‘Presenting Lily Mars’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Presenting Judy Garland

Can a small-town girl become a Big Apple star?

Judy Garland is a movie star who has captured audiences’ hearts over the years. As well as doing ‘The Wizard of Oz’, she did a number of films with Mickey Rooney including ‘Babes in Arms’ and ‘Strike Up the Band’. My Dad’s a fan of Judy Garland’s films and has shared his love of them with me.

I’ve enjoyed Judy Garland’s films, finding her to be an amazing talent in acting and performing songs in musicals. When she did her films with Mickey Rooney though, she was always considered ‘the girl next door’ in that she was the young love interest and she was very often cast as a pretty young girl.

That arguably changed when Judy was cast in her first film playing an adult type role called ‘Presenting Lily Mars’. Unless you consider ‘For Me and My Gal’, which was made a year before ‘Presenting Lily Mars’, as Judy’s first film in playing an adult type role, but I’d have to be sure of that.

I quite like ‘Presenting Lily Mars’ as a film, as it showcases Judy playing a character who wants to be an aspiring young actress. Yet she faces opposition when a big Broadway producer initially refuses to take her on as a potential actress. Despite that, she preserves and is so determined to prove herself.

Judy plays the titular role of Lily Mars, who is a small-town girl with ‘big city’ ambitions. She tries to get an audition with Van Heflin as Broadway producer John Thornway, since his father was a local physician who happened to tune the Mars’ family piano. I don’t see why he should be persuaded. 😐

And as already indicated, he’s not interested in taking Lily Mars on and wants nothing to do with her. Even when she plays a hilariously hammy version of Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene, it doesn’t impress him. I’m sure Judy Garland can play Lady Macbeth better than how Lily Mars had played her. 😀

Incidentally, Lily Mars comes from a strange family. Whilst they’re loving and all, it’s amusing to see Lily’s sisters crying at the same time she cries whenever she gets upset. Lily’s brother also has an obsession of taking doorknobs from doors when he gets a chance. A peculiar obsession, I might add.

When Lily’s efforts to impress John Thornway don’t seem to be getting anywhere in her home town, she soon follows him to Broadway in the hopes of convincing him to cast her. She manages to get in, but the best she can do is have an understudy job. Will Lily be able to impress and win John’s heart?

Now, this film could’ve had Lily as simply going for an actress’ job and trying to impress John Thornway without falling in love with him, especially since she has a boyfriend already in Charlie! Not that it gets explored much. I did feel sorry for Charlie when he’s neglected by Lily most of the time.

But as the film progresses, John finds himself falling in love with Lily and he seems impressed by her talents, which includes singing, and it’s a contrast to how he felt about her early on. This isn’t a complaint in terms of the character development. I like how John grew to like Lily Mars in the film. 🙂

It’s just the film didn’t need to have Lily and John ending up becoming a couple when Lily could’ve just kept her relationship with her boyfriend Charlie and she and John could’ve remained good professional colleagues. It didn’t happen with Peggy Sawyer impressing Julian Marsh in ’42nd Street’.

So why should it happen here with Lily Mars and John Thornway in this film? Maybe I’m reading into this too much and perhaps Lily and John do end up living ‘happily ever after’ afterwards. It’s just that quite often, youngsters falling in love with potential partners don’t have long lasting relationships. 😐

Judy Garland is excellent in her performance as Lily Mars in the film. Apparently, Judy was given the Hollywood ‘glamour treatment’ for her role and I can imagine that being the case with her hairstyle and the clothes she wears. Mind you, Judy often blows her hair out of her face a lot in this movie. 😀

I like how Judy balances the comedy and dramatic aspects of her character, especially when she drives the film forward in being the main lead. You do feel for her when she’s on the road to success, especially with winning the main role of a play for a bit before she’s reduced back to a smaller role. 😦

Van Heflin is very good as John Thornway. I don’t know much about him as an actor, but I like the comedic routines between him and Judy, especially when he tries to get rid of her at a party. I liked that scene where Lily challenges John about him treating her like a little girl rather than as a woman.

It’s nice when the character progression changes from John liking Lily instead of being embarrassed by her and wanting to get rid of her. He also tries to be kinder to Lily when criticising her on her acting talents, especially when he’s honest on how he feels about her not being ready yet for a major part.

Fay Bainter stars as Mrs. Thornway, John’s mother. Fay Bainter has worked with Judy Garland before in ‘Babes on Broadway’, along with Mickey Rooney. I’ve also seen her in the 1945 film adaptation of ‘State Fair’. Mrs. Thornway supports Lily to be an actress and tries to persuade John in having her on.

Richard Carlson stars as Owen Vail, a playwright who works with John Thornway on their latest show together. I admit, I was expecting Owen to be more supportive of Lily than he actually was when seeing her potential as an actress compared to John. Sadly, I don’t think that gets explored enough.

Spring Byington stars as Mrs. Mars, Lily’s mother. Lily’s mother can be a little bit eccentric like her other children, including three daughters and a son. But at least Lily’s mum is supportive. It was sweet and amusing once they turn up to congratulate Lily’s success after she’d been reduced in role.

Marta Eggerth stars as Isobel Rekay, an already established stage actress who expects to have a good part to play in John Thornway’s new show. There is a sense of Isobel being romantically interested in John, but it does go pear-shaped when John gradually becomes more interested in Lily.

Connie Gilchrist stars as Frankie, a cleaning lady whom Lily befriends when she’s caught sleeping in the theatre after closing hours. I like the connection made between Frankie and Lily, since Frankie is someone who once pursued a career to be an actress but failed and she can see Lily’s potential here.

The film also has Leonid Kinskey as Leo, who works with John Thornway on their stage play. There’s Patricia Barker as Poppy, Janet Chapman as Violet, Annie Ross as Rosie and Douglas Croft as Davey, Lily’s sisters and brother. 🙂 There’s also Ray McDonald playing Charlie Potter, Lily’s boyfriend.

There’s Lillian Yarbo as Rosa, Isobel’s maid and Charles Walters as Lily’s dance partner in the film’s finale. Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra also appear in this film as well as Bob Crosby and his Orchestra. Tommy Dorsey later worked with Judy Garland again as well as Mickey Rooney in ‘Girl Crazy’. 🙂

Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra appear in the final scene of this movie where Lily’s become a Broadway sensation. Interestingly, Bob Crosby is the younger brother of Bing Crosby. His scenes are when he and his orchestra are performing at a night club that Lily Mars and John Thornway attend. 🙂

Lily Mars also gets to sing a song with Bob Crosby and his Orchestra. The songs that Judy Garland as Lily Mars sings include ‘Every Little Movement (Has a Meaning All Its Own)’, ‘When I Look at You’, ‘Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son’, ‘Three O’Clock in the Morning’ and for the finale: ‘Broadway Rhythm’. 😀

Interestingly, Judy sang a version of ‘Broadway Rhythm’ before Gene Kelly sang it in ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. I wonder if Judy and Gene compared notes on singing ‘Broadway Rhythm’ years afterwards. 😀 Sadly, some songs in the finale got cut from the final version of the movie, which is a bit of a shame.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s an Academy Award winning short called ‘Heavenly Music’, a classic cartoon called ‘Who Killed Who?’ and some audio-only bonuses, including the outtake song ‘Paging Mrs. Greenbacks’, the ‘Where There’s Music’/’Broadway Rhythm’ finale alternative version, the ‘Where There’s Music’ finale alternative stereo version and a radio show adaptation of ‘Presenting Lily Mars’ with June Allyson and Van Heflin. There’s also a theatrical trailer for the film.

‘Presenting Lily Mars’ is a pleasant musical film featuring Judy Garland playing a young aspiring actress wanting to be a success in Broadway with Van Heflin playing a Broadway producer who isn’t interested in her at first before he grows to like her. I do like the charm and charisma the film offers.

Judy Garland delivers a lovely performance as the main character and you can emphasise with her in wanting to be a success, as we all want to be like that in her position. I like the songs performed by Judy and it was nice to have two orchestras led by Tommy Dorsey and Bob Crosby appearing in this.

‘Presenting Lily Mars’ rating – 8/10

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4 thoughts on “‘Presenting Lily Mars’ (Film)

  1. Gary Bennett

    What a lovely review of this sadly neglected film. I first saw this as a teen waaaaaaay back in May 1977. I was already mad about Judy Garland, but never had the opportunity to see it before then (there was no home video then and no TCM, just local channels that showed these films cut and loaded with used car commercials. And they cut the entire “Every Little Movement” scene!).

    Hopefully reviews like yours will help convince the folks at Warners to restore and release this on Blu Ray.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Gary,

      Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘Presenting Lily Mars’. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the film, especially when you saw it back in 1977. Interesting ‘Every Little Movement’ was cut when you saw the film. I wonder why they did that. 😐 It would be nice for this film to be re-released on Blu-ray. I’m sure my Dad would like that. 😀

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Tim 🙂


      1. Gary Bennett

        Hi Tim. Back in the day, they squeezed 1 hour and 45 minute movies into two hour blocks. In order to sell more commercials, they invariably cut scenes out. In the case of “Movement”, the cut, admittedly, was smooth. They showed Lily sneaking into the theater, then sitting down to watch rehearsals while John, Owen and Isabele went for a drink. After commercials, they started right AFTER “Movement”, as Isabele started to rehearse “When I Look at You ” The average viewer didn’t know the difference.

        Liked by 1 person

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