(out of 5)
Delightful Judy Garland musical that tells of the origins of a chain of steak restaurants that were constantly opening up in new railroad towns. Garland plays a young woman who is brought out to the Wild West for an arranged marriage but unfortunately ends up being the butt of a joke: having just arrived with a bunch of ladies intending on working for the Harvey restaurants, Garland joins them and stays in the little town, bent on succeeding. What she doesn’t plan for is romance with local bad guy John Hodiak, the kind of criminal that sheriffs were invented to control. Angela Lansbury is great as the saloon gal with the heart of gold, but considering she was still hardly twenty years old when she filmed this, seeing her play a woman who has been around the block and knocked on every fence post along the way is a bit ridiculous. Lots of great musical numbers, especially the Oscar-winning song “On The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” but there’s also wonderful songs from Garland singing with comic singer Virginia O’Brien and lovely dancer Cyd Charisse. The film was originally dreamed up as a way to respond to the incredible success of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, which had just opened on Broadway but wasn’t to reach the world of film until nine years later (through Twentieth Century-Fox, not MGM).
Directed by George Sidney
Original Story by Eleanore Griffin, William Rankin, Screenplay by Edmund Beloin, Nathaniel Curtis, Harry Crane, James O’Hanlon, Samson Raphaelson, additional dialogue by Kay Van Riper, based on the novel by Samuel Hopkins Adams
Cinematography by George J. Folsey
Produced by Arthur Freed
Music by Lennie Hayton, Conrad Salinger
Film Editing by Albert Akst