Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Stock (1950)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.

It's been a while since I watched a good old-fashioned Hollywood musical, and while I've seen quite a few there are always more to discover! One day I'll be caught up on my Gene Kelly, and Summer Stock had always been high on my list after seeing a clip of him making dance-music in a barn (what a guy!). Judy Garland stars as Jane, a hands-on farmer who has been running her dead parents' farm alone while her sister Abigail (Gloria DeHaven) tries to make it as a stage actress in New York. When Abigail brings home a whole theater troupe to use their barn as a show space Jane is furious, but eventually accepts the group despite her stodgy fiance Orville's (Eddie Bracken) reservations. The fact that her sister's boyfriend, director Joe Ross (Gene Kelly) is, well, Gene Kelly, isn't so bad, either.

Oddly enough I actually haven't seen too many Judy Garland movies, so it's always nice to be reminded of her crazy impossible talent. She was going through a rough time (like always, I suppose) during filming but aside from some disorienting weight fluctuation she is marvelous as the no-nonsense Jane, a farmer who of course has secret singing and dancing abilities. Plus she's feisty! I was there for Gene though, and he does not disappoint with his smarmy-charming characterization and smooth moves. I didn't love Phil Silvers as the comedic relief sidekick though, I guess his over-the-top shenanigans just weren't that funny to me, they felt forced and dated. Also he fucks up an expensive tractor for no goddamn reason, it's not funny, it's destructive! What an IDIOT. But I really enjoyed the too-small appearance from Hans Conried as an arrogant actor starring in the show.

The musical numbers are mostly pretty cool, with Gene's aforementioned barn solo and Judy's climactic (and weirdly biblical/apocalyptic) "Get Happy". I liked her ebullient "Happy Harvest" song as well. But then scenes like Silvers and Kelly's unfunny hillbilly comedy routine just don't hold up, and other songs are mostly forgettable. I love musicals, as you all know, but if the story is bland and the musical numbers are less than impressive, there really needs to be a strong script to keep it all together. Summer Stock's screenplay is missing the witty remarks and playful banter that keeps me coming back to other classic musicals, so in the end I found it middling. It's worth it for fantastic performances from Judy and Gene, but those can be found in other films. And it does present a very realistic portrayal of fucking self-centered theater people, who are just the worst, goddamn. (I was a stage manager for a few years, can you tell?)


Pair This Movie With: Mmm well I know Garland did a few other musicals with Kelly, so maybe one of those. The only one I've seen is For Me and My Gal, which I liked ok.