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Edwin L. Marin
Irish colleen Nellie is in love with handsome Jerry Kelly, even though her father objects. Nellie and Jerry soon marry and announce plans to move to New York, which again angers Nellie's father. Still, fear of never seeing his daughter again convinces the old man to also head to the States. In New York, Jerry becomes a policeman, although fighting crime seems to be easier than fighting with his father-in-law. Tragedy strikes when Nellie dies in childbirth. Jerry and the meddling old man continue to live together and have constant battles over how to raise young Nellie, who grows up to look exactly like her mother. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
George M. Cohan's famous musical comedy of the early 1900's became Judy Garland's first young adult movie role after her role as pre-teenager Dorothy Gale in "The Wizard of Oz". It was also her best role and best performance, second to "Oz", prior to "Meet Me in St. Louis". The story tells of a feisty young Irish lass, Nellie Noonan, who falls in love with a handsome Irish cop, Jerry Kelly (George Murphy), then moves to America. Her pig-headed Irish father, Mike Noonan (Charles Winnger), follows, in spite of the fact that he hated seeing his beautiful little girl get married and leave him. When Nellie gives birth to a little girl, tragedy strikes, leaving Jerry and Mike to pick up the pieces and raise Little Nellie Kelly together.
Little Nellie is equally as feisty as her mother, but is modernized and very American. She has the affection of many local boys, most especially Dennis Fogarty (Douglas MacPhail), a clean-cut young lad who has the approval of Jerry, but not Grandfather Mike who wants to keep Nellie all to himself. Nellie triumphs by singing in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, and later at a huge party.
During her teenage years, perky Judy Garland appeared mostly opposite the sometimes too energetic Mickey Rooney; MGM always seemed to consider her not as glamorous as their other young stars, Ann Rutherford and Lana Turner, but in "Little Nellie Kelly", she is the epitome of confidence and youthful joy and happiness. There are no down-putting ballads here, like "In Between", "I'm Nobody's Baby", and "But Not For Me" from the Rooney films. For example, as the older Nellie Kelly, she delivers a very poignant "A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow", later reprised by the younger Nellie in a swing version. In the St. Patrick's Day parade, she leads the chorus in the production number "It's a Great Day For the Irish!" with a confidence her characters lacked in the Rooney films. Then, at the party, she sings a swinging version of the decade old standard "Singin' in the Rain", with special introduction lyrics added just for Judy. Later, Judy herself is serenaded by her admirers in the George M. Cohan song from the original show, "Nellie Kelly, I Love You!". While it is obvious that the play's story was somewhat altered to modernize it for the early 40's, it still retains Cohan's charm. Judy also lost the nervous gestures she was forced to use in the Rooney films and acts with grace and confidence.
Charles Winninger is amusing as the lovable but hard-hearted grandfather, especially in a sequence where he stirs up a union struggle when Little Nellie tries to get him to work at a construction site; George Murphy goes from young romantic hero to proud and loving father without blinking an eye; The future senator is totally at ease here, and is quite likable. Douglas MacPhail went from second lead in "Babes in Arms" to Garland's love interest, singing "Nellie Kelly, I Love You" with his surprisingly mature deep voice. The rest of the cast is fine too, in much smaller roles, most notably familiar character actress Almira Sessions in the brief role of baby Nellie's nurse.
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