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The Harvey Girls
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The Harvey Girls More at IMDbPro »

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Index 51 reviews in total 

24 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Splendid example of the well-crafted musicals dished out of MGM's golden bowl

8/10
Author: classicfilmarchives from Hollywood, California
17 April 2002

"The Harvey Girls" is a splendid example of a well-crafted Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical from a time when well-crafted musicals were being dished out in abundance from Metro's golden bowl.

Inspired by the revolutionary success of "Oklahoma" on Broadway and tailored to fit the protean talents of it's young leading lady, Judy Garland, the film tells the story, in words and music, of a group of waitresses brought west in the late 1800's to open another link in the Fred Harvey chain of restaurants. In the process, they encounter all kinds of romantic and dramatic conflicts. The cast is headed by Judy Garland, fresh from her triumph in the blockbuster musical "Meet Me In St. Louis" and her quietly moving dramatic performance in "The Clock". During the filming of "The Harvey Girls", Garland was one of the top box-office draws in the nation, and Hollywood's most versatile actress. She performs the role of Susan Bradley, an adventurous mail order bride who befriends the Harvey girls en route to New Mexico, with a vibrant comic touch. Her ability to combine tongue in cheek humor with her signature vulnerability is very satisfying in this film, and is an early highlight in her already legendary career.

The rest of the cast is first-rate: Angela Lansbury gives a wickedly fine performance as Em, the jaded dance-hall queen with hooded eyes and no-flies-on-me attitude. John Hodiak is the local tough guy and dance-hall owner, and also the object of Garland and Lansbury's affections. Broadway legend (and Garland's "Wizard of Oz" co-star) Ray Bolger does an amusing turn as the town's rubber legged blacksmith, and Preston Foster is the murderous Judge Purvis. The ranks of the Harvey girls are filled by some of Hollywood's most marvelous character actresses, including Marjorie Main and Virginia O'Brien, and the dancer Cyd Charisse in one of her first roles.

The film boasts what New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther appreciatively called "an abundance of chromatic spectacle and an uncommonly good score", the centerpiece of which is the Academy Award-winning song of the year (1946), "On The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe". This production number fills the screen with the colorful bustle of singers, dancers, and horses, and in the best Broadway tradition, advances the plot by introducing almost every cast member and giving them the opportunity to tell their story, in song, and their motivation for coming west in the first place. A spectacular bit of Golden Age musical magic, topped off by Garland's star turn entrance and full-throated belting of the Johnny Mercer/Harry Warren song.

The creative team behind this fable is as impressive as the talent in front of the camera. In addition to the score by Mercer and Warren, the film was directed by George Sidney ("Show Boat", "Annie Get Your Gun"), produced by Arthur Freed ("Singin In The Rain", "Gigi"), art directed by Cedric Gibbons ("The Great Zeigfeld", "The Wizard of Oz"), with musical direction by Lennie Hayton, orchestrations by Conrad Salinger, and musical arrangements by "Eloise" children's book author and singer Kay Thompson (a decade before she sizzled onscreen as the fashion magazine editor in the Audrey Hepburn classic "Funny Face").

This film will include restored Technicolor and stereo sound on DVD, and also a few musical numbers which were cut when the film was released due to length, and have been locked away in the MGM vaults. Now they have been restored, and the viewer can enjoy more of what film critic Howard Barnes called "a great big animated picture postcard."

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15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

They just don't make 'em like this anymore

Author: john clerkin from California
6 July 2003

Ah...The Harvey Girls!

What can I say? In the mood for a little escapism? Do you enjoy classic Hollywood musicals? This MGM extravaganza is not to be missed!

Garland at her winsome best in material specifically tailored to her considerable talents - this is just before everything really started to sour in her professional life, and she never looked better. The material she's given to work with not only gives her the classic "Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe" to perform, but some wonderful comedic bits as well.

In the ensemble numbers, you can actually see her, as well as the rest of the cast, enjoying the moment as they filmed.

Beautifully photographed - a superb supporting cast who all get a moment to shine including Ray Bolger, Virginia O'brien, Marjorie Main, a very young Cyd Charisse and a stunning young Angela Lansbury.

MGM at the peak of it's creative and artistic powers - must see viewing for any fan of "The Golden Age" of Hollywood - check it out!

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

The "Oklahoma" influence is felt on this western musical...

Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
10 May 2001

With Broadway still under the spell of musicals like "Oklahoma", MGM's Arthur Freed was inspired to make a western musical. Originally designed for Lana Turner, the script was altered and songs added to make it a perfect vehicle for Judy Garland. The songs by Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren included two standouts: "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" and "It's A Great Big World".

Judy gives an inspired performance and belts out her songs with gusto, particularly effective in the big set piece, "Atchison", which is photographed and choreographed with great precision to produce a dazzling show-stopping number. The film opened to great reviews and was a big box-office hit in the summer of '46.

Don't believe the "sour grapes" reviews claiming the film is dated and mediocre. It's anything but that. If you enjoy MGM musicals at the height of their popularity with film-goers, you'll enjoy this one! Marjorie Main is a treat, Selena Royle is dignified, Kenny Baker does wonders with a ballad and Cyd Charisse has a couple of nice numbers. It's nice to see Ray Bolger sharing scenes with Judy again, their first reunion since "Oz". The big surprise is Angela Lansbury as the garishly costumed dancehall hostess--a far cry from her "Murder She Wrote" image.

Understandably, "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" won the Academy Award for Best Song, as well as a nomination for Best Scoring of a dramatic or comedy film.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Splendid example of the well-crafted musicals dished out of MGM's golden bowl

8/10
Author: classicfilmarchives from Hollywood, California
17 April 2002

"The Harvey Girls" is a splendid example of a well-crafted Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical from a time when well-crafted musicals were being dished out in abundance from Metro's golden bowl.

Inspired by the revolutionary success of "Oklahoma" on Broadway and tailored to fit the protean talents of it's young leading lady, Judy Garland, the film tells the story, in words and music, of a group of waitresses brought west in the late 1800's to open another link in the Fred Harvey chain of restaurants. In the process, they encounter all kinds of romantic and dramatic conflicts.

The cast is headed by Judy Garland, fresh from her triumph in the blockbuster musical "Meet Me In St. Louis" and her quietly moving dramatic performance in "The Clock". During the filming of "The Harvey Girls", Garland was one of the top box-office draws in the nation, and Hollywood's most versatile actress. She performs the role of Susan Bradley, an adventurous mail order bride who befriends the Harvey girls en route to New Mexico, with a vibrant comic touch. Her ability to combine tongue in cheek humor with her signature vulnerability is very satisfying in this film, and is an early highlight in her already legendary career.

The rest of the cast is first-rate: Angela Lansbury gives a wickedly fine performance as Em, the jaded dance-hall queen with hooded eyes and no-flies-on-me attitude. John Hodiak is the local tough guy and dance-hall owner, and also the object of Garland and Lansbury's affections. Broadway legend (and Garland's "Wizard of Oz" co-star) Ray Bolger does an amusing turn as the town's rubber legged blacksmith, and Preston Foster is the murderous Judge Purvis. The ranks of the Harvey girls are filled by some of Hollywood's most marvelous character actresses, including Marjorie Main and Virginia O'Brien, and the dancer Cyd Charisse in one of her first roles.

The film boasts what New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther appreciatively called "an abundance of chromatic spectacle and an uncommonly good score", the centerpiece of which is the Academy Award-winning song of the year (1946), "On The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe". This production number fills the screen with the colorful bustle of singers, dancers, and horses, and in the best Broadway tradition, advances the plot by introducing almost every cast member and giving them the opportunity to tell their story, in song, and their motivation for coming west in the first place. A spectacular bit of Golden Age musical magic, topped off by Garland's star turn entrance and full-throated belting of the Johnny Mercer/Harry Warren song.

The creative team behind this fable is as impressive as the talent in front of the camera. In addition to the score by Mercer and Warren, the film was directed by George Sidney ("Show Boat", "Annie Get Your Gun"), produced by Arthur Freed ("Singin In The Rain", "Gigi"), art directed by Cedric Gibbons ("The Great Zeigfeld", "The Wizard of Oz"), with musical direction by Lennie Hayton, orchestrations by Conrad Salinger, and musical arrangements by "Eloise" children's book author and singer Kay Thompson (a decade before she sizzled onscreen as the fashion magazine editor in the Audrey Hepburn classic "Funny Face").

This film will include restored Technicolor and stereo sound on DVD, and also a few musical numbers which were cut when the film was released due to length, and have been locked away in the MGM vaults. Now they have been restored, and the viewer can enjoy more of what film critic Howard Barnes called "a great big animated picture postcard."

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13 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

No Vincente Minelli -- and it shows

7/10
Author: Doug Phillips (janabro@aol.com) from Seattle, Washington
4 August 1999

The first person you see is Judy Garland singing an infinitely forgettable song.

For the most part it goes up from there.

This is a film that Vincente Minelly did not direct and even though it shows Judy at her demure best he had a knack for bringing out the best in her performances.

Surprisingly enough, this is not an entirely inaccurate history of the women that opened up the West -- just as much as the men did.

For those that do not know -- Fred Harvey was a railroad tycoon and visionary that realized that the United States could only expand Westward -- and he was there to help fulfill that dream.

His chain of "Railroad Hotels" (some of which still exist) and the women that staffed them, helped to civilize parts of the United States that were raw and uncultured.

This is one of those incredible films that has every face you have ever seen in a movie -- even if you do not always know their names: Ray Bolger, Preston Foster, Virginia O'Brien, John Hodiak, Angela Lansbury, Marjorie Main, Chill Wills and even Cyd Charisse.

This is cameo paradise and there is a character and face there for everyone.

The songs, the costumes, the sets and everything BUT the dialogue and story are top notch. But who needs a good script when you have a cast of STARS! (Especially Judy Garland.)

Take the good parts from this movie and try to pretend the rest never happened.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A List Of Passengers That's Pretty Big Who All Want Lifts To Brown's Hotel

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
10 June 2009

The Harvey Girls, a film to celebrate the first of the fast food chains which quite frankly would be what the Harvey Restaurant chain was back in the modernizing west. There are folks in the town who don't want to see the Harvey Restaurant established and thereby hangs the tale of this film.

Preston Foster is the town boss and John Hodiak runs the saloon. These guys thrive on the town being in the Wild West accent on the wild. Foster's a rather shrewd villain, he realizes that the clean cut virginal Harvey girls who are servers might make the men forget the loose women of the saloon and that if they court and marry them and start raising families, they might demand a little law and order. That would be a disaster for Foster. Better to cut the problem off at the root.

Hodiak however is a jaded sort and bored with the loose women of his establishment. In a cinema not under the Code influence, Angela Lansbury and her crew would be prostitutes. He kind of likes the idea of the Harvey Restaurant coming to town and likes it better when Judy Garland comes to town.

Judy's come to town as a mail order bride, but when she sees Chill Wills is the prospective groom, both of them decide they're not suited for each other. Hodiak has been writing Wills's letters, a plot device that was used in the Joseph Cotten-Jennifer Jones film Love Letters. If you know about that film, you know how The Harvey Girls turns out.

The Harvey Girls has come down in cinema history because of the famous On The Atchison, Topeka, And The Santa Fe number. The song itself won an Academy Award in 1946 for best original song and the number as staged by MGM is one of the longest and most complex in the annals of film. It runs about 20 minutes and just about every member of the cast except Hodiak and Foster get a line or two in the song. Of course it ends with Judy as well it should have.

One thing I don't understand though is the under use of both Ray Bolger and Kenny Baker. Bolger of course had co-starred with Judy in The Wizard Of Oz, but he was far more known for being a Broadway star than a film player. He had just come off a big run in the last Rodgers&Hart musical By Jupiter. Kenny Baker was a famous radio singer who also had starred on Broadway in Kurt Weill's One Touch Of Venus with Mary Martin. Why these guys got the supporting roles they did is a mystery to me. I suspect both of them had a lot of their parts end up on the cutting room floor.

MGM editing mastery was at its best in The Harvey Girls. The film was partially done on location and partially done at Culver City. The editing is so smooth you really can't tell.

Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer wrote the score for The Harvey Girls and while the Atchison number dwarfs the rest, there's a song called It's A Great Big World that gets sadly neglected. It was sung by Judy Garland, Virginia O'Brien, and someone dubbing Cyd Charisse who first got noticed in this film for her dancing.

As I said before if done today if some gazillionaire would finance a remake, Angela and her saloon girls would be portrayed more frankly as working girls. But that would also cause the film to lose some of its naive charm. And this film holds up quite well for 63 years and counting.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Judy Garland at full steam...

6/10
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
1 October 2005

Very appealing MGM musical with wonderful songs, colorful production, Judy Garland at the peak of her feisty charms. In the burgeoning days of train transportation, women are needed to work the eateries scattered throughout the Southwest; in a small New Mexico town, Judy decides to ditch her mail-order marriage for a waitressing job, but she soon finds love again. "On The Atchinson, Topeka and The Santa Fe" won a Best Song Oscar, and deservedly so; this grand number gets the full treatment, and is so exuberantly staged it becomes a classic by itself. The picture does runs short of ideas and inspiration near the end, leading to a poorly-staged romantic finale, yet the supporting cast is excellent, particularly Angela Lansbury as a jealous showgirl. *** from ****

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A fully-balanced musical film with something for everyone.

8/10
Author: movibuf1962 from Washington, DC
28 August 2006

Even though the film starred Judy Garland, what I really enjoyed about The Harvey Girls is that it operates as an ensemble musical, giving features and spotlight numbers to just about everyone in the mammoth cast. This kind of thing is usually reserved for stage musicals only, but back in 1946 MGM's roster of talent was strong, if not yet infamous. Players like deadpan comic Virginia O'Brien and dancer Cyd Charisse were fairly new back then, but this film gives them individual spotlights: not only do they both sing with Garland in the nighttime ballad "It's A Great Big World," but O'Brien gets to sing "The Wild, Wild West" (while assisting blacksmith Ray Bolger in shoeing a horse) and Charisse gets to dance (briefly) opposite Kenny Baker singing "Wait And See." Marjorie Main leads the Harvey waitresses through "The Train Must Be Fed;" Angela Lansbury is featured in two saloon numbers, and Ray Bolger gets to do some of his rubber-legged clowning at the Harvey House party. And, of course, everyone on the planet is assembled for the big, eight minute production number "On The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe." There's literally something for everyone- even the oil-and-water romance between Garland and John Hodiak. And they shine as well, even if Hodiak wasn't the most well-known leading man. Check out this wonderfully scored, written, acted, and costumed tribute to old-fashioned Americana.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Good Light Entertainment

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
24 September 2004

This works quite well as light entertainment. It has a good cast, with Judy Garland giving a lively performance in the lead role. The setting is rather stylized, but it is interesting, and it provides some good story material. The story has quite a few amusing moments, with just enough substance to keep it moving. There is also the top-notch "Atchison, Topeka, & the Santa Fe" number, which would almost make a musical worth watching all by itself.

The story of the conflict between the "Harvey Girls" and their rivals across the road is sometimes a little exaggerated, but it is relatively interesting and it makes for some good sequences. The female cast members get most of the best moments, and they generally use them well. Angela Lansbury seems quite natural as Garland's disagreeable nemesis, Virginia O'Brien has some good lines, and Marjorie Main is quite lively. There's more than enough to make it an enjoyable, if light, feature.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Too much music: not enough action

6/10
Author: coreybryant59 from United States
26 December 2007

Arthur Freed is noted for his musical productions, but this movie is choked with too many songs and lack of story content. One can learn to like it, though, and I particularly like the performance of Judy Garland and Virginia O'Brien. John Hodiak sort of reminds me of Clark Gable in GONE WITH THE WIND---his easy-going nature and good humor. It's refreshing to see Angela Lansbury as a young woman and there are some hilarious moments, such as when Judy Garland gets the Harvey House's beef back with her errant Colt pistol. But, as I said, this movie is too full of songs and not enough story content. In all fairness, I have to put a fair rating for it.

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