An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2021) with… In The Good Old Summertime (1949)

We’re back for one final post in the “What’s Old Is A New Release Again” series to finish out 2021.  This one is on the 1949 Christmas musical In The Good Old Summertime starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Chicago, The Beautiful (1948)

(Available as an extra on the In The Good Old Summertime Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 15 seconds)

This short from MGM’s series of TravelTalk shorts (narrated by James A. FitzPatrick) focuses on the American city of Chicago.  We get to see some of the city and its landmarks (particularly from the era of the late 1940s).  Those include several of the city’s big hotels, the old Watertower, Buckingham’s Fountain and Lorado Taft’s Fountain of Time, among others.  Seeing what the city looked like at that time is interesting, but this short probably has greater significance for those who consider the city home or have a great interest in the city and its history.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Night Life In Chicago (1948)

(Available as an extra on the In The Good Old Summertime Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes, 53 seconds)

This is another TravelTalk short on the city of Chicago.  This time, the focus is on the various hotels and other places that offer entertainment at night.  Place shown include the Walnut Room of the Bismarck Hotel, the Ambassador Hotel’s Pump Room, and the boardwalk at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, with some of the performers shown doing their various acts.  It’s an interesting idea (and, to a degree, you can’t help but wish they could have shown a lot more of the entertainment), but when all is said and done, most of the performers are quite unfamiliar to the average person, which takes away from the fun (especially when you do see some more famous names on the marquees that don’t make an appearance in this short).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Andrew “Andy” Larkin (Van Johnson) is the top salesman at Oberkugen’s Music Company in Chicago.  He has recently begun corresponding with a lady when he answered a personal ad in the paper (but neither pen pal knows who the other is).  Andy runs into trouble at work when his boss, Mr. Otto Oberkugen (S. Z. Sakall), orders one hundred harps, as Andy believes that they won’t sell due to the lack of market (which, of course, angers Mr. Oberkugen, since he likes them).  In comes Veronica Fisher (Judy Garland), who is looking for a job.  Andy and Mr. Oberkugen try to tell her that there isn’t any opening at the store currently, but Mr. Oberkugen hires her when she manages to sell one of the harps successfully (which, of course, gets her on the wrong side of Andy).  Andy continues to write to his pen pal (with the two of them slowly falling for each other), but doesn’t get along with Veronica at work.  The remaining ninety-nine harps continue to stay on the shelves (even with Mr. Oberkugen frequently trying to discount them), which causes friction between him and his bookkeeper/longtime girlfriend, Nellie Burke (Spring Byington).  One day, when she is so frustrated that she decides not to go out with him that evening (claiming she has a date with another man), Mr. Oberkugen’s jealousy gets the better of him, and he orders all his employees to stay after work for inventory (which really bothers everybody).  When Nellie decides to apologize to Mr. Oberkugen, he realizes how unjust he was being, and lets everyone go.  Andy had arranged to meet his pen pal at a restaurant that night, but when he and his co-worker/friend Rudy Hansen (Clinton Sundberg) arrive at the restaurant, they find out that his pen pal is none other than Veronica!  Disappointed, Andy leaves, but comes back later and tries to talk with Veronica (who gets very annoyed with him for disturbing her while she waits for her friend).  When she finally gives up and leaves, she finds a carnation outside (which Andy was supposed to wear to help identify himself as her friend). She believes that her friend had seen the two of them together and left, which depresses her enough that she calls in sick the next day.  Andy comes to visit her on his lunch break, and sees how much she perks up when she receives her next letter from her friend.  The next day, Mr. Oberkugen and Nellie have a party to celebrate their engagement, but, much to Andy’s chagrin, Mr. Oberkugen asks him to sneak in his prized Stradivarius violin (which he plays at work when he is low, except he does it poorly, much to the dismay of his employees).  Unsure what to do, Andy ends up loaning it to his friend Louise Parkson (Marcia Van Dyke) for an audition that night.  When he arrives at the party, Andy is unable to tell Mr. Oberkugen that he loaned it out, pretending that he just couldn’t bear to bring it and left it at home. When Mr. Oberkugen vehemently insists that Andy bring the violin, Andy borrows Louise’s violin, which Hickey (Buster Keaton), Mr. Oberkugen’s nephew (and one of his employees), accidentally breaks when he goes to give it to his uncle.  Andy is fired, but he gets the Stradivarius back after Louise’s audition goes well.  With him out of a job now, will he reveal himself as Veronica’s pen pal, or will they continue to stay apart?

This film, a remake of The Shop Around The Corner, was being considered as early as 1944, with the likes of Frank Sinatra and June Allyson attached to the film at one point or another.  By the time they got around to filming, Judy Garland was struggling a great deal at MGM, having been suspended (due to her addictions and illness causing her to miss shooting) from The Barkleys Of Broadway (originally intended as a follow-up to her successful teaming with Fred Astaire in Easter Parade), with her later filming two songs for Words And Music.  She had recovered her strength enough to do In The Good Old Summertime, and she was able to get through filming fairly easily (compared to some of her recent films), which some attributed to the cast and crew helping make sure that she felt needed, wanted, and happy.  Buster Keaton, who had been fired as a star by MGM in 1933 (but kept on as gag writer), was asked to help come up with a plausible (yet still funny) way to break a violin, and was cast when the director, Robert Leonard, realized that he was the only one who could do it (and Buster also came up with the comic bit when Van Johnson and Judy Garland’s characters first met at the post office).  It turned out to be his last film at the studio (and the introduction of Judy Garland’s young daughter, Liza Minelli), but the movie proved to be a hit at the box office.

I had originally seen this movie prior to The Shop Around The Corner (but we’ll get around to comparing them later), and it’s one that I’ve seen many times.  Of course, with a title like In The Good Old Summertime, you’d think that this was more of a summer movie, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, as all but about thirty minutes (give or take) takes place during the Yuletide season!    With Judy Garland taking pretty much all the musical chores, that of course means that we get her singing a holiday song, in the form of “Merry Christmas.”  To be fair, the song pales in comparison to “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me In St. Louis, but it certainly has its charm.  The real musical highlight of the film is Judy singing the song “I Don’t Care,” which is a lot of fun (and, quite frankly, Judy also looks like she’s having fun doing it)!  And while she doesn’t sing it, the title tune is also quite catchy (and prone to getting stuck in my head whenever I watch this movie)!  The rest of the cast makes this one enjoyable, too, especially S. Z. Sakall, who first made a big impression on me with this movie (and has been a fun character actor in every other film that I’ve seen him in since).  I do admit, the film’s biggest weakness is how underutilized Buster Keaton is, given that him breaking the violin is the only physical comedy bit that he does.   Still, this has always been a very entertaining movie for me to watch (at any time of the year, but especially around Christmas), and therefore, I have no qualms whatsoever in giving this film some of my highest recommendations!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… In The Good Old Summertime (1949)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.  The Blu-ray makes use of a 4K scan of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives and preservation separations, and the results are typical of Warner Archive.  In short, it’s a great transfer, which allows the color to pop, and improves the detail over the earlier DVD.  Plain and simple, it’s a great release that treats this wonderful holiday classic right!

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #6 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Easter Parade (1948) – Judy Garland – Summer Stock (1950)

Van Johnson – The Caine Mutiny (1954)

My Dream Is Yours (1949) – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall – The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950)

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) – Buster Keaton

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

We’re back again to keep things musical this month with today’s entry in the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, as we take a look at MGM’s all-star musical from 1945, Ziegfeld Follies!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Luckiest Guy In The World (1947)

(available as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 21 minutes, 9 seconds)

Charles Vurn (Barry Nelson) struggles monetarily, due to his desire to get rich quick (mostly by gambling). When he accidentally kills his wife, his luck “seems” to change for the better. This was the last short in the “Crime Does Not Pay” series of shorts produced by MGM. It’s an interesting short, that feels well-acted and pulls you in for the story. Amusingly, considering this short’s inclusion as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray, it includes part of Red Skelton’s skit from the movie done as part of a radio program heard in a car. I’m still no fan of the “Crime Does Not Pay” series, but this one was interesting to see once, anyways.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Hick Chick (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 or as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray, both from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 7 minutes, 10 seconds)

Hick rooster Lem ends up fighting with a city slicker for the affections of his girlfriend, Daisy. A bit of fun here, with the city slicker rooster imitating Charles Boyer, while Daisy also does an imitation of Katharine Hepburn (if I’m correct). Not the most original, with the hick rooster constantly being punched in the face the same way by the city slicker, but it’s still fun. Enjoyed the chasing around (plus the bull being “stripped” of his fur several times). Maybe not Tex Avery’s best work, but I had a few good laughs here, and that alone makes it worth it!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Solid Serenade (1946)

(available as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 25 seconds)

Tom the cat tries to serenade his girlfriend, but when he disturbs the sleep of Jerry the mouse, he lives to regret it! An old classic “Tom & Jerry” cartoon, with him famously singing “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” I’ve seen this one for years, and always get a laugh out of watching Tom facing off against Killer, the bulldog, when Jerry lets him loose. The gags just get funnier as the short goes on, and this one never gets old!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Narrator): Ziegfeld Follies is one of those films with a very simple plot.

(Host): How simple is it?

(Narrator): I expected that from you, so I’ll tell you. Florenz Ziegfeld (William Powell) looks down from heaven, and imagines what it would be like to put on just one more of his famous Ziegfeld Follies shows using the talent in Hollywood (especially at MGM).

(Host): Yeah, yeah, what else?

(Narrator): That’s it.

(Host): That’s it?

(Narrator): Yep, and that all takes place within the first ten minutes of the movie. After that, it’s a revue like the earlier reviewed King Of Jazz, with different stars singing, dancing, doing comedy skits, whatever their specific talents were.

(Host): So what’s on the program?

(Narrator): Well, here’s a list of what’s included, and we’ll get into the various segments afterwards:

  • “Here’s To The Girls” sung by Fred Astaire, danced by Cyd Charisse and chorus, Lucille Ball and chorus
  • “Bring On The Wonderful Men” sung by Virginia O’Brien
  • “A Water Ballet” featuring Esther Williams
  • “Number Please” with Keenan Wynn
  • “Traviata” sung by James Melton and Marion Bell
  • “Pay The Two Dollars” with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold
  • “This Heart Of Mine” sung by Fred Astaire, danced by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer
  • “A Sweepstakes Ticket” with Fanny Brice, Hume Cronyn and William Frawley
  • “Love” with Lena Horn
  • “When Television Comes” with Red Skelton
  • “Limehouse Blues” danced by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer
  • A Great Lady Has “An Interview” with Judy Garland
  • “The Babbitt and The Bromide” sung and danced by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly
  • “Beauty” sung by Kathryn Grayson

(Host): And that’s all?

(Narrator): Yep, that’s all. Admittedly, there was more filmed, but that’s all that made it into the movie. But, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

(Host): Ok, so start at the beginning.

(Narrator): (whispering aside to audience) He asked for it! (winks at audience, then turns back to Host, speaking in normal voice) “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the–

(Host): No, no, NO! Not that far! The making of this movie!

(Narrator): Ok, fine. Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (1867-1932) was a famous stage producer. On the suggestion of Polish-French singer Anna Held, he started producing the American version of the Parisian Folies Bergère. From 1907 until 1931, he produced a yearly revue of the Ziegfeld Follies, with these shows sporting songs, dances, comedy sketches, and such. They mainly ended when he passed away in 1932. After his death, his widow Billie Burke sold the film rights of his life to Universal Pictures. However, with the rising costs and disagreements between the film’s producer and the studio, Universal ended up selling the rights to MGM. In 1936, MGM released The Great Ziegfeld, to great acclaim, box office, and a Best Picture Oscar win. A few years later, in 1939, studio head Louis B. Mayer planned the idea of a film version of a Ziegfeld Follies show, and gave the project to his new producer, Arthur Freed. However, with Arthur Freed’s new unit only just getting started, it took a while before they could really get into the project. With the success of Ziegfeld Girl in 1941, they really started to focus on the idea. The plan was to try and use some of the various songs, sketches and comedy routines that MGM had been acquiring over the years. At first, George Sidney was assigned to direct the film, but he left after a short while (supposedly, he wasn’t happy with the first month’s worth of shooting) and was replaced by Vincente Minelli (although some of what Sidney filmed was retained for the final product). The movie was originally intended to be released in 1944 to celebrate MGM’s 20th anniversary, but things didn’t work out that way. Filming initially took place between April 10 and August 18, 1944. When the movie was given its sneak preview (with a running time of nearly three hours), audiences didn’t respond as positively as they would have hoped. This resulted in the studio making some changes to the movie, removing many segments and doing some re-takes and additional sequences. Even once finished (as the film is now), they still took their time in releasing it, waiting almost half a year before finally giving it a wide release in 1946.

(Host hands the narrator a small business card)

(Narrator): (reading the card) “And now a word from our sponsor?”

(Pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face)

(Host): That’s right folks, our sponsor this week is Pie N De Face! If you’re feeling gloomy, and you don’t know what to do (and you’ve got a friend or family member nearby), use Pie N De Face, and you’re sure to bust a gut laughing! Also comes with a portable washing machine (water falls from above the Narrator, drenching him), soap (Narrator is scrubbed with soap, then drenched again), and dryer (a strong gust of wind blows on the Narrator, drying him up and fluffing out his clothing) so that you can use it again in a hurry!

(Narrator): (Angrily walks off-stage, sound of pie hitting him in face again, then sounds of gushing water and wind) (yells) Let’s move on here! Start talking about the movie!

(Host): Alright. Computer, bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set.

(Computer): Bringing in comedy set.

(Out pops a set with three distinct sections that look like a subway car, a courthouse and a jail cell. There are also two telephone booths and an old CRT television set with what appears to be a bottle of an alcoholic beverage, although nothing inside is visible. A huge pile of sweepstakes tickets drops on the Host, burying him).

(Host): (from underneath the pile of sweepstakes tickets) Ow.

(Narrator): (Walking back onstage) That’s the ticket!

(Audience groans)

(Narrator): Ok, ok, they can’t all be good! Anyways, it may not be what he asked for, but we should mention the comedy sketches. Obviously, opinions will vary for most, but in general, the comedy bits in this movie are among the more controversial aspects of it, as there are those that don’t think they have aged as well as the various musical numbers. There is a degree to which I agree with that. The bit “Pay The Two Dollars” with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold is the worst, as Victor Moore plays a businessman who gets in trouble for spitting on the subway (a minor offense), but, because of the fact that he is unable to pay the fine, combined with the insistence of his lawyer that he fight the charge (even though he just wants to pay the fine), he is sent to jail and then later prison, before being pardoned. In general, this one is just cringeworthy, watching Victor Moore’s character getting in worse and worse scrapes, both financially and with the law, just because his lawyer doesn’t want to lose the case (and charges his client an arm and a leg to do it). Maybe it’s funny once or twice, but eventually this becomes one worth skipping. Computer, drop “Pay The Two Dollars.”

(Computer): Dropping the cheapskate.

(Trapdoor opens up beneath the Host).

(Host): (Falling through the trapdoor with some of the sweepstakes tickets) Aaaaaaaaahhhh!

(Narrator): Moving on, we have the the “Number Please” comedy bit with Keenan Wynn, where he keeps asking the operator for a specific number, but keeps getting the wrong one. This one is decently funny, but, when all is said and done, it’s essentially the “Alexander 2222” (or whatever other name they go with) comedy routine, and, when you’ve seen Lou Costello do that routine, nobody else is as good.

(Phone booth rings)

(Narrator): (Steps in phone booth and picks up phone) Hello? (Muffled voice overheard on phone) Mmm-hmm. (Muffled voice continues) You don’t say. (Muffled voice starts to sound angry). You don’t say! (Muffled voice gets angrier. Narrator cups his hand over the phone and gives the audience a look). I think most of you can predict what I’m about to tell you, so say it with me. (breathes in) “He isn’t saying.” Computer, drop this obscene caller.

(Computer): Dropping the obscene caller.

(Host): (from the other telephone booth, getting quieter as if falling again) Not agaaaaaaaiiiiinnnn!

(Narrator): The next comedy sketch would be “A Sweepstakes Ticket” with Fanny Brice, Hume Cronyn and William Frawley. Fanny Brice was the only featured star in this movie to have actually been one of the big stars from a Ziegfeld Follies show. Different sketches and ideas were thrown around for what to do with her for this movie, but what we got was a sketch in which she plays a housewife that has the winning ticket in an Irish sweepstakes. The problem is her husband, played by Hume Cronyn, has given the ticket to their landlord (William Frawley in what would become a familiar occupation for one of his most famous characters half a decade later) as part of their rent, so they must try to get it back from him. There’s some fun with their attempts to get the ticket back, so it does manage to be slightly more memorable. (speaks loudly) Of course, I’ve got that winning ticket in that pile somewhere…

(Host comes running back onstage and dives into remaining pile of sweepstakes tickets, only to fall through the still open trapdoor)

(Narrator): Knew I forget to take care of something. Computer, close the trapdoor.

(Computer): Closing the trapdoor.

(Trapdoor closes)

(Narrator): Our last comedy sketch is “When Television Comes” with Red Skelton. (Walks over to the television set and takes a swig from the bottle on top) While Red Skelton seems to be one of the more “you love him or you hate him” types, I will admit that I personally like his comedy. I don’t think his comedy bit here is as good as what he did in Lovely To Look At, but it’s still some good fun as he plays an advertiser that gets slowly more drunk on the sponsor’s product while alternating (by the turn of his hat) as a poet with some rather amusing poetry (if you can call it that). Out of all the pure comedy sketches in this movie, this is the one that I enjoy the most. (Takes another swig from the bottle) Ah, that’s good stuff. (To audience) Before you get the wrong idea, I’m drinking the hard stuff. Milk. What? You expected something alcoholic? We wouldn’t let anything of that nature on here! But let’s get back to the movie!

(Host): (weakly from offstage) What about “A Great Lady Has An Interview” with Judy Garland?

(Narrator): Well, that’s kind of a different story. That one is a musical number, which was written by Kay Thompson and Roger Edens for actress Greer Garson, in an attempt to spoof her screen image at the time. When the two writers performed it for Greer Garson and her husband and her mother, they expressed their feelings that it wasn’t for her. Instead, Judy Garland ended up doing it. Personally, while I think that Judy Garland does a good job with it (and I’m glad that she got something in this movie, considering she was another star that had a lot of stuff planned as possibilities that didn’t pan out, and, as big as she was at MGM, she did need to be in this film), I think the humor of the piece falls flat. Maybe I’m saying that coming from a complete lack of knowledge in regards to Greer Garson (having only seen her in the film Blossoms In The Dust which was part of a set of Christmas films I got on DVD a number of years back), but I can’t believe that I’m the only one who has no knowledge of her, which causes this number to age poorly, in my opinion.

(sign drops from above)

(Narrator): (reading the sign) “And now back to our sponsor Pie N De Face?”

(another pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face).

(Host): (trying to stifle a giggle) If you’re feeling gloomy (starts giggling more intensely), and you don’t know what to do (and you’ve got a friend or family member nearby), use Pie N De Face (busts out in raucous laughter), and you’re… sure to… bust a gut… laughing! (starts rolling on the floor in uncontrollable laughter)

(Narrator): (wiping pie off his face) Oh, very funny. Veeeeerrrry funny. Are you through yet?

(Host still laughing on the floor)

(Narrator): Fine. I’ll finish the ad. (starts speaking fast to get it over with). Also comes with a portable washing machine, soap, and dryer so that you can use it again in a hurry! (In quick fashion, water drops on the Narrator, followed quickly by soap, more water, and then a strong gust of wind fluffs him up again)

(Host): (still on the floor laughing) Had enough?

(Narrator walks offstage muttering angrily to himself)

(Host): (laughter subsides) Ok, let’s try this again. Computer, bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set.

(Computer): Bringing in “Beauty” set.

(From above, a bunch of soap suds and bubbles drop down, covering the stage and sticking to the Host)

(Host): (spitting out soap bubbles) No, no, no, not that! Computer! Bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set!

(Computer): Bringing in “Water Ballet” set.

(Host): (dreading what is coming) Oh, no!

(A glass pane comes down covering the front of the stage, with water filling in behind it and washing away all the suds. The Host suddenly finds himself swimming in all the water as the water level continues to rise.)

(Narrator): (walking back onstage in front of the glass pane) Ah, two musical numbers that ended up being far different than what was originally planned. As I’ve hinted at already, a lot of the various stars were being given numerous songs or sketches in the planning stages, some of which managed to be filmed (but were dropped after the initial preview). One of those stars was singer James Melton, who had filmed at least four songs, but only one was retained: the operatic “La Traviata.” Personally, I think that to be one of the weakest (if not THE weakest) segments retained for the movie. I’ve seen it described as being filmed like a song for a TV variety show, which feels quite accurate. Overall, I don’t really like it at all (and only would have been able to tolerate it if it could have been done, for example, by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy instead of James Melton and Marion Bell).

(The water level continues to rise. The Host swims his way over to the glass pane and taps on it.)

(Narrator): What? Oh, right, the two different musical numbers. Well, we have the one segment with Esther Williams doing her underwater ballet. Originally, this segment was done with James Melton singing the song “We Will Meet Again in Honolulu,” but after the initial preview, Melton’s appearance was cut, with only Esther Williams’ swim routine sticking around. It’s nothing compared to some of the spectacles she would do in some of her later films (at least, those that I’ve seen), but it’s entertaining enough.

(With the water level at the top, an agitated Host pounds furiously on the glass pane.)

(Narrator): (looking back) Now what? (sees water level) Oh, right! Computer, pull the plug.

(Computer): Pulling the plug.

(A hole opens up in the center of the stage, draining all the water. As the water goes down the hole, the Host goes down with it.)

(Narrator): (When all the water is gone) Computer, put in the plug.

(Computer): Putting in plug.

(The hole in the center of the stage closes up.)

(Host): (from down below) Why can’t that thing work that well for me?!?!?

(Narrator): (Ignoring the Host’s complaint) Now where were we? Oh, yes. The song “There’s Beauty Everywhere” was also quite different for its original conception. James Melton also originally sang that song, and director Vincente Minelli envisioned having Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer and Cyd Charisse dancing among soap bubbles. However, the bubble machine caused a lot of trouble, with the gas from the bubbles causing the cameraman to faint and otherwise became a constant hazard, not to mention the bubbles themselves getting out of control. As a result, they weren’t able to film it right (with the bubbles generally obscuring parts of Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer’s faces), so most of the idea was abandoned. Some of the footage featuring Cyd Charisse was kept in the film, and James Melton was replaced by Kathryn Grayson with some newly shot footage. Personally, I think it’s not really that memorable of a song, especially as it is, and makes me wish they could have (safely) pulled off their original vision.

(From offstage, the sound of machinery fizzling out can be heard. Then the Host walks onstage)

(Host): Darn it. There goes our sponsor’s machine. All those soap suds and that water shorted it out.

(Narrator): (in a mocking tone). Awww, that’s too bad.

(Host): (imitating the Narrator) “Awww, that’s too bad.” (Normal voice) Oh, you’ll get over it. Getting back to the movie, are you finished with the water ballet and “There’s Beauty Everywhere?”

(Narrator): Yes.

(Host): Anything you want to say about the song “Love” before segueing into discussing the Fred Astaire stuff?

(Narrator): Well, “Love,” as sung by Lena Horne, is a fun piece of music, and she does a wonderful job of singing it. I can’t really say much one way or the other about how it was staged, as that aspect doesn’t really feel that memorable. Still, as I said, the song itself sticks quite well in my memory, and is one of the better songs in the film.

(Host): Ready for Fred Astaire?

(A screen drops down from above)

(Narrator): (ducking behind the screen and popping out on the other side wearing a top hat and a tuxedo with tails, and carrying a cane) Ready!

(Host): Alright. We’ll give this one last shot. Computer, bring in the “Fred Astaire” set. (closes eyes and flinches)

(Computer): Bringing in “Fred Astaire” set.

(Host): (slowly opens one eye and looks around to see a set divided into four sections, with one occupied by a group of ladies all decked out in costumes with big headdresses, another occupied by the Chinatown section of London, another in a park with a statue of a man on a horse, and the other with a barren wintry landscape. Seeing the coast is clear, he unflinches and breathes a sigh of relief) Phew. Finally! (Suddenly, a piano drops on his head, knocking him out)

(Narrator): Hmm. That piano sounded out of tune. Oh, well. (pulls the unconscious Host out from under the piano and drags him offstage) Anyways, back to Fred. Compared to some of the many stars who had multiple segments planned that, for one reason or another didn’t make it into the final film, Fred Astaire managed to get four segments in the movie, besting Cyd Charisse and Lucille Bremer, who were tied at two each (while everybody else had one). Even then, Fred still had at least one segment cut, the song “If Swing Goes, I Go Too” (a song that he himself wrote). While the footage of that song no longer exists, the recording of it does. However, that was not included (for some reason) as an extra on the recent Blu-ray release.

Anyways, to get back to what is actually in the movie, after William Powell’s Ziegfeld introduces the idea behind the movie (in what little exists for a “plot”), he hands things off to Fred Astaire to start things off. Fred introduces everything with a few kind words about Ziegfeld, concluding with a reminder that Ziegfeld was a specialist in glorifying girls before launching into singing the song “Here’s To the Girls.” After singing the song and dancing (very, very briefly) with Cyd Charisse, he leaves the stage, leaving Cyd to dance with some other chorus girls, before we have a merry-go-round with ladies all dressed in pink, leading up to Lucille Ball leading a group of cat-like dancers (with a whip in hand). Of course, after glorifying the ladies, Virginia O’Brien shows up on horseback to “Bring On The Wonderful Men” (although it’s just her onscreen, without any men showing up). Neither song is necessarily that great, but they do help start off the proceedings quite well.

Moving on from there, we have Fred’s third appearance in this film (I know I’m doing this out of order, but we’ll get to his second appearance in a bit), dancing alongside Lucille Bremer for the song “Limehouse Blues.” Now, one thing that should be said here. Fred was worried about his song “If Swing Goes, I Go Too” becoming dated (because of the style of music), which is why that was deleted, but, among his song-and-dance routines that survived, “Limehouse Blues” has fared worse over time, with both him and Lucille Bremer made up to look Asian in appearance. But, if you can get past that, this is a wonderful routine that is out of the ordinary for Fred Astaire. For one thing, it’s a bit more balletic, with him doing some tricks like cartwheels, and, for another, both he and Lucille work with fans throughout the dream sequence. In spite of it’s issues, it’s still a very interesting routine that shows how well he could do with a variety of dance styles.

(Host): (Walking back onstage) Have you gotten to Fred and Gene yet?

(Narrator): No, I was just getting there. Fred’s last appearance in the film is for the song “The Babbitt And The Bromide,” which was originally written by the Gershwins for the Broadway show Funny Face starring Fred and his sister Adele. This time, Fred was paired with up-and-comer Gene Kelly, with the two of them providing the choreography for the different sections of the song. Before starting the song, they both rather amusingly reference each other’s big partners (obviously, for Fred it was Ginger Rogers, but for Gene, it was Rita Hayworth, since Cover Girl was still Gene’s big breakthrough at that point). Whatever the case, it’s still a lot of fun to see the two of them dancing together in their prime, as that was to be the only time they could work anything out (yes, I know they also danced together in That’s Entertainment, Part 2, but that was with them both nearly thirty years older than they were here).

(Host): Ok, that’s all fine and dandy, but what about “This Heart Of Mine?”

(Narrator): Yes, I know you’ve been leading to that one, but that’s why we’ve saved the best for last.

(A moving sidewalk starts up underneath the Host, who starts walking to keep up with it)

(Host): This isn’t too bad. Anyways, “This Heart Of Mine” is, in some respects, a shorter version of the story for the other Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer film, Yolanda And The Thief, with Fred playing a thief out to steal something from Lucille Bremer’s wealthy character.

(The Narrator pulls out a remote and presses a button. The moving sidewalk starts to move faster, forcing the Host to start jogging, then running.)

(Host): (Running out of breath) That’s not so easy! (Angrily points at the Narrator) You were planning this, weren’t y- (Host trips and falls on the moving sidewalk, which is going so fast now that he practically flies offstage. A commotion is heard backstage as he crashes into various objects.)

(Narrator): And off he goes again. Getting back to the “This Heart Of Mine” segment, it’s arguably one of the film’s best moments. We’ve got Fred and Lucille doing a ballroom dance together, with a beautiful piece of music to back them up. I know I like it, and the song itself gives me chills, especially when the chorus sings it near the end. It’s a longer song, clocking in at over ten minutes, but it’s well worth it for me.

Overall, I find this to be a very enjoyable film. As I’ve indicated, it’s a bit uneven, but, let’s be fair. As a revue, it’s going to be hard to keep everything good. Whatever the case, it’s one I’ve seen many times over the years. Most of the music is good, and there’s some fantastic dancing throughout (mostly provided by Fred Astaire, but there are some others doing well here, too). For me, I always like to sit through the whole thing without skipping through anything (in spite of the variation in quality of the segments). If you can get past the essentially nonexistent plot, then it’s a movie worth recommending (and certainly the best movie revue I’ve seen, even if that is a short list)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The Blu-ray features a new transfer that comes from a 4K scan of most of the original camera negative. While some of the original negative is gone, I would say that overall, this transfer is much improved! The detail is much better, and the colors certainly have that three-strip Technicolor look to them! The picture has been cleaned up of dirt and debris. Extras include (besides the three shorts already mentioned) a featurette on the movie and audio-only outtakes of different musical numbers that were originally planned for the movie. I certainly think that this is the best way to enjoy this movie!

(Host comes back onstage carrying a stack of pies on his left hand, and one lone pie on his right, looking like he might throw them)

(Narrator): What are you doing with those?0

(Host): Well, even though the machine is broken, we do still have a sponsor for this post who needs-

(Narrator): (interrupting) Oh, no you don’t! I’ve had enough of Pie N De Face! Now give me those pies!

(Host): Are you sure? (winks at the audience).

(Narrator): Of course I’m sure! Now let me have them!

(Host gives the audience a look. However, that look is long enough for the Narrator to act and push the lone pie into the Host’s face. The Host falls down, and the pies in his other hand go flying. The Narrator starts laughing hysterically, and then all the pies fall down, covering the both of them. They wipe the pie off their faces, look at each other, and burst into uproarious laughter.)

(Narrator): (After finally calming down) Computer, bring the curtain down.

(Computer): Bringing the curtain down.

(The whole curtain falls down from above, landing on the Host and the Narrator).

(Narrator): Well, it seems that the Writer has thrown in almost everything now.

(A kitchen sink falls from above and lands on the Narrator’s head, knocking him out)

(Host): You just had to go there, didn’t you? Well, that’s all folks!

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Original Vs. Remake: Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) Vs. On Moonlight Bay (1951)

Maybe it’s just me, but this month seems like a good month for finding movies that are similar to others that I’ve reviewed previously! So, with that in mind, we’re back for another round of “Original Vs. Remake!” This time, we’re focusing on the two classic musicals Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) and On Moonlight Bay (1951)! As tends to be my practice, I will borrow the plot descriptions from my original reviews.

Meet Me In St. Louis: The story of the movie centers on the Smith family. Youngest daughters “Tootie” (Margaret O’Brien) and Agnes (Joan Carroll) are generally up to some mischief, especially on Halloween. Older daughters Esther (Judy Garland) and Rose (Lucille Bremer) are both eagerly looking forward to the upcoming St. Louis World’s Fair, while also trying to gain the attention of the men they are attracted to. Their father, Alonzo “Lon” Smith (Leon Ames), is offered a promotion with his law office that would require the family to move to New York, which he takes them up on, with plans to leave after Christmas.

On Moonlight Bay: It’s 1917, and the Winfield family has just moved into a new home. Most of them are unhappy with the move, as they miss their old friends and neighbors as well as their old house. However, head of the family George Winfield (Leon Ames) likes the new home, with its location closer to the bank he works at, and hopes that his older daughter, Marjorie (Doris Day), will meet some young men. Marjorie is a bit of a tomboy, but she attempts to be more feminine when she meets and takes a liking to her nextdoor neighbor, William “Bill” Sherman (Gordon MacRae). College man Bill, who is home for the summer, develops an interest in Marjorie as well, but his views on life (partially affected by the war raging in Europe) cause strife with Marjorie’s father. As a result, George tries to promote a romance between Marjorie and music teacher Hubert Wakely (Jack Smith), much to Marjorie’s annoyance. Meanwhile, younger son Wesley (Billy Gray) has trouble at school with his teacher, Mary Stevens (Ellen Corby). His tall tales (partially influenced by a movie he saw) get him out of trouble temporarily, but cause problems for his family.

While neither of these movies share the same source material, one can’t help but notice a number of similarities between them. One of the most obvious is the casting of Leon Ames in both films as the father figure. Both movies also feature a very forthright maid, who gets dragged into some of the family’s shenanigans. The younger child(ren) tend to be very mischievous in both instances, as they frequently get themselves into trouble. Even going beyond the stories themselves, we find that they both make use of mostly period music, some of which is handled by one of the respective studios’ bigger female singing stars, who portrays an older sister. We even find that both films take place throughout the year, pausing around Christmastime (with the actresses stopping to sing a holiday tune).

But, it’s hard to deny that these movies certainly do things a bit differently, too. As the father in both films, Leon Ames’ characters do not do things quite the same way. In On Moonlight Bay (OMB), he really interferes in his daughter’s love life, by both rejecting the guy she likes and trying to push somebody else on her that he finds more “acceptable.” In Meet Me In St. Louis (MMIST), he really doesn’t interfere (he threatens to once, but never actually follows through on it). Of course, the number of children varies between the two films, with only two in OMB and five in MMIST. Also, the older daughters in MMIST are quite feminine in nature, whereas Doris Day’s Marjorie in OMB is more of a tomboy (at least, until she tries to be a bit more feminine for her boyfriend). The overall situation and timeframe allows for some differences, as MMIST takes place (mostly) in 1903, with the family mainly looking forward to the upcoming World’s Fair in St. Louis, while the prospect of the first World War looms over OMB (with Gordon MacRae’s Bill Sherman eventually joining the armed forces).

Ultimately, when you get right down to it, I would take Meet Me In St. Louis over On Moonlight Bay. Judy Garland is, to me, the far better actress and singer. The music itself in MMIST is far better and far more memorable (especially for the Christmas segments). Just the way it is filmed seems better, with the way director Vincente Minelli did things (especially with Judy on camera). Now, all that doesn’t necessarily mean that On Moonlight Bay doesn’t have its advantages, either. I do think I prefer Mary Wickes to Marjorie Main in the maid’s role (but I would say that has more to do with the idea that I prefer Marjorie Main when she is a bit more loud and outspoken, and she seems tame in comparison in MMIST). And we also get to spend more time with the characters from On Moonlight Bay, since that film did receive a sequel (By The Light Of The Silvery Moon) that was able to bring back most of the cast of the first film. Regardless, it’s a fun experience with either film, and I certainly would recommend both as good films to just sit back and relax while watching!

Meet Me In St. Louis

Film Length: 1 hour, 53 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

On Moonlight Bay

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

The Winner (in my opinion): Meet Me In St. Louis

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Harvey Girls (1946)

Today, we’ve got a Judy Garland double-feature! Ok, so it’s like last week’s Bob Hope double-feature, where I have one new review, and updated comments on the other due to a recent Blu-ray release (in this case, it’s her 1948 film The Pirate). So, for today’s new review, we have her classic 1946 musical The Harvey Girls! Of course, we’ll throw in a fun theatrical short to start us off, and then it’s on with the movie!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Magical Maestro (1952)

(Available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 31 seconds)

After a magician is thrown out by opera singer Spike (also known as “The Great Poochini”), he gets his revenge by taking the place of the conductor and using his magic wand to wreak havoc on Spike’s performance. This was a another fun cartoon, with all the gags and costume changes (and song changes) that the magician forces Spike to go through! And it even throws in a gag with a hair on the screen (so, yes, it belongs there, even with the wonderful restoration this short underwent)! Sure, there are a couple of dated moments that won’t go over well, such as Spike being turned into a Chinese character at one point and wearing blackface at another. Still, those moments go by in a flash, and this cartoon is otherwise a lot fun, full of laughs from start to finish!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Civilization (and femininity) are coming to the Wild West! All along the Santa Fe railroad, Harvey House restaurants have been popping up, taming down the unruly towns. Now, their next destination is the town of Sandrock, Arizona, and the women that will be waitresses are taking the train to get there. Also on that train is Susan Bradley (Judy Garland), who is answering a matrimonial ad from H. H. Hartsey (Chill Wills). However, when she arrives, she doesn’t find him to be what she expected (and vice versa), and they agree not to get married. She learns that he is not the person that she had corresponded with, but that it was Ned Trent (John Hodiak), the owner of the local Alhambra saloon. She goes there to tell him off (and gains his interest) before she goes to join the rest of the Harvey girls. Of course, they’re not without their troubles, too. The local judge, Sam Purvis (Preston Foster), doesn’t want the Harvey House restaurant there, as he is opposed to the threats of the town becoming more civilized (not to mention he also gets a cut from the Alhambra, which he fears will decrease with the competition). Susan helps the girls to keep the Harvey House going, in spite of their troubles, and finds herself falling for Ned, much to the dismay of dance hall girl (and Ned’s girlfriend) Em (Angela Lansbury). Ned wants to keep things honest in his dealings with the Harvey House, and tries to get the judge to stop (but, obviously, he doesn’t). Will the Harvey girls win out (and will Susan and Ned get together)? Or will the judge and his ilk be victorious?

The Harvey Girls is based on the 1942 novel of the same name by Samuel Hopkins Adams. MGM bought the film rights, intending it as a vehicle for Lana Turner. Associate producer Roger Edens saw a production of the stage show Oklahoma!, and the plans were changed. Judy Garland was approached for the film, but she wasn’t interested, as she really wanted to work with Fred Astaire (for what would turn out to be Yolanda And The Thief at the time). Still, they were able to convince her to do The Harvey Girls instead, and it worked out well for her! The film was a hit, and the song “On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe” became a big hit for her (not to mention winning the Best Song Oscar that year)!

I’ve only had the chance to see this movie a handful of times over the years (mostly because I never quite got around to getting it on home video until now), but it’s one I’ve always enjoyed! Judy Garland is her usual fantastic self here! As a character that didn’t start out wanting to be a Harvey Girl, she sure did her best at it (and tried to be tough enough to get the town to come around)! The music (by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer) is a lot of fun, with “On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe” a particularly catchy earworm of a tune! But I also enjoy “Swing Your Partner Round And Round” and a few others! And while he only gets one solo dance, Ray Bolger is still fun here, with his own inimitable style of dancing!

Now, I will admit the movie isn’t perfect. As a whole, I’m not really fond of John Hodiak as the leading man, as his performance just doesn’t work for me. I’m also not thrilled with the disappearance of Virginia O’Brien’s character partway through the movie. I understand it from the perspective that, offscreen, this movie took a long time to film and she was pregnant at the time (and it became too difficult to hide it). However, the movie itself doesn’t explain her complete disappearance after the song “The Wild, Wild West” (which seems strange, considering her character and Judy Garland’s were supposed to be friends). Still, these are minor quibbles for me, and they’re not enough to keep me away from this film! It’s a wonderful, well-known musical (and for good reason), and it’s one I have no trouble whatsoever giving some of my highest recommendations!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. This release utilizes a restoration from a 4K scan of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives, and it shows! The transfer just pops with color, looking just like one would hope it should! The detail is amazing here, and there’s no dirt or specks or anything else to mar the picture! A wonderful release that includes some deleted scenes from the movie, as well as some audio scoring stage sessions for most of the music, plus “On The Atchison, Topeka And the Santa Fe” in stereo, for those that want to hear it that way! A highly recommended release, and one of the best-looking of the year!

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – Judy Garland – The Pirate (1948)

Gaslight (1944) – Angela Lansbury – The Reluctant Debutante (1958)

Murder, He Says (1945) – Marjorie Main – The Wistful Widow Of Wagon Gap (1947)

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – Cyd Charisse – Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2020) with… Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)

Well, we’ve got one last Christmas film to get through before the holiday itself, so let’s get to it! It’s the classic 1938 film Love Finds Andy Hardy, starring Lewis Stone, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Cecilia Parker and Fay Holden!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Shocking Pink (1965)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)

The Pink Panther tries to relax, but the narrator keeps pushing him to work on some things around the house. Of course, as you can guess, things don’t go the Panther’s way as he tries to work on things. Particularly memorable are the two recurring gags about the basement light flicking on and off while he tries to go down there, and an out-of-control power saw that keeps cutting his tail off. With Larry Storch as the narrator, this one is a lot of fun, and one I don’t mind coming back to for a few good laughs every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Andrew “Andy” Hardy (Mickey Rooney) has got big plans for the Christmas Eve dance. He’s trying to buy a $20 car, but he can only pay the dealer $12, and has to promise to pay the remaining $8 of the price before he can get the car. However, his girlfriend, Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford), tells him she will be out of town visiting relatives for the holidays, which leaves him without a date to the dance. Both of his problems are seemingly fixed when his friend “Beezy” Anderson (George Breakston) has to go out of town with his family as well, and offers to pay him to go out with his girlfriend Cynthia Potter (Lana Turner) in order to keep the other guys away from her. At the Hardy home, Andy’s mother, Emily Hardy (Fay Holden), gets a telegram saying that her mother is badly ill, and she and her sister Milly (Betty Ross Clark) decide to leave for their mother’s home, leaving Andy’s sister Marian (Cecilia Parker) in charge as the “woman of the house.” Meanwhile, Andy has drawn the attentions of new next door neighbor, Betsy Booth (Judy Garland), who is in town visiting her grandmother. However, in spite of her affections and partly because she is a few years younger, Andy only thinks of her as a friend. Things start to go downhill for Andy, as he receives two telegrams. One is from Polly, stating that she would be coming back for the dance, but he tries to call and let her know he can’t take her because of a “previous engagement.” The other is from Beezy, who, instead of sending some money like he had promised, tells him that he found a new girlfriend (thereby negating their deal), and that Andy can take Cynthia to the dance without any trouble. Now facing the the trouble of not being able to pay for a car and a tough choice between two dates, Andy turns to his father, Judge James K. Hardy (Lewis Stone). But, even with his father’s help, can he get out of this mess? And will his mother (and her mother) be fine?

Love Finds Andy Hardy was the fourth film in the Andy Hardy series, and the first to show the change of focus from the Hardy family as a whole to Andy Hardy himself (as played by Mickey Rooney). The film retained most of the cast of the previous entries (although with actress Betty Ross Clark for her second and final time playing Aunt Milly instead of series regular Sara Haden). With the increasing emphasis on Mickey Rooney’s Andy Hardy character and his relationships, the series was able to showcase up-and-coming actresses, and, in this film, it was Lana Turner as Cynthia Potter. The film also gave us Judy Garland in her first of three appearances in the series as Betsy Booth, which re-teamed her with Mickey Rooney after they first appeared together in the 1937 film Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry. With their chemistry becoming more evident, they would also soon be teamed up for their famous “let’s put on a show” series of films, starting with Babes In Arms the next year.

While I have seen the entire Andy Hardy film series, I will readily admit that Love Finds Andy Hardy is the one I have seen the most. And it’s fairly easy to guess one of the main reasons: its Christmas connection! Obviously, with the buildup to the big Christmas Eve dance and the Christmas tree we see put up in the Hardy home on Christmas Eve, it certainly works well enough (and, on the DVD, there’s also a short promo featuring the Hardy family on Christmas morning that ends with them addressing us, the audience). Of course, the rest of the movie is fun, too, even if it is fairly predictable that Andy will somehow get out of all his trouble. Still, Mickey Rooney does a great job as the character, and the addition of Judy Garland as Betsy Booth, especially with the three songs she gets to sing, makes it all worth seeing every now and then! So, yes, I recommend this one!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection as part of the 10-film Andy Hardy Film Collection Volume 2.

And, since is my last post before the holiday, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas (and to those who don’t celebrate it, I wish you happy holidays), and I wish you peace on earth, and goodwill to ALL!

And if you are interested in joining in on my month-long “Star Of The Month” blogathons for 2021, whether for next month (Doris Day), February (Clark Gable) or beyond, please be sure to check out my Coming Soon In 2021: “Star/Genre Of The Month” Blogathons post to sign up!

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mickey Rooney – Strike Up The Band (1940)

Judy Garland – Strike Up The Band (1940)

Ann Rutherford – A Christmas Carol (1938)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Girl Crazy (1943)

We’re back again for another one of the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland musicals, their 1943 film Girl Crazy!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Hollywood Daredevils (1943)

(Available as an extra on the Girl Crazy Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 21 seconds)

A short looking at Hollywood stuntman Harry Woolman.  Being a Pete Smith Specialty short, we obviously have Pete Smith narrating it with his usual humor.  We see various stunts performed on the beach, with one recurring one that takes a few times for it to come off.  Not a great short, but not absolutely terrible, either.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Early Bird Dood It! (1942)

(Available as an extra on the Girl Crazy Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes, 51 seconds)

The Worm asks for help from a cat to deal with the Early Bird.  One of Tex Avery’s first shorts for MGM.  Some of his trademark humor here, and a sly wink at the audience as we see a reference to the cartoon itself on a billboard.  Not restored yet, but the humor still shines through enough to have a few good laughs!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Danny Churchill, Jr. (Mickey Rooney) is getting into a lot of trouble going out to nightclubs and shows with a lot of girls.  As the son of a big publisher, that brings a lot of notoriety, much to the consternation of his father (Henry O’Neill).  So, he decides to send his son out west to Cody College, where there are no girls.  After getting off the train, Danny finds that he has to walk eight miles through the desert to get to the college.  On the way, he runs across the postmistress, Ginger Gray (Judy Garland), trying to repair her vehicle.  He tries to help (and flirt a little, too), but she rejects him and, once the car gets started, drives off without him.  Once he gets to the college, he meets his roommate, Bud Livermore (Gil Stratton), before he gets settles in for the night.  The morning comes too quickly for him, as everyone gets up at six, in preparation for a day-long ride out into the hills to camp out overnight.  Not too long into the trip, Danny loses his wilder-than-he-would-have-preferred horse, and catches a ride out with “Rags” (as played by “Rags” Ragland).  When he gets back to Cody the next day, Danny talks to Dean Phineas Armour (Guy Kibbee) (who is also Ginger’s grandfather) about withdrawing from the college.  Ginger drives him back to the train station, but tells him off for being a quitter before she drops him off.  That night, everybody at Cody celebrates her birthday, with her boyfriend Henry Lathrop (Robert E. Strickland) taking her off alone to propose to her in a rather un-romantic fashion (and, in case you need to know, she says “no”).  Danny, meanwhile, had returned, and overheard the whole conversation. After Henry leaves, Danny reveals his presence and expresses his desire to stay.  Trouble arrives shortly, though, when the legislature threatens to close the college for lack of students being enrolled.  This really gets to Ginger, and Danny, in spite of the fact that he doesn’t care for the school, comes up with an idea to save it. He makes plans to have a big rodeo and beauty contest to help draw in more people.  After running the idea by the dean and convincing the  governor to delay signing the bill to close the college by thirty days, Danny goes to a party for the governor’s daughter, Marjorie Tait (Frances Rafferty), where he starts trying to persuade her and a few other girls to join the contest in hopes of being the “queen of the rodeo.”  The problem is that Ginger is in that contest, and Danny wants Marjorie to win if only because of her position.  Can Danny stay in Ginger’s good graces and save the school?

The 1943 film Girl Crazy was based on a 1930 Broadway show, which originally starred Ginger Rogers as Molly Gray (and the name change for Judy Garland’s character in the film was a tribute to her).  In 1932, the RKO studio made a film featuring their comedy team of (Bert) Wheeler and (Robert) Woolsey, although it focused more on the comedy and not so much on the music.  MGM bought the rights to the show, intending it as a movie to reunite Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell after their success in Broadway Melody Of 1940.  Obviously, that changed, with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland being teamed up again.  At first, the film was to be directed by Busby Berkeley, who filmed the “I Got Rhythm” number.  However, he was fired after that was filmed, a combination of the costs being too high, as well as issues between him and Judy Garland.  The rest of the film was handled, with far less controversy, by director Norman Taurog.

I’ve only had the chance to see this movie a handful of times, but I will readily admit that I enjoy it!  Obviously, with music provided by George and Ira Gershwin, combined with Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra playing it, that’s hard to beat!  It’s fun to listen to the orchestra playing “Fascinating Rhythm” with Mickey Rooney sitting in on the piano, and Judy gives us a wonderful rendition of “But Not For Me.”  But the film’s two best moments would have to be Judy singing (and dancing) to “Embraceable You” and the whole cast doing “I Got Rhythm.”  Of course, between these two, we do see how Judy Garland herself could do, depending on who she was working with.  Considering how she apparently didn’t get along with Busby Berkeley (and was possibly overworked by him), it seems telling that, for the “I Got Rhythm” number, her dancing doesn’t look that great compared to those around her, and yet, for the earlier song (well, earlier in the movie although it was filmed later) “Embraceable You,” which was choreographed by her dance partner Charles Walter, she looks like a great dancer.  Both fun routines, though, in spite of that, and I could easily watch either of them (and get the songs stuck in my head, too)!  While, as I said, I’ve only had the chance to see the movie a few times, I can’t deny that it is a fun one, and I have no trouble whatsoever recommending it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection utilizing a 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements, which in this case was a second generation safety fine grain.  The movie itself hasn’t really looked that good for a long time (to be fair, I don’t really remember how it looked exactly when I saw it once a decade ago, but from the footage I have seen used in the That’s Entertainment film series, it definitely needed work), but Warner Archive has done it again!  Now, the film looks as good as one could hope for, especially with all the dirt and debris cleaned up! I’d certainly say that this release is the best way to enjoy this wonderful movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #4 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2020

**ranked #9 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Strike Up The Band (1940) – Mickey Rooney

For Me And My Gal (1942) – Judy Garland – Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

June Allyson – Good News (1947)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Strike Up The Band (1940)

To keep the celebration of July as Clean Movie Month 2020 (as hosted by Pure Entertainment Preservation Society) going, we have that classic 1940 Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland musical Strike Up The Band! Of course, before we get into that, I want to deviate a little and post my next poll:

As I stated a few weeks back when I reviewed Romance On The High Seas, I generally tend to be a bit further ahead in my movie viewing than the timing of my reviews would indicate. Having now had a poll to choose the Doris Day movies that I will review for January 2021, I am now doing the reverse and posting a poll to choose the “Star Of The Month” for February 2021 (and I will pick the movies). After this poll ends within the next two weeks, I will post another poll to choose the “Star Of The Month” for March 2021 (fair warning, though, that poll will have a completely different group of actors/actresses to choose from, so if you want one of the eight listed for February, get your vote in now). Now, back to the regularly scheduled program…

Jimmy Connors (Mickey Rooney) and his friends are bored with the band at Riverwood High School. So Jimmy gets the idea to form a modern dance orchestra (well, “modern” for that time, anyway). He takes the idea to the principal, Mr. Judd (Francis Pierlot), who signs off on letting him start the orchestra and do the school dance. With his friend Mary Holden (Judy Garland) helping out as a vocalist, the band proves to be a hit at the dance, and so Jimmy decides to try to enter the orchestra in a contest being held by famous bandleader Paul Whiteman. However, the contest will take place in Chicago, and they don’t have enough money to get the whole band there, so they put on a show for the Elks Club to make enough money. The show is fairly successful, but they fall short. Also causing trouble is the new student at Riverwood, Barbara Frances Morgan (June Preisser), who has set her sights on Jimmy, much to the consternation of Mary, who also likes Jimmy. Barbara’s attentions do bring some luck, though, as her parents hire Paul Whiteman (of course, played by himself) and his orchestra for her birthday party, and Jimmy and the members of his orchestra are invited as guests! At the party, while Paul Whiteman and his orchestra take a break, Jimmy and his friends admire the instruments, and decide to start playing. Listening in, Paul Whiteman is impressed, and offers Jimmy a job as a drummer. At first excited by the opportunity, Jimmy realizes he would be hurting his friends, who need him for the contest, and so he declines. Impressed, Paul Whiteman gives him the remaining money to finance the trip. The excitement soon ends, as one of Jimmy’s friends is sick from an injury and needs an operation to survive. Valuing his friend more than the trip, Jimmy gives the money to help his friend. All is not lost, though, as Barbara’s father is impressed and offers to use his railroad to get the band there in time for the contest!

After the success of Babes In Arms, MGM did what any self-respecting studio would do: give their audience more, and as soon as possible! So Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, picked out Strike Up The Band to bring back together Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and director Busby Berkeley. Technically, Strike Up The Band was the title of a Broadway show from 1930 with music by the Gershwins, but outside of the title and the song, the movie bore very little resemblance to the Broadway show. Still, the movie proved to be another hit, resulting in Babes On Broadway and Girl Crazy keeping the gang together.

Strike Up The Band was the second of the four films Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland made together that are generally described by the phrase “Let’s put on a show” (or something similar to that). As for the movie itself, I enjoyed it very much. In some respects, the movie really focuses in on Mickey Rooney’s character here, which *almost* makes it seem like an Andy Hardy movie! Obviously, we have Mickey’s character with all the youthful enthusiasm, which gives him his drive, and we also have a parental figure (in this case, it’s his mother, played by Ann Shoemaker), who advises him and helps him to grow up more. But, it’s also more of a musical than an Andy Hardy film would be, which for me is most of the fun! I know some of the songs make me want to get up and dance myself, especially with the likes of “Do The La Conga!” I’ll admit, the show they put on in the middle of the movie, while fun, doesn’t really seem to fit, and could just as easily be removed. And, of course, the Busby Berkeley numbers are here, with all their ridiculousness intact (including the finale, which is very visual for what should be a radio program)! It is a fun movie, with Mickey and Judy making things work! It’s a good clean movie, with nothing I can think of to say against it as far as it being family friendly! With the kids showing respect to the adults (and being given the same respect back), it just makes you feel better seeing it! It might not be the best of the Mickey and Judy films, but it’s certainly a treat to see, and one I have no trouble recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. This new release touts a 4K restoration from the best available archival elements, and it looks fantastic! While I personally can’t speak to how it may have looked previously, it does look pretty darn good here! As visual as director/choreographer Busby Berkeley could be, especially in his musical numbers, the details are really brought out here, and make this release well worth it! The movie itself is two hours in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) – Mickey Rooney – Girl Crazy (1943)

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) – Judy Garland – Little Nellie Kelly (1940)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Wedding Bills (1940)

(available as an extra on the Strike Up The Band Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 42 seconds)

A Pete Smith comedy short on a man getting married and trying to account for the bills. First short I’ve seen from the Pete Smith series, and it was definitely a bit of fun! The action in the background is silent while Pete Smith narrates, but his comments could be quite funny! It was something new and different for me, and I think it was worth seeing! Admittedly, on this set it’s not restored, but it doesn’t have to be to be this enjoyable!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Romeo In Rhythm (1940)

(available as an extra on the Strike Up The Band Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes, 17 seconds)

As part of a show, two crows are attempting to woo each other, but keep getting interrupted by others. A little bit of fun, especially with some of the interruptions, as well as a few familiar tunes from other MGM films, such as “We’re Off To See The Wizard” and “You Were Meant For Me. Admittedly, this does seem a bit stereotyped with some of the “jive talk” and other issues. Again, not really restored here, but it was fun just the same to give it a try!

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2019) with… Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Now we have one last Christmas movie before the holiday itself, the classic musical Meet Me In St. Louis, starring Judy Garland!

The story of the movie centers on the Smith family. Youngest daughters “Tootie” (Margaret O’Brien) and Agnes (Joan Carroll) are generally up to some mischief, especially on Halloween. Older daughters Esther (Judy Garland) and Rose (Lucille Bremer) are both eagerly looking forward to the upcoming St. Louis World’s Fair, while also trying to gain the attention of the men they are attracted to. Their father, Alonzo “Lon” Smith (Leon Ames), is offered a promotion with his law office that would require the family to move to New York, which he takes them up on, with plans to leave after Christmas.

The film’s origins come from a series of short stories written by Sally Benson. There were eight stories originally published in the New Yorker magazine from June 1941 through May 1942, all based on Sally Benson’s childhood memories of the Smith family’s adventures. They proved so popular that they were compiled into the book Meet Me In St. Louis with four new stories in 1942. MGM producer Arthur Freed liked them, and wanted to do a film musical based on them. Vincente Minelli was brought in to direct (after George Cukor had to turn it down when he was called in to serve in World War II). The film was planned all along for Judy Garland, even though she was reluctant to go back to doing a juvenile role after having finally done a few adult roles. It took a bit of work, but she finally came around, and the movie would become one of her best-known roles.

And this is just such a wonderful movie, fun to watch at Christmas or any other time of the year! The music is a mixture of old and new, with the new tunes provided by songwriters Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin. Judy obviously gets some of the film’s best songs, such as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “The Trolley Song” and “The Boy Next Door” (and the latter would be used again ten years later with altered lyrics to reflect a change in gender of the singer in the MGM musical Athena). But the rest of the cast is equally wonderful, with Marjorie Main a little dialed back (well, more than she usually seems to be) as the maid Katie, Lucille Bremer does well as older sister Rose in her film debut (before her career would go downhill very quickly with a few box office bombs), and Harry Davenport as the grandfather just feels like the grandfather you’d always want to have, he’s so wonderful! And I could easily get into more about the cast, but the story is so much fun! Yes, it is a bit episodic in nature, but it works, as it takes place over most of a year. It was already a period film at the time it was made, and boy, do some things seem different (especially like how they celebrated Halloween, which is so different now it’s not even funny)! This movie definitely rates high with me, and I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection.

So, to everybody, I hope you “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (and for those that don’t celebrate it, I wish you happy holidays)! I wish you all peace on earth, and goodwill to ALL!

Film Length: 1 hour, 53 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #9 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Girl Crazy (1943) – Judy Garland – The Harvey Girls (1946)

The Palm Beach Story (1942) – Mary Astor

Lucille Bremer – Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

Another Thin Man (1939) – Marjorie Main – Murder, He Says (1945)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Easter Parade (1948)

Happy Easter! Happy Easter! Happy Easter to you! We’re here now for the classic 1948 MGM musical Easter Parade, starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire!

When his vaudevillian partner, Nadine (Ann Miller) decides to break up the act, Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) starts searching for another partner to prove he can get along without Nadine. He finds Hannah Brown (Judy Garland), who is working at the bar Don stops to drink at. At first, Don tried to make her over like Nadine (without realizing it), but success doesn’t come their way. Once Nadine accuses him of doing so, he decides to let Hannah be herself, and success comes their way. Of course, the whole time, Hannah has been in love with Don, while he still pines for Nadine, which creates trouble between Don and Hannah, especially after he declares his love for Hannah.

Personally, I would say most of the fun here comes from the movie’s stars and its score by composer Irving Berlin! Irving Berlin’s score contains a mixture of new songs written specifically for the movie, some he wrote back in the 1910s (when this movie is supposed to take place) and a few written in between. This ended up being the sixth and final film where Fred Astaire would work with Irving Berlin, and it produced some of their best moments! I know I always enjoy watching Fred do the song “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” I can’t help but whistle along with Fred on “Happy Easter,” I enjoy the romantic “It Only Happens When I Dance With You,” and I love watching Fred sing and dance and play drums to “Drum Crazy!” And of course, I love listening to Judy sing, especially “I Want To Go Back To Michigan.” Honestly, I could easily list any of the songs and dances, as they all are quite catchy, and just further my enjoyment of this movie!

This is a wonderful movie, one I enjoy watching around Easter. I know the connection to the holiday is barely there (depending on your beliefs), with some references to the Easter Rabbit, and the old tradition of wearing special outfits for the day. But I like to think that the variety in color shown onscreen heralds the arrival of spring. Of course, in some respects, it’s just an excuse to watch a wonderful movie once a year, particularly at a time when it readily cheers you up! I will admit, the music doesn’t really serve the plot or characters, but I don’t think it needs to with this movie! So, yes, do yourself a favor and give this one a try!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.

“I’m just a fella. A fella with an umbrella…”

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Pirate (1948) – Judy Garland – In The Good Old Summertime (1949)

Blue Skies (1946)Fred AstaireThe Band Wagon (1953)

Good News (1947) – Peter Lawford – Never So Few (1959)

Ann Miller – On The Town (1949)

Jules Munshin – Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man 2018 on… Summer Stock (1950)

And here we are again, by request, with the last Judy Garland/ Gene Kelly movie Summer Stock, also starring Eddie Bracken, Gloria De Haven, and Phil Silvers.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Cuckoo Clock (1950)

(Available as an extra on the Summer Stock Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection or as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 Blu-ray or DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 5 seconds)

A cat is being driven crazy by a cuckoo bird and tries to get rid of it. My feelings on this cartoon are a bit mixed. On the one hand, the short starts out in a darker, almost Edgar Allen Poe-type of direction, as the cat is going insane (in an admittedly Tex Avery-ish way), which shows some promise. Then it turns more formulaic, as the cat tries to get the bird. It’s still fun, but I’ve certainly seen better Tex Avery cartoons. As this short is available as an extra on the Summer Stock Blu-ray or as part of the second Tex Avery set, I should mention that more restoration work was done on this cartoon for the Tex Avery set, and therefore, that is where I would recommend seeing it.

And Now For The Main Feature…

When her two hired hands quit on her, Jane Falbury (Judy Garland) goes to town to see her future father-in-law about a new tractor to help her with the harvest.  Upon returning, she finds a theatrical group setting up in her barn.  She finds out they came with her sister Abigail (Gloria DeHaven) and her boyfriend, Joe Ross (Gene Kelly), and were planning to use her barn to put on a show.  While furious at first, Jane agrees to let them do the show, as long as they help out on the farm.  While her fiancé and her father-in-law object to the show, Jane starts falling in love with Joe, while her sister Abigail becomes too arrogant (believing the show is beneath her due to the influence of the “star” actor) and leaves, with Jane having to take her place.

To get into what I think of this movie, it is one I very much enjoy.  Most of what I hear on the background information is all of Judy’s issues behind the scenes, which ended up resulting in this being her last film for MGM, her home studio since she got into the movies.  Sadly, it is partly evident on screen, most visible by her weight issues (with the last song in the movie “Get Happy” making it extremely obvious, since it was filmed much later, after she had gotten her weight issues a little more under control).  In spite of all that, I still think she, and everybody else, give wonderful performances that make this movie worth viewing.

The movie definitely seems reminiscent of the “let’s put on a show!”-type of movies that Judy had done with Mickey Rooney a decade earlier (and from what I gather, this was originally planned as another Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney team-up, if it weren’t for her health issues delaying the start of filming, and Mickey falling out of the good graces of audiences at that time).  Part of what this movie is known for is Gene’s solo dance to “You, Wonderful You,” in which he famously built a dance around a squeaky floorboard and a newspaper on the floor.  Of course, we also get him and Judy dancing together, with her looking at her best during the “Portland Fancy” at the square dance held at the barn.  There are many other wonderful moments, but these are just some of the best worth mentioning.  So I do recommend this one if you get a chance to see it!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Summer Stock (1950)

On April 30, 2019, “Summer Stock” was released on Blu-ray by Warner Archive Collection. The previously available DVD had been well produced, but in the fifteen years since, technology has improved so much that Warner Archive was able to do an even better job! Now cleaned up, and giving us a much clearer picture that really shows off the original 3-strip Technicolor, this movie just looks and sounds fantastic! While I would still say the movie is flawed, the recent Blu-ray release with its spectacular transfer leaves me very much wanting to upgrade my previous score from a 9 to a 10! So, yes, this Blu-ray release is well worth it for fans new and old! “Forget your troubles, come on, get happy!” 😉

Film Length: 1 hour, 49 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

My Rating (after Blu-ray): 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

In The Good Old Summertime (1949) – Judy Garland

On The Town (1949)Gene KellyAn American In Paris (1951)

The Wistful Widow Of Wagon Gap (1947) – Marjorie Main

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!