Desert Island movie #8
If I had to chose the one movie to credit (or blame) for my getting involved with theatre and film as a profession that film would have to be Summer Stock (1950) starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly along with a great array of supporting players including the great but often overlooked Ray Collins of Citizen Kane fame. In Welles’ picture he plays Boss Geddes and had the line; “If it was anyone else I would feel sorry for you Mr. Kane. But you’re going to need more than one lesson and I’m going to give them to you.” Here he gives an amusingly comic performance as Eddie Bracken’s overbearing father.
When I first saw Summer Stock I fell in love with both Judy and Gene. She for her singing and him for his dancing. To me and all the guys I grew up with Kelly was just the epitome’ of cool. Especially when he does the “You Wonderful You” song with her. We were just at the age where girls were beginning to interest us and we thought that what Gene did with that song was the perfect formula for seduction. He became our hero after that. I remember that some of the other guys started taking tap dancing lessons just so that they could be like Kelly. I didn’t but I did memorize all the songs and made it my goal to enter some aspect of show business when I grew up. I had no idea what area I wanted to pursue but figured that I would discover it somewhere along the way, and ultimately I did.
Judy and Gene had been together in two films before. For Me and My Gal (1942 and The Pirate (1948). And although they remained good friends for life Summer Stock was their last film together and her last for MGM the studio that had been her home for so long.
Now despite the happy end result Summer Stock was a troubled production. Judy was constantly sick or absent for a variety of reasons. So scenes had to be rewritten and altered, songs had to be changed and accommodations made for her fluctuations in weight. The most famous number in the film ”Get Happy” was shot and added to it several months after its completion. And Judy who looks rather heavy throughout looks slimmed and sleek in that great iconic number…From all reports of the shoot Kelly was a real trooper and provided Judy with invaluable support during these troubled times. He does well for himself too with a couple of show stopping numbers. Eddie Bracken is funny as Judy’s hometown boyfriend. Phil Silvers in a nondescript role steals nearly every moment he’s on screen. There’s also Gloria DeHaven as Judy’s spoiled, sexy sister, while Hans Conried enlivens the few scenes he’s in. Marjorie Main and the tall, curious Carleton Carpenter add their idiosyncratic personalities to the proceedings as well.
The story is a variation of the old Mickey Rooney/ Judy Garland staple about putting on a show in a barn in order to impress the bigwigs from Broadway. This time around Kelly is the broke but ambitious director, producer, choreographer of a show that needs a place to rehearse out of town. Judy owns a barn that her sister (DeHaven) says they can use. Judy objects but can hardly say no. Things become complicated when the stars of the show leave and as we knew they would, Judy and Gene have to assume the roles. During the course of things the wrong couples fall out of love, the right ones fall in love and finally all’s well that ends well. Some standout musical numbers include;” Friendly Star…Happy Harvest…Dig! Dig! Dig!…If You Feel Like Singing and Heavenly Music.”
Now one bit of caution. If you don’t like musicals this is one to skip. But if like me you do, then this is one to treasure.