Sunday, July 27, 2008

For Me and My Gal (1942)

I have a new favorite movie, and it is For Me and My Gal. It has a great love story, great dancing and singing, an actual plot that is interesting, and dramatic moments that don't make me cringe. It's black and white and the musical numbers are all performed on the stage so even people who don't like musicals might like this one. Other good points: lots of trains in this movie and it's a movie about show business, which is always awesome.

However, I attribute a lot of the charm to the chemistry between the stars. After seeing Summer Stock I was struck that the chemistry between Garland and Kelly was so good. I was surprised because I had previously thought of Garland usually as very young (you have that impression of her I guess from all those young roles like Dorothy and the Andy Hardy movies). Kelly is always so mature - even when he plays a young man he's so slick - even when he plays awkward it's smooth - so I was sort of surprised that they were playing opposite each other, but it worked.

Then I had to watch the Pirate - not much chance for chemistry there - but when they did have a quiet moment, it seemed like they were trying to be sincere. Most of the time they weren't playing it serious, though, it was pure comic over-the-top nonsense.

But this movie is - - perfect. It's Gene Kelly's film debut, and he's amazing. Judy Garland got him the role after she saw him perform on Broadway so there is some of the reason for their warmth for each other. They had some respect for each other before they even started working on the film.

I read a post on IMDB that described Garland as "fragile" and Kelly as "muscular" but I disagree - Garland is anything but fragile, she seems like she could survive anything, and HAS survived everything. When she talks to her kid brother and talks him out of quitting medical school you get the feeling that they might have been through a lot more together than they say. But she is vulnerable, and that plays so well on screen where movie stars seem so perfect. That was always her genius - ever since "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" she can make us feel that something is missing for her and we want it, too. She can wring the emotion out of any song, which is what makes her so great.

Kelly on the other hand is all slickness and polish with moments of softness thrown in a classic lover-not-a-fighter - when his smooth character reveals a moment of weakness you are touched because he's usually so brash and confident.

It's a great combination, and they are well cast for the roles in this film.

It's really kind of epic following them through a decade or so as they meet, join forces as a vaudeville act, face the war together, split up and eventually reunite.

There are great dancing scenes, some cute vaudeville acts, and I can't even recall a particularly offensive one among them - unless you count the one that acts out a man purchasing a woman-doll and taking her home. But on a scale of one to blackface musical number in White Christmas, it's a one.

Four stars - for great music - all classic American songs from the vaudeville era - great performances in the dramatic roles by all the actors - great costumes - only some of the stage ones are embarrassing, most of the others are great and some I really really want to own - and a great romantic story. Will watch again right away.


anna said...

This was my favorite movie as a kid. sigh.

Jessica said...

I am remembering the scene we had to watch over and over and over where GK's character finally realizes he is in love with JG's character. Sigh.