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Sunday, May 29, 2011

SUMMER STOCK (1950)

This pleasingly small-scaled musical from M-G-M’s Joe Pasternak unit was planned for Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney as a grown-up let’s-put-on-a-show reunion pic. But Rooney had been demoted to ‘B-pics’ after SUMMER HOLIDAY/’48 tanked and Gene Kelly was brought in. It turned out to be inspired recasting with Kelly’s obvious concern for his troubled co-star adding unexpected warmth to their scenes. (Garland wasn’t well for much of the shoot, yet her noticeable weight gain certainly helps her look well, and darn pretty.) This time out, Judy plays the solid-citizen, a farm gal whose kid sister (Gloria DeHaven) turns up with a gaggle of showfolk led by Kelly. Out with the geese, in with the musical revue! Under Charles Walters’ smooth helming, the film has a relaxed quality, and while the Harry Warren/Mack Gordon songs didn’t turn into classics, they’re all charming &/or funny. Phil Silvers & Eddie Bracken don’t have a lot to work with as the bespectacled comics, but Bracken manages to make his stuffy role as Judy’s hopeless intended an actual person while Silvers is both appalling & appallingly funny as Kelly’s assistant, especially in their comic duet.* Famously, Garland returned a month after the film had wrapped to shoot Harold Arlen’s ‘Get Happy’ as a speciality ‘numbo.’ With Judy looking trim & fabulous in short formal attire, Walters shoots & choreographs in a sophisticated style that raises it triumphantly above anything else in the pic. Check out those gorgeous edits & the classy camera moves! It may not fit in, but who cares!

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Well, a couple of notes and one screwy thought. The current Warners DVD has been mastered with wildly over-saturated colors. Check out the nice featurette about the film which comes closer to the mark and tame your color intensity accordingly. And while you’re visiting the EXTRAs, don’t skip Tex Avery’s THE CUCKOO CLOCK, an astonishment, even by Avery cartoon standards. Now, here’s our screwy thought (see asterisk) *No doubt, this LOL hillbilly routine (‘Heavenly Music’) was meant for Gene & Judy as a follow up to their ‘Be A Clown’ knockabout comedy duo from THE PIRATE/’48 & her ‘Couple of Swells’ tramp number w/ Fred Astaire in EASTER PARADE/’48.

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