‘Summer Stock’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

A Show on a Farm with Judy and Gene

I’m surprised they didn’t call this film ‘A Shown on a Farm’. 😀

‘Summer Stock’ is a 1950 musical film starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. Judy Garland is well-known for playing Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ whilst Gene Kelly would later go on to star in 1952’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. Seeing these two musical stars appearing together in this musical film was bliss.

The first time I saw ‘Summer Stock’ was at my Nana’s in Newport, Wales. I don’t know if the first time was around Christmas 2008 or something but it was definitely before my Dad purchased the DVD as a US import which was released around 2006. I think it was part of a Judy Garland collection.

Apparently, ‘Summer Stock’ proved to be Judy Garland’s final film for MGM before she came back to do ‘A Star is Born’ in 1954. It was also her last on-screen pairing with Gene Kelly as they did ‘For Me and My Gal’ in 1942 before this. Judy struggled with personal problems whilst making this 1950 film.

I don’t know what those personal problems were but it might have something to do with her being ill as was the case when she couldn’t complete filming for ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ and she was taken over by Betty Hutton in the main role. Soon, MGM terminated Judy Garland’s contract with them. 😦

It’s something that the studio head L. B. Mayer later regretted doing. Mind you, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Judy Garland had personal problems making the film as she still delivers a standout performance in ‘Summer Stock’ and comes across having a good time doing the musical numbers. 😀

I certainly enjoyed the story, the characters, the comedy and the musical numbers featured throughout this film. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly also spark off well as their characters who gradually become a loving couple by the end. It wasn’t how they started upon meeting each other. 🙂

The film takes place at Falbury Farm, somewhere in America. 😀 Judy plays Jane Falbury, a farm owner who becomes more than a bit riled when her sister Abigail, who wants to be an aspiring actress, arrives at the family farm unexpectedly with her theatre troupe that want to rehearse there.

Meeting Gene Kelly as Joe Ross, the director of the theatre play the troupe are performing and Abigail’s fiancée, Jane and her housekeeper Esme reluctantly agree to let them use their barn to rehearse. But only on the condition that they help out once and while in doing chores on the farm. 🙂

As the film progresses, Jane is given disapproving eyes by her fiancée Orville and his father who don’t like theatre company performers like Joe Ross and his group. When Abigail leaves in an angry fit, Jane is soon chosen to be the theatre group’s new leading star. And Jane falls in love with Joe. 😀

From watching the film, it does feel like a film adaptation of a musical play, like with 1947’s ‘Good News’ being an adaptation of a musical play. But in doing my research, this film isn’t based on a musical play as the story is by Sy Gomberg and the screenplay is by George Wells and Sy Gomberg. 🙂

The music is also by Harry Warren whilst the songs’ lyrics are by Mack Gordon. Charles Walters provides the direction on the film and it does feel like a musical play that was originally meant for theatre made into a film. Maybe because theatre was still a basis for filmmaking at around the time!

It also might have to do with the final show being performed by Joe Ross and his theatre troupe taking place inside a barn which has the theatre stage set up. Apparently a lot of musical films had theatre-like stages to perform their shows which was quite common in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and such.

I enjoyed the comedy featured throughout this film as well as the musical numbers and the acting. I did laugh at certain moments in the film, especially with some of the characters. Not just with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, but also with people such as Phil Silvers in the film (which we’ll get to later).

Judy Garland is excellent as Jane Falbury in the film. It does feel ironic that Judy starts off as a farmer who has no interest in show business to actually end up being in show business. I don’t know if that’s a formula that’s original in a Judy Garland film but it’s something unique to find in watching one.

One of the highlights of ‘Summer Stock’ is when Judy does the final song-and-dance number ‘Get Happy’ where she performs in a tuxedo jacket, black fedora and black nylons to an arrangement by Skip Martin. The ‘Get Happy’ number is regarded as Judy looking and performing her best in the film.

Gene Kelly is equally excellent as Joe Ross in the film. I like how the film starts off with Joe Ross already engaged to Jane’s sister and he doesn’t try seeking to win her heart. But as the film progresses, the two do start falling love with each other and I like how that’s sweetly built up here. 🙂

Another highlight of ‘Summer Stock’ is when Gene Kelly performs a solo dance in a darkened barn, using a newspaper and a creaky board as partners and props. It’s one of the things I remember most from seeing Gene Kelly in the film and it turned out to be one of his career’s breakthrough numbers.

One of the things I liked about the film is when Phil Silvers’ character accidentally damaged Jane’s tractor when driving it out and losing control of it. Jane soon sees the damaged tractor herself but eventually Joe and her theatre group repay the damage by purchasing a brand-new tractor for her. 🙂

They had to sell their own ‘wagon’ in order to do it. This is when Jane begins to soften towards Joe and his theatre group and maybe where she starts falling in love with Joe. Jane requested the tractor from Orville’s father who makes a big deal out of the fact that she requested an expensive vehicle. 😐

Eddie Bracken stars as Orville Wingait, Jane’s fiancée, who she’s been engaged to for four years. Clearly not rushing into it, aren’t they? 😀 Apparently, Eddie Bracken later did ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’, playing Mr. Duncan the toy store owner. I had no idea he would later appear in that film!

Gloria DeHaven stars as Abigail Falbury, Jane’s sister, who has aspirations of being a great actress. Unfortunately, she doesn’t work as hard as many of the other theatre performers when being on the farm and rehearsing the stage show. She also tends to have ‘long kisses’ with Gene Kelly’s character.

Marjorie Maine stars as Esme, the housekeeper at Falbury Farm. Marjorie Maine has worked with Judy Garland before in the 1944 film ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’. Esme is like Jane’s confidante when attending to farm matters as well as accommodating the theatre troupe when they stay at the farm.

Phil Silvers stars as Herb Blake, one of the theatre troupe led by Joe Ross and clearly the comic relief. 😀 Phil Silvers is well-known for playing Sgt. Bilko in his own show ‘The Phil Silvers Show’ from 1955 to 1959. Astonishing to find Phil Silvers in this musical film before he became famous as Sgt. Bilko! 😀

Ray Collins stars as Jaspar Wingait, Orville’s domineering father who often speaks for his son when he’s about in the room. It’s amusing and cringing when Jaspar speaks on Orville’s behalf on when to set a date for the wedding when they meet up with Jane. He didn’t let him kiss Jane goodbye either.

The film also features Nita Bieber as Sarah Higgins, Carleton Carpenter as Artie and Hans Conried as Harrison Keath. As well as ‘Get Happy’, there are also musical numbers like ‘If You Feel Like Singing, Sing’, ‘(Howdy Neighbor) Happy Harvest’, ‘You Wonderful You’, ‘Friendly Star’, ‘Heavenly Music’, etc.

It was funny when Gene Kelly and Phil Silvers did a musical number together as toothy farmers for ‘Heavenly Music’ and they had a lot of dogs with them. I can’t believe how they managed to get so many dogs appearing a number at a time before they eventually ‘flooded’ the stage with their barks.

Cuddles: “It was nice to see me in the film, wasn’t it?”
Puddles: “Yes! Nice to see me too!”

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a featurette called ‘Summer Stock: Get Happy!’; a classic cartoon called ‘The Cuckoo Clock’; and a vintage ‘Pete Smith Speciality’ short called ‘Did’ja Know?’ There’s an audio-only bonus which is an outtake song called ‘Fall in Love’ and there’s a teaser trailer and a theatrical trailer for the film.

‘Summer Stock’ is a pretty good ‘feel-good’ musical film starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. I enjoyed the set-up for the film as well as the story, the characters, the comedy and the musical numbers. It’s hard to believe that there were ‘personal problems’ for Judy during the making of this.

I would welcome watching this film again as it does have the ability to cheer you up, especially in tough times. Whether it’d be in the summer itself or over a Christmas period, ‘Summer Stock’ is definitely one of those musical films you would want to enjoy again and again with Judy and Gene. 🙂

‘Summer Stock’ rating – 9/10

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