Musicals have never been my favorite genre. (This doesn't mean that I don't like them, just that there are other genres i prefer over them.) They were however the first old movies I ever watched. I like them, but I tend to be a bit picky. I decided that I needed to revisit the musical, and remember why they were so special to me as a child. So, I am going to start watching one musical a week intermixed with my normal old movies of course. I began tonight with Summer Stock.
I first saw this film when I was 12 or 13 and I remember watching it over and over for weeks. I also remember that I loved everything about it.... Its nice to know that some things never change. Watching it tonight, I felt the same old feelings, and new ones too. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly musicals were always my favorites growing up. They had all the right chemistry, they were playful with each other, intensely romantic and their fight scenes are fantastic. The kind of fight scenes where you know they are only arguing because they really love each other.
As a Theatre Grad, Gene Kelly's obvious love affair with theater always endeared his character to me. I like when he has Judy smell grease paint, and explains that you never really wipe it off your face, but that it sinks in deep... to the heart. It brings back memories of my first shows, that knowledge that your part of something special. His passion is one I can understand, and I adore him for it.
The supporting cast in the film is also pretty fantastic. Phil Silver is HI-larious as Gene's right hand man. He is ridiculous and wonderful. You can tell him and Gene really had fun working together. Their song Dig for your Dinner always makes me smile, and their rendition of Heavenly Music as hill billies is so funny! Gene Kelly with missing teeth and suspenders is pretty darn awesome... Silvers may not have been a terrific singer, but he sure knew how to sell comedy in a number! Marjorie Main is also very funny as Judy's Maid? Old Nanny? She is crusty, cynical but such a sweetheart. I like when she is ringing the cowbell to wake everyone up and her hair starts flopping around... Perfect!
There are so many wonderful numbers in the film, but Friendly Star would have to be my favorite. I have always been a bit of a hopeful romantic, and everything about that tune evokes that longing to find the right one. I am a little bit more cynical than my early teen self, but I can't help but feel with Judy through that song. I especially like when it pans to Gene Kelly sitting in a chair listening to Judy sing. Its a duet without Gene adding his voice. Most folks think of Judy's song Get Happy when they think of Summer Stock. It is an iconic number. It is a bit odd in the movie though. It comes out of left field... and Judy looks obviously slimmer (it was shot after Stock wrapped and after Judy had "dieted") I actually prefer the rounder Judy that is in the rest of the film. Get Happy is incredibly sexy however... how many actresses and singers have mimicked that suit jacket and pantie hose outfit?!
Summer Stock was a great place to start for my musical re-awakening. It reminded me that musicals can be pure unadulterated joy. Who knows, maybe I will attempt South Pacific after reconditioning myself to the genre. I know folks who don't like musicals. They say that bursting out in song isn't realistic (unless they have lived with me... then they know that it is completely normal!). My reply is always that Arnold Swartzenegger peeling back skin to reveal a metal skeleton isn't exactly realism either, but that doesn't make the Terminator a bad movie! I think Gene said it best, when Judy asks why a boy doesn't just say he loves a girl, why does he have to sing it? He replies "Oh, I don't know. But it's kinda nice,".... I agree, I think it's super nice
(BTW... our PBS station is re-airing the Lincoln center broadcast of South Pacific! Check your local listings and set that DVR to recording.... you won't regret it!)