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Talented small-town girl Lily Mars hounds producer John Thornway for a part in his new play, but he doesn't want anything to do with stage-struck amateurs. But when Lily follows him to New York, he gets to know her better and his opinion of her changes for the better. Then, when the leading lady of the play walks out, Lily gets her big break on Broadway. Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
Presenting Lily Mars may have provided Judy Garland with one of the easier roles she had while at MGM because Lily Mars is definitely a character she could identify with. A young girl with talent enough for ten, she knows she has what it takes to make it in the theater no matter how much producer Van Heflin from her home town discourages her.
I really liked Judy in this one as the girl determined to make it in the theater. Because it is Judy Garland with the talent of Judy Garland you in the audience know she has the right stuff even if it takes Van Heflin nearly the whole movie to be convinced.
Both Judy and Heflin hail from the same small town, Heflin's dad was the town doctor who delivered her and Heflin while he may have moved away and become a big producer on Broadway, their respective moms, Fay Bainter and Spring Byington have kept in touch. That's her entrée, but Heflin's constantly barraged with stagestruck kids, but never anyone quite like Lily Mars.
No real big song hits came out of Presenting Lily Mars for Garland, though she sings all her numbers. The best in the film is a revival of that gaslight era chestnut, Every Little Movement Has A Meaning All Its Own. Judy sings it with Connie Gilchrist playing the cleaning lady in a Broadway theater where Heflin's show is being produced. Gilchrist was a star back in the days of the FloraDora Girls and she and Judy deliver the song in grand style with Connie. It's the best scene in the film as Gilchrist encourages Judy to keep at it. Composer Karl Hoschna had died a long time ago, but lyricist Otto Harbach was still alive and I'm betting he liked what he heard.
European musical star Marta Eggerth is in Presenting Lily Mars as the show's star who's at first bemused, then angry and finally, understanding of Garland and Heflin. She did a couple of films with MGM and then went back to Europe for more work on the continent. I'm betting MGM didn't quite know what to do with her and her thick Hungarian accent, though Louis B. Mayer never met a soprano he didn't like.
Van Heflin does well as the patient producer who puts up with a lot from Garland and Eggerth. Heflin was just coming off his Oscar for Johnny Eager the previous year and he and Garland wouldn't appear to be an ideal screen team, but they're not bad together.
Presenting Lily Mars is a fine showcase for the talents of Judy Garland. And she didn't have to share the screen in another backstage film with Mickey Rooney.
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