For Reel

Summer Stock (1950)
June 16, 2016, 7:20 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Charles Walters
4.5 Stars
Summer StockSummer Stock was the first film that Judy Garland made after returning from a suspension that was the result of her firing from Annie Get Your Gun and a lengthy stay in hospital to treat her drug dependency. As is common of her films in this period, one can scarcely get the sense that there’s anything wrong—equally due to the fact that Garland, even at her healthiest, was an enormously vulnerable performer, and that MGM was a studio that let nary a crack in the wallpaper show. It is among her finest musicals during this stretch, serving as a love letter to theater and musicals themselves. The best scene of the picture involves Gene Kelly using a creak in a floorboard and a discarded newspaper for a dance. Beyond Kelly’s physical achievement, it is crucial that the scene is preceded by Garland’s character chastising him for his domineering attitude as a stage director. He is put in his place and, rather than fighting the accusations, simply takes a moment to remember exactly what it is that he appreciates about his craft. To watch the scene is to watch Kelly’s love of dance reborn—when his art form is brought back to basics, his withdrawn demeanor has no choice but to give way to sheer ecstasy. Only in the final act does Summer Stock fall short—in truth, the final show that the group puts on simply isn’t all that good—but even then about half of the numbers land (including the famed “Get Happy” and the delightful but questionably staged “You Wonderful You”).