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|Index||21 reviews in total|
I can't help it, I love Mickey and Judy, and this is their best film together. It has fun songs ("Our Love Affair" and "Do the La Conga" especially), good Busby Berkeley productions (both the aforementioned, especially the fruit-as-orchestra dream sequence!), but more importantly, it perfectly evokes the ideal small middle-American town, complete with understanding mothers and principals, swell fellas and gals, and a comforting everything's going to be just fine feeling. I can't help yearning for this never-never land of rebellious but polite youths and understanding old-timers!
A delightful high-energy romp. I think Mickey Rooney outshines Judy Garland in this one (but that might be like comparing apples to oranges, which incidentally play a not incidental role in this movie). Mickey plays the piano, the drums, sings, dances, pitches baseballs and jumps over fences and hedgerows....plus he's good to his widowed mother and turns up the "life's a gas" charm at the drop of a hat. Judy is more serious, reflective, and tender, all of which works well in the songs she performs. I could have done without the extended "Snidely Whiplash" melodrama routine, but hey, what's perfect in this world. The teenagers in this movie, however, look like miniature adults, and moreover, some of Mickey's band members look a little long in the tooth. Was there really a time when jazz was the most shocking thing a kid could be interested in?
After the success of Babes In Arms for MGM, Arthur Freed became the
hottest producer on the lot and was granted his own famous Freed Unit
to produce the best of the MGM musicals for the next 20 years almost.
According to Hugh Fordin's book on Arthur Freed the next scheduled
property was Good News, but that got shelved for several years when
Louis B. Mayer decided that a patriotic type theme was in order and
after all MGM had bought the screen rights to the Gershwin musical
Strike Up The Band. Freed agreed, but in the Hollywood tradition only
the title and the title song were retained for the screen.
That was enough because the Mickey and Judy formula was by now established with Babes In Arms. Here the two are a pair of talented musical kids and Mickey is the drummer in his high school band. But he's got other things on his mind besides doing John Philip Sousa. Even Sousa did more than Sousa when he was leading a band. Mickey is filled with the new jive rhythms of the day and he'd like to use the other kids in the school orchestra to form a real band. He's got Garland in mind for the vocals and the object is to get an audition from Paul Whiteman.
Whiteman in his day may have appropriated for himself the title of King Of Jazz, but certainly no one did more to popularize the new American art form among white audiences. His orchestra was the training ground for many of later big band leaders. Leaders like Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and Glenn Miller all who were sidemen with Whiteman and who kids like Mickey and Judy and the rest of the cast were listening to.
If Strike Up The Band isn't exactly let's put on a show, it still is let's put on a concert and Mickey and Judy do have some shtick to perform, their Gay Nineties spoof is quite good. Also the fantasy sequence of the 'fruit orchestra' doing Our Love Affair is also nicely done, it looks very much like Ray Harryhausen's claymation figures, but he wasn't involved with Strike Up The Band.
Strike Up The Band won one Academy Award for sound and was nominated for two others. Roger Edens and Arthur Freed wrote Our Love Affair which was nominated for Best Song, but lost to When You Wish Upon A Star. And Edens and Georgie Stoll were nominated for Best Musical Scoring.
Busby Berkeley directed the film and in the finale shows his fine hand for spectacle. Here's where the patriotism that Louis B. Mayer was seeking came out. Remember this was 1940 and a lot of people were very afraid the USA was going into another World War. The finale with the title song was the kind of rousing patriotic spectacle that Hollywood would be doing in every studio after December 7, 1941.
With Strike Up The Band Arthur Freed proved he was no flash in the pan as a producer. After 70 years the film holds up well and the talents of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland reign eternal.
I love the Mickey/Judy movies and this is a wonderful example of a superb one, but of the three "lets put on a show" type movies this is the worst. It's still fantastic don't get me wrong, but Babes in Arms and Babes on Broadway are much better! The songs are fantastic but not as catchy as the songs from the other movies. Judy is fantastic! It just tears your heart when she sings Nobody. It's a perfect blend of humor and music in this movie. Fantastic. If you like this one, I absolutely recommend Babes in Arms and Babes on Broadway. (Babes on Broadway is my favorite movie ever) It's great! you really should watch this movie!
Admittedly, I'm not the best judge of musicals, but this one seems
disappointing given the level of talent involved. Visually, Garland and
Rooney make a cute couple-- a match clearly made in malt shop heaven.
And, even though I was disappointed, I can understand Garland's
enduring appeal. She's definitely an incandescent presence, and one
that doesn't come from just acting the part. On the other hand, Rooney
is energetic and I can see him organizing a high school band. However,
that energy too often becomes manicfor example, check out his
conducting the orchestra at movie's end for sheer pointless delirium.
Too often, his in- your-face high spirits comes across as more
obnoxious than entertaining.
I guess my biggest disappointment is with the musical numbers. Berkeley's dancing phalanxes are eye-catching as usual, but there's not a single catchy tune to hang your hat on. The numbers are simply not up to Garland's level of show-stopping talent, whatever the reason. Then there's the overlong melodrama skit that unfortunately saps momentum by coming in the middle. On the other hand, the musical fruit sketch sounds silly but is really charming and well done. Also, professional musician Paul Whiteman turns out to be a pretty darn good actor. And for those interested in what those times were like, it's a chance to see what teens circa-1940 thought was "cool". Having your own dance band was clearly near the top. At the same time, the message seems to be that dance bands deserve respect, while playing in one is indeed a legitimate goal in life. Looks like controversies over music didn't start with rock-and-roll.
Despite the excellence of dance, music, singing, acting--though one always suspects the combination of Rooney / Garland was more being themselves than acting--the movie cannot transcend its severe limitations. The movies sound exactly what they were--high school kids putting on a performance and such acting is exactly that-high school kids putting on a performance. Despite Freed, Busby Berkeley, Paul Whitman, and the singing and dancing of Rooney & Garland-- the movie fails. I can watch "The Music Man', "My Fair Lady', "Gigi", Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers--and never get tired; while these four movies wear thin after first viewing.
Overlong but fun Mickey & Judy "let's put on a show" musical, directed by the great Busby Berkeley. Drummer Jimmy (Mickey Rooney) and would-be girlfriend Mary (Judy Garland) try to make their high school band a success. Along the way they deal with little personal dramas like Jimmy's mother wanting him to be a doctor, a new girl in town who captures Jimmy's eye, and one of the band members needing an emergency operation. The musical numbers are good, if not particularly memorable. Mickey & Judy are terrific, as always. It's probably pretty corny stuff for those who aren't fans but, if you enjoy these types of movies, I'm sure you'll have a good time with this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Warning! The corn grows high and the sap flows freely! Overall, this is
my least favorite of the 4 B&W musical comedies, from '39 -'43,
starring Mickey and Judy. Most of these, including this one, were
actually musical extensions of the Andy Hardy series format. Hence,
extensive portions deal with the teenagers, usually led by Mickey, with
Judy's support, having to beg permission from authority figures,
including their parents, to put on a musical or dramatic show, and the
practical problems of securing financing and an adequate place to put
on the show.
In this one, Mickey, as the bored drummer for the High School band, leads a crusade to form a school-sponsored dance band, providing an opportunity for the other bored band members to play current pop music, and hopefully making some money for the school and themselves. Judy, backed by the rest of the glee club, will do most of the singing. The principal gives his hesitant OK. Thus, we have Busby Berkeley's spectacularly staged , manic, "La Conga" Latin-themed dance production. There would be the roughly equivalent manic production "Hoe Down" at this spot in the subsequent "Babes on Broadway"
Meanwhile, Mickey talks to his 'pal' Judy about the problem of his mother expecting him to become a doctor, like his dad, while he thinks he's cut out to be a musician. Later, we go through the same thing directly with his mother, in quite a sappy scene. She's initially upset, but eventually reluctantly agrees that he can try out his ambition. Later, when the Paul Whiteman band miraculously shows up in town for Barbara's birthday, Mickey is given an opportunity to turn professional when one of Whiteman's sidemen decides to form a new band. Initially ecstatic, Mickey's mother reminds him that he is the leader of the HS dance band and their ambition to win Whiteman's content on his radio show. She suggests that his leadership role in the local community is presently more important than starting a career elsewhere. Reluctantly, he agrees.
Also, meanwhile, Judy is dissatisfied with her status as Mickey's 'pal'. She wants to be his acknowledged girlfriend, expressed in song in "Nobody". Unfortunately, a very aggressive siren rich girl(June Preisser, as Barbara Morgan)has moved into town, and immediately starts working on Mickey(Why? He wasn't handsome, a star athlete, nor wealthy). Of course, Judy is jealous and Mickey very conflicted, but Judy decides an uneasy cooperation with Barbara is the best policy for the present. As things turn out, Barbara's father is the savior of the band's ambition to perform on the Whiteman show. At the last minute, one band member(Willie) needs a quick expensive operation, draining the money raised for the trip to the show(in a sappy scene).. Barbara's influential father is impressed, and he arranges for a quick train trip for the band. Before this episode, her father arranged for Whiteman's band to play at Barbara's birthday party, giving Whiteman a chance to hear the dance band, who play "Drummer Boy" with Whiteman's instruments, Mickey being the manic drummer, of course.
The biggest problem with the film is the long, mostly boring, New Rochelle archaic drama, in the middle. This includes all the stereotypical elements of bygone stage and silent film drama: a villain trying to take advantage of a destitute young woman(Judy), a savior(Mickey), who marries her, then eventually becomes a drunkard and wiles away all their money, the girl being tied to a train track for refusing to give into the villain, the savior tied to a log-cutting machine, about to be cut in half, and a guardian angel, in the form of their deceased son, coming to untie Mickey so he can save Judy. The purpose of putting on this show was to raise money for their trip to Whiteman.
After a sappy speech by Mickey, the big, somewhat flag-waving, finale mostly consists of reprisals of the major songs, with the Gershwin-composed title song the first and last featured. The most popular original song in the film: "Our Love Affair" is redone, with 4 large harps near the relevant Mickey-Judy couple. The first time this was played, Mickey wasn't thinking of Judy in a romantic context. This earlier rendition also included an animated nuts and fruit orchestra: a rather novel gimmick for its day.
This was the second and last time in this film series that dimpled, baby-faced, June Preisser played the obnoxious superrich siren competitor with Judy for Mickey's attention. Besides her looks and personality, she was known for her gymnastic dancing and contortion skill, which she very briefly gives samples of in this film. As in "Babes in Arms", she is directly or indirectly responsible for providing the money for the 'gang's' show biz ambitions. This time, she participates in several productions, including the finale, without the bitter competition with Judy for the lead female show role, as in "Babes in Arms". Her film career ended in the late '40s, when she was no longer wanted to play sexy high school girls.
Ann Shoemaker switched from playing Judy's mother in "Babes in Arms" to being Mickey's mother in this film.
Be sure to see the hilarious musical cartoon "Romeo in Rhythm", accompanying the current DVD.
"Strike Up the Band" is another teaming of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland who are of course put in the position of putting on a show to save a band, a school program for children, a school from closing, etc. You name it. It could be any of those things. Of all the movie musicals that were made in their heyday, these were the most bizarre, meaning while enjoyable and with good music still somewhat beyond belief. They always seemed to defy the odds, getting what they want, albeit with some obstacles along the way. This outing though is not quite as good as others, due to some of the supporting actors' not so subtle acting. Less is more is not an adage used here. In fact, there's nothing subtle here. Ann Shoemaker does give good support as his mother, with a nice speech about being a great man. But the length, its feeling of self-importance, and some awkward moments of corniness hurt its effectiveness. It is very enjoyable with great musical numbers for Mickey and Judy; but there's just so much of everything here, making it two whole hours, including a over-the-top tongue-in-cheek save-the-damsel production in the middle of the movie, lasting 15 minutes itself. I'm sure you'll enjoy it for what it is, but afterwards, you'll feel like you had a workout.
Of all the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musicals, this one does the least
to effectively showcase their musical talent. Mickey is allowed to
conduct a band as if his life depended on it, even though he's shown to
be an extremely talented guy with drums and other musical instruments.
And the story is strictly '40s corn about a talented youth who wants to achieve success with his own band and succeeds in attracting the attention of Paul Whiteman who wants him for a big radio show contest.
The songs are given short shrift in favor of a creaky melodramatic skit that is allowed to run far too long in the middle of the picture. Only a couple of songs are given fair treatment by Judy and Mickey.
A good script was badly needed to show these two performers at their best. This was not the case here. Too much time expended on letting Mickey's extravagant enthusiasm overshadow his more effective quieter moments.
Summing up: A disappointing and manipulative show, especially when it comes to those tear-jerker sentimental moments.
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