Retrospective Review: Summer Stock

Year: 1950

Runtime: 108 minutes

Director: Charles Walters

Writers: George Wells, Sy Gomberg

Stars: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Marjorie Main, Eddie Bracken

By Joan Amenn

When the world makes you feel like a damp, drizzly November in your soul, what you need is a movie musical to “chase all your cares away.” Light on plot but heavy on dancing rhythms, “Summer Stock” (1950) brings the sunshine with the last joyful partnering of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. With a little help from the comedic timing of the wonderful Phil Silvers and Marjorie Main who was a star in her own right from the “Ma and Pa Kettle” series of films, “Summer Stock” is a breezy, fun way to spend a sultry evening.

“Summer Stock” is not a great movie but it is worth seeing for two pros who cared for each other saying goodbye to the magic they had made together.”

Garland was struggling with addiction during the production and MGM infamously canceled her contract after its completion. Despite this, she kept up with Kelly in their scenes together. It certainly helped that he was her devoted friend ever since he co-starred with her in his first film, “For Me and My Gal” (1942).

Judy Garland in “Summer Stock” (1950) Copyright: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

The plotline of “Summer Stock” will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen a younger Garland teamed with Mickey Rooney in one of their many films together. Basically, a group of young people get together and for various reasons, put on a show. Kelly’s genius as a dancer and Garland’s jaw-dropping final number, “Get Happy” elevate the film to be better than it has a right to be. As a matter of fact, “Get Happy” became one of Garland’s signature songs and helped make her the legend she remains.

The theatre kids trying to help out to earn their keep on Garland’s farm can wear the “fish out of water” trope a little thin but Silvers keeps the laughs coming. He has a particularly hilarious scene with Eddie Bracken when the two collide with each other, knock off each other’s glasses and then realize they have put back on the other’s. Even when the songs are less than memorable, they are enthusiastically milked for all the corny humour possible.

“Get Happy” became one of Garland’s signature songs and helped make her the legend she remains.”

Garland driving a tractor in high heeled penny loafers singing about her harvest is ridiculous, but her voice is still a joy to listen to. Kelly dancing alone with only a sheet of newspaper and a squeaky floorboard has to be seen to be believed. The only time Garland truly equals him in energy and charisma is when she sings “Get Happy” but it is so worth the wait to see her unleash her talent.

Judy Garland in “Summer Stock” (1950) Copyright: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Sexy and exhilarating in her fedora and heels, she brought down the curtain on her days at MGM with all the star power she had. “Summer Stock” is not a great movie but it is worth seeing for two pros who cared for each other saying goodbye to the magic they had made together.

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