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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
◦Available Subtitles: English
◦Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
◦Audio-only outtake of deleted finale “Paging Mr. Greenbacks”
◦Audio-only version of the alternate finale" Where There’s Music/Broadway Rhythm"
◦Alternate stereo version of "Where There’s Music"
◦Radio show adaptation with June Allyson and Van Heflin
◦1943 MGM short subject: "Heavenly Music"
◦1943 MGM cartoon: "Who Killed Who?" directed by Tex Avery
◦Original theatrical trailer
"It’s like The Wizard of Oz, except Oz is Broadway and the munchkins are ambition."
Judy Garland, Van Heflin, Fay Bainter, Richard Carlson
You’re goddamned right he is.
Based on a Booth Tarkington story, Lily Mars (Judy Garland) is a small-town girl with big city aspirations. When a neighbor’s son, Broadway producer and writer John Thornway (Van Heflin) comes back to town, Lily sees her chance to make an impression and hit it big. Unfortunately, her abilities aren’t exactly up to par and she’s left following Thornway to Broadway to try and force him to see things her way. Romance, songs and dance happen along the way as Lily tries to force her foot in the door towards her destiny on the stage.
Movie Mash-Ups: Gold Diggers of 1935 meets Independence Day.
At the ripe age of twenty, Judy Garland was already a major star in Hollywood. This film (out of print until this release) came on the heels of her success in the Andy Hardy movies, Ziegfeld Girl, and some movie about wizards and flying monkeys. It’s easy to see why she was pushed to be the star she was; she effortlessly garners the audience’s sympathy, and has a magnetic presence on the screen. Whatever she’s doing, you’re more than willing to watch. And that voice. Even in a movie that must be considered a minor work such as this there’s plenty of things to admire in her performance (she nails the false aplomb of a young girl who believes she’s destined for the big time through the interactions with her small city boyfriend). Van Heflin is a worthy foil as the bulk of his work is limited to looking exasperated and/or amused by Lily’s foibles, and he does so admirably (and often, quite humorously).
Movie Mash-Ups: Hollow Man meets My Giant.
There are definite problems with the film though. Although the script and plotting are pretty tight, the romance between Heflin and Garland’s characters feels forced. The relationship doesn’t ever seem to move past the bemusement stage so when it suddenly shifts to being a romantic relationship, one feels the gears of the plot in motion demanding something that isn’t an organic movement of the characters. Also, the last musical number feels truncated (which is supported by the audio-only track on the bonus features, showing that the run time was lopped in half), and doesn’t have the “end with a bang!” gusto that many other musicals of this ilk do. However, these quibbles are minor considering the movie aims to entertain and accomplishes that, more or less.
The most interesting thing about the film is how it predicts the dichotomy that would stick with Garland throughout the rest of her career (A Star Is Born, being the exception): she’s ostensibly a woman at this point with grown-up problems and a desire to tackle grown-up roles but she is viewed in the public eye as Dorothy or Betsy Booth and is thus stuck in these young adult roles, constantly contained in a state of arrested development. This film takes that teenager versus adult conflict and makes it the central conflict in the movie. And even though the film seems to be trying to posit Judy Garland as ‘woman’, it’s somewhat telling that even in the final number (the supposed triumphant declaration of her womanhood and ability), one can’t quite shake the feeling that she still feels like a young adult.
Movie Mash-Ups: Stuck On You meets Jack.
Extra credit goes to the movie for sticking to its guns and ending the storyline in a way that some may find surprising (although the aforementioned musical finale that comes thereafter goes a long way towards completely erasing the lesson learned from the viewer’s memories; but, what the hell, end it with song and dance*). It’s a fine way to spend an evening if you enjoy watching ‘how they used to be made’, and especially if you’re a Judy Garland fan.
*Ending it with the entertaining musical number might also have a different effect: in keeping with the adult vs. teen dichotomy, this could be a suggestion that one doesn’t need to aspire to mature with their choices in roles, and that being simply an entertainer is more than enough. Or it’s also possible I’m reading a ridiculous amount into this movie.
There are some nice features to be had on this disc. First off, the cover art is straight out of the 40’s and is respectable as such. You look at it, and you know what you’re in store for, more or less. The quality of the audio and picture isn’t that of a full-blown restoration, as neither are as clear as they could be. However, these qualities lend the viewing of a movie like this on a big-screen TV at home a vibe comparable to that of an old theater experience (the specks and scratches on the print, the crackling of old audio), so I’m not complaining too hard. The audio-only outtakes aren’t particularly enticing as all you see is the Bonus Features menu as they play through, and they aren’t really taking advantage of what the DVD format offers, but they’re there if you want ‘em.
Movie Mash-Ups: Persona meets I Am Sam.
However, the radio show adaptation of the movie with June Allyson taking Garland’s place (but don’t worry, Van’s still Heflin even in radio form) might be of some interest to fans of the movie or the actors. The real gem of these bonus materials is the two bonus short films, one an MGM short called “Heavenly Music” and a Tex Avery cartoon entitled “Who Killed Who?”. In tandem, they work towards that feeling of an old night at the movies as you can treat yourself to a cartoon and a short before the feature, but they’re also amusing enough in their own right. Also included is a trailer for the movie that is full of that old-school boastfulness and large font that I can’t get enough of. Also, blackface:
7.0 out of 10
7.0 out of 10