It was slated to be a reunion for two of MGM’s most popular duos, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. The pair had starred in nine films together, the last of which was 1943’s “Girl Crazy.” The script was even tailored to bring back memories of the films the two had been made before—the central plot of “let’s put on a show in the barn.” But by the time production began on 1950’s “Summer Stock” Mickey Rooney was, sadly, not the box office draw he once was. Rooney was replaced with one of MGM’s then big draws, Gene Kelly.
“Summer Stock,” which was just released on blu-ray by Warner Archive, holds a unique place. The film was the last Judy Garland would make for the studio that made her a star, she was struggling with many of her demons during the production of the film. It in a way, it was a blessing Rooney was replaced with Kelly. Garland had been in the first film Kelly was in and was extremely kind to the young actor, something he never forgot, and he did all he could to make sure Judy was comfortable and happy during the production. Going as far as faking a leg injury so the production would shut down for a day and she could get some rest.
In the film, Garland stars as Jane Falbury, a farm owner who finds her crops haven’t been yielding quite what they once were. Her two decades experienced hired hands quit, and she finds herself up the creek without a paddle. To make matters worse, her Broadway minded sister brings an entire theatrical troupe to stay and stage a musical in the family barn. The troupe’s show is directed by Kelly, who is also dating Jane’s sister played by Gloria De Haven. The thought of a bunch of actors in town does rile up a few folks, including the well mannered young shopkeep who has his eyes on Jane.
“Summer Stock” is a fun, enjoyable musical with some really terrific numbers, but that being said it’s not quite in the same league as “Singin’ in the Rain”—but then again, what is? One of the great sequences from this movie, that’s been copied several times by pop culture, is Judy’s stunning finale of “Get Happy” wearing a wonderful tuxedo number that was originally created for her for a sequence that was cut from “Easter Parade.”
But one can’t deny that “Summer Stock” has a truly marvelous supporting cast of familiar faces. In addition to Garland and Kelly, there’s Marjorie Mann, Eddie Bracken, Phil Silvers—who is truly delightful in this—and future “Perry Mason” cast member Ray Collins. “Summer Stock” was released by Warner Brothers to DVD in 2006 as part of the collection of “Musicals from The Dream Factory Vol. 2” a set I own. The film looked good in that collection, but the colors seemed absolutely drab compared to this new, knock out, blu-ray from Warner Archive.
The rich, bright, and vibrant Technicolor tones are simply outstanding in a transfer that is sparkling. It makes for a very inviting world that makes you about want to walk into the screen. Bonus material is nice too, all the extras from the 2006 DVD are ported over, including a featurette on the making of the film and one of my most favorite of the classic Hollywood short subjects, a piece by Pete Smith from his long-running series.
Though it marked the end of Judy Garland’s reign at the studio which made her famous, “Summer Stock” is a pleasant movie, with some great performances and a really terrific cast. In this amazing new blu-ray, it comes highly recommended from yours truly. See you next week.