years older in that number compared to the rest of the movie. It is vintage Judy and she does a great job --- but it doesn't seem like it fits the movie or her character. (Even the chorus boys in the number were not in the rest of the show.) I understand that the number was plopped in after the rest of the filming, to add some dazzle to the ending, and while it is dazzling, it didn't much help the cohesiveness of the movie and we do not believe for a second that Judy's farm spinster is the character suddenly creating this sophisticated persona.
So, while I liked the movie, a few parts of this film fell flat for me. But if you like Judy and Gene, then it is well worth seeing for that reason alone --- because they each do some of their best work, and are at their most appealing and attractive.
Of course, with Garland and Kelly around, you can count on some good moments. The best sequences are probably Kelly's famous routine with the newspaper, and Garland's "Get Happy", two numbers that almost everyone enjoys and remembers. Kelly's routine with the newspaper is one of his most creative, and it is an entertaining way to highlight his talent. "Get Happy" has music and words to match the title, and Garland gives it her all.
The song also fits in very nicely with the intended theme of the movie.
There are a few worthwhile moments in the rest of it. Phil Silvers plays a sometimes amusing, sometimes annoying character. The relationships that Garland's character has with her boyfriend and with her sister start out with some potential, but they end up being only mildly interesting. The other parts of the story are innocuous, but not especially interesting.
Overall, the high quality of the singing and dancing sequences make "Summer Stock" worth seeing. For anyone who enjoys the classic musicals, the strong points should compensate for the rather commonplace nature of much of the rest of the movie.
The plot is beyond thin -- basically it's the return of the prototypical "let's put on a show in the barn" musical. And basically we're supposed to accept that Judy Garland is a farmer. The music provided, mostly by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon, is mostly enjoyable but not really memorable. The events in the film flow with an almost savage or sadistic determinism -- the instant you see that Garland has bought a brand new tractor and bumbling Phil Silvers comes within 10 feet of it you know there will be a disaster. It robs the supposedly humorous "accident" of any real zest or charm.
This is an uninspired and uninspiring film but should please all of those who are fans of the amazing performers at the head of the cast. I feel that even with its trite plot, it could have been a much better film if the characters had been invested with some real feeling and complexity on any kind of level.
Kelly and Garland work very well together, as usual, and the barnyard dance is probably her best ever dance performance. But she's equally good in the lovely You, Wonderful You-number, which presages You Were Meant For Me on a much smaller scale.
Kelly is in great shape in the barnyard dance, Dig for your dinner (reminiscent of Tomorrow from Cover Girl and The Hat My Dear Old Father Wore Upon St Patrick's Day in Take Me Out To The Ball Game). But the best number is without a doubt his solo to You, Wonderful You with the newspaper and squeaky board. To me it's Kelly's most Astaire-like performance (especially conceptually - the steps and style are all Kelly).
Unfortunately, the big show is fairly weak (excepting Get Happy, small wonder they added it), and Kelly and Silver's redneck number Heavenly Music is a disgrace. Unfunny, bad song and bad choreography/concept. I can't recall Kelly having done anything more disappointing.
So skip that one every time you pop in the DVD and enjoy the rest of Judy Garland's swan song for MGM, and Kelly's last 'normal' musical (before all his pictures became events).
This was another pairing of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, two of the most admired musical performers at the golden era of MGM. Both performers do well together as they project an ease and charm that filters down to the rest of the movie. Judy Garland is perfect as the girl trying to make ends meet working at the family farm. Gene Kelly is the city slicker who comes unannounced to take over everything to try out his musical play.
There are some familiar faces in supporting roles. Eddie Bracken, Phil Silvers, Marjorie Main, Ray Collins, Hans Conreid, and the beautiful Gloria DeHaven.
By the magic of the movies we are shown how the rustic barn is transformed into a place that no one would have been able to predict could be made into a stage where the musical takes place. Stay tuned and get happy with this summer film that is as refreshing as an ice cream cone on a hot day.
Judy is wonderfully alive and sprightly, amazing in itself since the production of this was famously fraught with delays due to her fragile physical and emotional state during shooting. She's in glorious voice but her weight fluctuates noticeably from scene to scene, most jarringly in the finale where she walks off stage plump and reemerges whippet thin within the same show. There are other instances as well, the "Howdy Neigbor" number which should have taken 3 days to shoot and ended up taking 3 weeks, only completed by splicing together different successful takes, is the most obvious. Whole backgrounds change abruptly behind her while she's singing!
The first of the two numbers that raise the film above the norm is the justly famous "Get Happy". An icon making moment that was filmed two weeks after the film had wrapped during which Judy had lost 20 pounds creating one of those sequences that were it not so galvanizing in and of itself would take you right out of the film. It is a bit jarring anyway since the quality of the material is so high above the rest of the film and in particular the awful number that precedes it, a barnyard travesty with Phil Silvers and Gene Kelly that is probably the worst thing he's ever done.
The second number stands out in several ways. It's the hauntingly beautiful "Friendly Star" which Judy sings with tender delicacy, it's the scene in the film where she looks her best and it's appended by the movie's best straight passage, a tentative love scene between Judy and Gene.
The rest of the film doesn't match these two high points but there are several pleasant scenes. Gene dances with newspapers, the lead pair tear it up during a barn dance that shows what an accomplished dancer Judy was, she effortlessly keeps up with Kelly. The film is loaded with high quality MGM stock players with Marjorie Main adding her customary basso spice to the proceedings.
Metro had originally planned to reunite Judy with Mickey Rooney but changed their mind, a wise decision on their part since the two had grown apart in their performance styles. Just watch them in their last teaming in "Words and Music" two years prior to this, Judy has matured into an accomplished adult song interpreter while Mickey is still trying to get away with the same old tricks from a decade before and making a fool of himself. Fortunately Gene Kelly stepped into the role because of Judy and the kindness she had shown him in his first film "For Me & My Gal", they are a much better match. While his part isn't completely secondary it's Judy that stands out and she's the reason to see this. A shame to realize that after this she would only make five more films in the following 19 years and only two of those were musicals, a great loss to cinema.
My only comment is that, if you are interested at all in cinema choreography, you watch at least through the "Portland Fancy" number. You don't have to sit through to "Get Happy"; watch whichever "That's Entertainment" anthology that features it. But if you ever want to understand what drives movie dancing, and why Kelly and Garland are equated by many with Astaire and Rogers, "Portland Fancy" should provide your education. a traditional square/contradance that segues into a jitterbug session and then to a challenge tap between the two stars, it is in this viewer's opinion one of the finest dance moments in any movie. To enjoy dance but ignore this moment does the soul a disservice.
River Phoenix did some of his best work strung out on heroin, Dock Ellis once threw a no hitter for the Pirates while tripping on acid; drugs in and of themselves are no excuse - there have been many great performances rendered under the influence. This just wasn't one of them. Shooting the movie took some time because of Garland's dependence. She'd clean up for a while and put on weight, then start using again and trim down as a side effect. These transitions are evident while watching the picture, but her performance was consistently shaky regardless of where she was in her addiction cycle.
That being said, the dancing by both Garland and Gene Kelly is out of this world. I would think that dancing would be one of the first of Garland's skills to deteriorate, but she was wonderful in those numbers. And Kelly's tap dancing is truly a lost art. It wasn't enough to save the flick, but worth watching because of it.
The rest of the movie isn't that great. She reunites with Gene Kelly, and while they're both experts at hamming it up for the camera in a silly musical comedy, they don't really save the tired "Let's put on a show!" plot. Gene starts the film engaged to Judy's sister, Gloria DeHaven, but when they decide to put on a show, he and Judy spend a lot of time together and fall in love. There are a few songs interspersed in the movie, both as parts of the show and parts of the regular plot, but the best and most memorable one is "Get Happy". If you love both leads, you can rent this one, but if you'd rather watch them in good movies, you can rent Meet Me in St. Louis and Anchors Aweigh.