IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME

LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY

ZIEGFELD GIRL

FOR ME AND MY GAL

(WARNER HOME VIDEO)                  

I know, I know. I'm probably the only classic movie nut who not only prefers IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME to the vastly more popular MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (see featured review), but I actually enjoy it far more than the much more highly praised original version , Ernst Lubitsch's SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, which, for purposes of this review, I looked at before SUMMERTIME. (As this is a family site, my comments on the third remake YOU'VE GOT MAIL will go unstated).                                       

Comparing SHOP and SUMMERTIME yielded some interesting revelations. I've always thought SHOP's Margaret Sullivan to be a unique, intelligent and captivating actress, but her delivery of some of the same dialogue that Garland has in SUMMERTIME seems flat, hollow and "actressy" when compared to the incredible warmth, comedic timing and sheer spontaneity that Garland invests the role with. And the underrated Van Johnson gives a wonderfully subtle and witty performance in the male lead, all the more remarkable since he has less material to work with than James Stewart did in SHOP. Indeed, I would rate the Garland- Johnson chemistry as the equal of Garland-Kelly and Garland-Astaire. 

I also vastly prefer S.Z. Sakall's curmudgeonly shop owner to Frank Morgan's, and SUMMER has the considerable added bonus of a supporting appearance by the legendary Buster Keaton, who also directed the extremely funny "meet cute" scene between Garland and Johnson. 

As both my laserdisc and the Turner Classic Movies print of SUMMERTIME had a brownish look that drained much of the vibrancy out of the film's rich Technicolor hues, I really didn't know what to expect from the dvd, but I'm happy to report that this is the best the film has looked in a long, long time. While the color pallette is much more subdued than that of ST. LOUIS, this full screen dvd brings out the best in them.                 

I'm looking at my original poster for this film, which proclaims "Judy and Van fall in love." You will too, with this warm and wonderful SUMMERTIME.                  

After spending an exceedingly relaxing and mirthful 92 minutes with the Hardy family, it occurred to me that the release of LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY brings with it one considerable negative, as clearly Warner's has no plans to release a box-set of the entire series. Too bad. In this complicated day and age there's something positively therapeutic in watching hyperactive and mega-talented Mickey Rooney interact with a very young Garland and Lana Turner , and in particular with the sober-faced but avuncular Judge Hardy of Lewis Stone. The full-screen black and white transfer is reasonably good, as is the monaural sound. 

ZIEGFELD GIRL is an odd choice for inclusion as part of these five Garland releases, as  this is probably the only instance where another actress (Lana Turner, no less ) steals the picture from her, which is petty theft, as this story of three girls trying for stardom (Garland, Turner, and Hedy Lamarr) is a rather inconsistent and  unwieldy creation, and at 132 minutes, too long by half. But if you're looking for glitz, glamour, and gams  you've come to the right place, as this film has acres and acres of beautiful women in virtually every frame, and the good full-screen black and white transfer does them, and especially Lana, full justice. 

A been there, done that, old-hat, predictable, formula-laden plot (a song-and-dance pair take on tank towns, tough times and World War I while struggling for show-biz success.) can work well only if you have really first-rate talent in front of and behind the camera, and FOR ME AND MY GAL has not only Judy Garland, but Gene Kelly, in his first film, both under the direction of Busby Berkeley. I'm guessing that Garland has more songs in this film than in any other, (with the possible exception of A STAR IS BORN), and Kelly is as exuberant and athletic as ever. This is the best transfer of the three full-screen black and white Garland releases, with a very good grey scale and a minimum of age-related damage visible. 

I, for one, hope these five Garland dvd's fly off the shelf, which would increase the possibility of future releases of THE PIRATE and especially EASTER PARADE, both of which are perfect candidates for the Ultra-Resolution treatment.  

--DICK DINMAN

 


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