Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5.
USA, 1943. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Richard Connell, Gladys Lehman, based on the novel by Booth Tarkington. Cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg. Produced by Joe Pasternak. Music by George Stoll. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Howard Shoup. Film Editing by Albert Akst.
Don’t be prepared to settle in for a cozy old movie when you watch this simpering musical; it tries to be charming, but it can’t succeed at it. Judy Garland‘s Lily Mars has Broadway lights in her eyes and follows producer Van Heflin from her home town in “Middle America” all the way to the Big Apple, where he puts the dumb kid in a show as a favour to her family. Loads of “hard work” later (not to mention some romance with the Big Man) she ends up understudying the lead singer Isobel Rekay (Mártha Eggerth) in the big production that Heflin is putting on (which makes perfect sense; the lead is three hundred-year old trained opera singer, why not put a jazz-singing fifteen year-old in the part as back up?). The cast is charmingly rounded out by such character actresses as Academy Award-winner Fay Bainter and Spring Byington, but the small-town American life scenes are too Andy Hardy even for Andy Hardy, and on top of that they don’t even let Judy sing until halfway through the picture. The ultimate highlight here (and the reason to go out and rent it) is when Judy and Connie Gilchrist as the theatre’s cleaning lady sing “Ev’ry Little Movement”, a touching tribute to compromised dreams. Louis B. Mayer ordered the ending reshot following the production’s main shoot, which will explain why the conclusion number is jarring and makes absolutely no sense, even if it does show off Judy’s peak perfection as a performer.