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As a favor to her actress sister Abigail, New England farmer Jane Falbury allows a group of actors use her barn as a theater for their play. In return, the cast and crew have to help her with the farm chores. During rehearsals, Jane finds herself falling for the show's director, Joe Ross, who also happens to be engaged to the show's leading lady-- Abigail. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The number "Heavenly Music" was originally a trio with Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers and Judy Garland. Garland didn't show up to work the day of shooting and they filmed the scene without her. In the scene immediately following (but shot out of sequence) Kelly, Silvers and Garland are all in the "hayseed" costumes. See more »
During the "Newspaper Dance" Gene Kelly wads up a full sheet of newspaper, drops it, then kicks it. It lands near the risers to the right of the frame. It is still there when he dances up the risers. In the next scene it is gone as he walks past where it was. See more »
Traditional New England contra dance tune
Played and danced to by the townspeople at the social
Swing version danced to by the stock company members, then by Gene Kelly and Judy Garland See more »
About 20 minutes into the film, Judy, whose two old geeky farm laborers have suddenly up and left her in the lurch, goes to town and buys a brand-new shiny tractor from her even geek-ier boyfriend (Eddie Bracken) and his overbearing father (Ray Collins).
As Judy drives the tractor back to her farm, she sings this wonderfully hokey but somewhat bizarre song entitled "Howdy, Neighbor!" with music by the phenomenal Harry Warren (of 1930's Warner Bros/Busby Berkeley musical fame) and lyrics by Mack David. Technically, the song keeps twisting and turning in terms of it's harmonies, phrase lengths and rhyme schemes, as if the creators were having a great time turning what should be a simple, straightforward country tune into a sophisticated musical "brain-teaser" which never goes quite where you expect it to.
This sequence features two of the most god-awful jump-cut edits in film history, as the background ABRUPTLY changes, while Judy just keeps chuggin' along (one of these edits occurs BEFORE she pulls into town for gas, the other as she is LEAVING the town).
While she's gassing up, she is surrounded by one of the goofiest assortment of extras you'll ever see, including this strange, very tall young woman who is dressed in a sort of pre-hippie ensemble of purples and blacks, complete with a cooley-style hat hanging on her back; how this could POSSIBLY pass for 1950 backwoods garb is beyond me. As Judy sings to this motley assortment, she actually tells them that they will be "blessed with crispy lettuce in your jeans", which they all cheerfully shout back at her (as the studio back-up chorus takes over for them). I assume that the reference is to money, which used to be referred to as "lettuce".
At the very end of the song, as Judy belts out the final note with an almost-paralyzing gusto, the camera hovers above her open mouth for what seems like an eternity, as we seem perilously close to hurtling down her gullet; it's amazingly over-the-top, and Judy's final little expression to the camera, as if to say, "Man, I thought that note would NEVER end", perhaps lets us know that the entire number is perhaps intended to be a bit of a "send-up."
What does all of this have to do with the film?? Not much, really. It's just so...well....unique. This song is the only extended instance of outdoor location shooting in the film, and it's such a great example of that bright, innocent, up-beat early 50's feeling that seems to have totally vanished from films today, and indeed our world as a whole.
Summer Stock, while not really top-drawer MGM stuff, is a VERY enjoyable film, a spirited variation on the "let's put on a show in the barn" routine, with Jean and Judy as captivating as always. Marjorie Main, Eddie Bracken, and Hans Conreid are just some of the wonderful supporting players, and Phil Silvers (in those rare moments when he isn't doing his annoying, manic "Aren't I funny?" business) is also in fine form.
Gene and Phil Silver's "Heavenly Music" number near the end,(complete with blacked-out teeth, giant rubber feet, yodeling, barking dogs, etc) is MGM at its most outlandish and wacky, a nice way for the big-city theatre people to poke fun at the locals who resent them so keenly. And then there are the lovely ballads, and the film's real highlight, Mr.Kelly's late-night, squeaky floorboard, newspaper-shuffling solo dance routine in the barn.
Lots of good old-fashioned, classy fun. Is a dvd release in the future??
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