Sunday, December 16, 2007

In the Good Old Summertime

Tonight I enjoyed a Judy Garland double feature with some friends. It seems I've got 'em hooked. hahaha (evil laugh). Anyway, we watched Meet Me in St. Louis (my second viewing in a week), but the main purpose of our gathering was to watch In the Good Old Summertime.

Number 3 on my Top Ten Judy Garland Movies list, In the Good Old Summertime is basically amazing. It really has it all—comedy, songs, and a love story. The plot is pretty well known at this point, originally taken from the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner, and remade again as You've Got Mail in 1998.

Judy plays Veronica Fisher, a single working girl who writes romantic letters in her free time to a fellow she doesn't know. She gets a job at a music store where she butts heads with a dashing Mr. Larkin, played by Van Johnson, who also happens to be corresponding with an anonymous young woman. I think we can all guess what happens—after going to meet his pen pal, Mr. Larkin find that he's been writing to Miss Fisher all along. Hilarity ensues (kind of) and of course, after a few bumps in the road, they all live happily ever after.

I personally think this is Judy's funniest movie. She has some brilliant moments. The banter between her and Van Johnson is excellent. It's been said that they didn't like each other in real life, so that may have helped.

The music in this movie isn't my favorite. There aren't really any stand-out songs, they're just all mediocre. They threw in a Christmas song at the end and I think it's pretty obvious that they were trying to repeat the success of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from Meet Me in St. Louis, but they failed miserably. I usually just fast-forward over that song.

Some of my favorite things about In the Good Old Summertime:
- The out of control flailing during "I Don't Care."
- The extremely creepy guy in the barbershop quartet. You'll know what I'm talking about when you see it.
- Everything Judy does while singing "Put Your Arms Around Me Honey."
- Basically the whole scene in the restaurant with Mr. Larkin bugging Miss Fisher. Especially the look on her face when he calls her an old maid.

I think it's required that I mention that it is in fact Liza Minnelli in the last scene. I always thought she looked rather bewildered and unresponsive. I don't think anyone would have guessed at that time that she'd go on to be successful in the entertainment industry.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Classic Christmas Films

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the movies I get to watch. The ones I feel stupid watching during the rest of the year. Here's a run down of my favorite Christmas movies:

1. White Christmas - it doesn't get much better than White Christmas. Two guys come home from the war, find success in show business, meet some talented girls, and save Christmas. Their incredible Christmas spirit even causes it to snow. Amazing. I recommend watching the DVD with audio commentary by Rosemary Clooney. She's a good time. And now, my favorite things about White Christmas:

  • Bing Crosby and his incredibly corny lines such as, "You might have been stuck with this weirdsmobile for life!" and, "An egg? Brother, you laid a Vermont volleyball!"

  • The fabulous Christmas dresses at the end. I want one.

  • At the end when Betty gives Bob the knight on the horse figure. I have to say that for most of my life (until a few years ago) I had no idea what she gave to him. But don't worry, I get it now.

2. Holiday Affair - it's a little more obscure and that's what I like it. Janet Leigh is a widow with a young son who has a run in with a store clerk played by Robert Mitchum (yes, a strange choice for a romantic lead). Despite her best efforts (and those of her lame steady beau, Carl) Robert Mitchum won't leave her alone and he forms a bond with the son. It's a just a fun movie. The terribly unfortunate thing is it's not yet out on DVD. Luckily, TCM will be showing it on December 23rd at 9pm and the 24th at 12:45pm.

3. Miracle on 34th Street - I didn't see this movie 'till I was older, during my Maureen O'Hara phase, but it's wonderful. Natalie Wood is especially adorable. It's happy and funny with a love story and some Santa Clause action. The interesting about this film is it was released in theaters in May. The studio believed more people would see movies in the summer so they advertised it without letting on that it was a Christmas movie. Fascinating logic.

4. Meet Me in St. Louis and In the Good Old Summertime - I'm putting these together because they're both Judy Garland movies and neither of them are technically Christmas movies. They both start in the summer, but end in Christmas, so you're filled with the Christmas spirit when they're over. In the Good Old Summertime will be on TCM on Christmas Eve at 8:45am and Meet Me in St. Louis will be on TCM December 16 at 7pm and Christmas Day at 1:15am (if you're waiting up for Santa!).

Meet Me in St. Louis Weekend

Last weekend was all about Meet Me in St. Louis. It doesn’t get much better than that, really.

On Friday night, I had the pleasure of seeing it on stage for my company Christmas party at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook. It wasn’t as good as the movie, of course, but it wasn’t a total slander on Judy Garland’s legacy, like I was afraid it might be. The girl who played Esther was decent, not amazing, but she sang well. I was slightly disappointed with the girl who played Tootie, but really for a child she was quite good. I’m just used to Margaret O’Brien being completely brilliant and hilarious in the movie. No one can really compare to her.

They kept the script basically the same as the movie. They only removed a couple of fabulous lines such as:

Rose: My dear, when you get to be my age, you'll find there are more important things in life than boys!

Katie: Well, another Halloween, we’re all a year older.

Those are classics! But whatever.

They also added some dreadful songs. I could have done without them. But it’s possible that the songs from the movie are dreadful as well, and I’m just used to them so I don’t notice. But I don’t really think so. The whole second act was basically new songs except for Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. I understand that there really aren’t many songs in the second half, but for heaven’s sake, write some decent ones.

But the story is so good that you really can’t go wrong. Overall, I would give it a B. I enjoyed it.

Then, two short days later, I got to see the movie in my favorite movie theater! It was glorious. Even though I’ve seen it hundreds of times, it feels new when you see it on the big screen. It confirmed my suspicions that this may be the perfect movie. It’s funny, it’s touching, it has songs, and a disturbed 5 year old who kills off her dolls. Perfection.