The fourth & last of the big Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musicals feels like it’s missing a few pieces. (It runs 2 reels shy of the second & third in the series.) A very loose adaptation of a 1930 Gershwin musical starring Ginger Rogers & a debuting Ethel Merman, Judy takes songs from each, overwhelmed by Busby Berkeley’s messy staging of “I Got Rhythm,’ but knocking the heck out of ‘Embraceable You.’ (Wonderfully staged by Charles Walters, he also partners Garland; so good, he keeps stealing focus.) The story element, such as it is, retains the basic set up (NYC playboy goes West), but adds a struggling college for Mickey to save with a big rodeo we never quite see. (The ‘missing’ 2 reels?) Some of the show’s best songs hide as underscoring via Tommy Dorsey’s band, though June Allyson pops up in the prologue to share ‘Treat Me Rough’ with Mickey while poor Nancy Walker shows up later and gets nada. (She’s briefly heard in a deleted vocal included on the DVD.) No doubt producer Arthur Freed, who’d just paired Garland with up-and-comer Gene Kelly in FOR ME AND MY GAL/’42, saw that the series had run its course.
DOUBLE-BILL: Garland made a guest appearance with Rooney (playing a neutered Lorenz Hart, of Rodgers & Hart fame) in WORDS AND MUSIC/’48 shortly before Mickey left M-G-M. And they might well have reunited on the underrated SUMMER STOCK/’50 if Rooney’s star hadn’t dimmed. (Gene Kelly got the gig.)