Director: Charles Walters
Starring: Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Eddie Bracken, Phil Silvers
I make no secret of my love of musicals. MGM musicals of the forties and fifties are like crack to me. They will always be there for me. They will always make me happy. I can watch them a hundred times (and I have) and they won’t get old.
So I thought writing about some of my favorite non-list musicals might not be a bad idea.
I know that I alienated nearly all of my regular readers with the preceding paragraphs, but, well, I’ve had a really rough year and MGM musicals make me happy. Consider yourself warned.
Jane Falbury (Garland) is the beleaguered Falbury sister who is stuck running the family farm while younger sister Abigail runs around chasing her dreams of being on the stage. When Abigail, on a whim, brings an entire Off-Broadway show to the Falbury Farm with the idea of putting on the show on Jane’s premises, Jane balks at first, but Abigail’s boyfriend and show director Joe Ross (Kelly) convince her to allow the show biz folks to stay by providing Jane with necessary cheap farm labor in between rehearsals. Sparks fly between Jane and Joe, but Jane’s fiancé Orville (Bracken) and the fact that Joe is somewhat engaged to Jane’s sister are pretty big barriers. When Jane shows a hidden predilection for the stage, though, nothing can get in the way of true love.
Gene Kelly. Gene Kelly. Gene Kelly. Judy Garland. Gene Kelly AND Judy Garland.
Jesus Christ, I never stood a chance.
The plot of Summer Stock is not why one watches Summer Stock. It’s simplistic at best and requires more than a little suspension of disbelief. It’s one of the ultimate “let’s put on a show” musicals, a gag that was getting whiskers even in 1950.
But Gene Kelly. And Judy Garland. Falling hopelessly in love with each other. While singing and dancing.
Of all the gags in musicals, the “let’s put on a show” bit is not my favorite – even *I* admit it’s a bit silly – but… Gene Kelly is SO pretty. Were it not for him (and Judy), I would undoubtedly not be speaking so fondly of Summer Stock. For those keeping a record, he (along with Cary Grant) are in my Holy Trinity of Sexiest Classic Hollywood Actors. My feelings for Gene Kelly run deep, and looking back at my childhood, I’m pretty sure he’s the first adult actor (by that I mean not a teen heartthrob) that I had a crush on. My tag for him on tumblr is “eternal crush on Gene Kelly” because in the twenty-plus years I’ve been watching Gene Kelly movies, I have never not been in love with him.
And my goodness, if you love Gene Kelly, you NEED to put this movie in your eyeballs as soon as possible.
Reasons why Gene Kelly was never sexier than as Joe Ross in Summer Stock:
1. Quite literally, he spends the ENTIRE movie with either rolled up shirt sleeves or super tight short sleeves that show off his ridiculously sexy arms the ENTIRE TIME. I wish men realized just how sexy rolled up shirt sleeves are. Every time my husband comes home with rolled up shirt sleeves because it was hot at work, I want to jump his bones. Men, listen up: no matter your body type, ROLLED UP SHIRT SLEEVES. It works. It’s a godsend. And in this movie, ladies (and some gents, I’m sure), you get your fill of Gene in tight rolled up shirt sleeves. Unnnnnnnnnf…
2. Jeans. He wears JEANS. JEANS. ROLLED UP JEANS WITH LOAFERS. Gene Kelly was certainly known for being a bit more down-and-dirty than his cohort Fred Astaire, but still, he rarely wore jeans. HE DOES HERE. And if you don’t understand why I find that so ridiculously attractive, then I’m sorry, I can’t explain it to you. BECAUSE JEANS. ON GENE KELLY. KILL ME NOW.
3. He does quite a lot of macking. For the first half of the film, when his character is still pretty devoted to Abigail, every time they are in the same room, they greet one another by making out for as long as the Hays Code would allow. And in the second half of the film, he finally gets to start macking on Judy Garland. There is a LOT of kissing Gene Kelly in this flick. GOD BLESS.
4. Joe Ross is quite possibly the sweetest character Kelly ever played. In most of his musicals, Kelly’s character usually has some slightly dark or even misogynistic streak. In both On the Town and Anchors Aweigh, for example, he plays a sailor intent on getting as much booty as he possibly can until the right girl wins his heart. Even in Singin’ in the Rain, his character is called out for being egotistical at the beginning of the film. In nearly all the other films I’ve seen of his, Kelly’s character is one who starts out as brash/arrogant/egotistical until he meets The One Girl who wins his heart and changes his ways. But not so in Summer Stock. As Joe Ross, he starts as so ridiculously, endearingly honest and kind and caring that we know from the get go that silly, materialistic Abigail is NOT right for him, that only honest, kind, and caring Jane will do. He’s so winning from the get go, he’s practically the epitome of Prince Charming. Joe Ross, as a character, is basically a female wet dream written into one person. He tells Jane that he won’t marry her sister unless he can guarantee their financial stability. STAHP IT YOU’RE KILLING ME. He is overcome with guilt by his feelings for Jane due to his obligation to Abigail and doesn’t want to hurt either lady. DEAD I AM DEAD YOU DEADED ME. It’s only when Jane effectively ends her “relationship” with Orville, and when Abigail runs away from the show and Joe (oh sorry, spoilers? Eh, I don’t care, the movie is 65 years old) that Joe finally feels alright with making a move on Jane. I adore a man with principle and holy crap, but Joe has principle.
Okay, so I have an undying obsession with Gene Kelly. But believe it or not, he’s not the only reason to watch this movie (if you like musicals. Because if you don’t like musicals, just give the whole thing a pass).
|Oh dear lord the chest hair.|
Yes, I love Gene Kelly, but I also love Judy Garland. And not the Judy from The Wizard of Oz (which, ironically, is probably my least favorite Garland flick). No, I love the Judy Garland from other movie musicals, the one who was allowed to be an adult and allowed to have breasts and play the breathy, shaky female lead love interest. Judy Garland had such irrefutable star quality. I once read a quote that said that she was the only dancing partner Gene Kelly ever had who drew your eyes to her more than to him (debatable, given my obsession with Kelly, but I get the gist of the argument and it’s a valid point). In Summer Stock, Garland is just as luminous as always. And yes, although she was going through personal hell off screen during the filming, it doesn’t show on the screen. She is so pretty, so gorgeous, so loveable, I just want to take her and cuddle her and tell her it will be alright. I could get lost in those big, beautiful brown eyes.
And shut up about pairing Judy with Gene. Take a male actor I am desperately in love with and put him up against a female actress who brims with gorgeous geniality, and I’m a goner. The internet even informs me that there’s a name for the pair of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly: Jugenea. Apparently. Well, whatever the name is, Judy is easily my favorite pairing for Gene Kelly, probably because she has such inherent star quality in her to provide a suitable pairing to his RIDICULOUS SEXINESS.
The dancing is top-notch, but I wouldn’t expect any less from a Gene Kelly musical. His first number, Dig for Your Dinner, is a Kelly solo, and god bless for that. His dancing duet with Judy, Portland Fancy, at the local dance, is so ridiculously cute and sweet you’ll get tooth decay. But the two show stoppers are later solo numbers. The first is the obvious Get Happy, Garland’s defining moment in more ways than one, where Jane finally embraces her interest in the stage and performs in the production with all the gusto that we expect from Judy. Judy Garland has never been sexier than she is in that number, wearing a smart costume of suit jacket and little else, letting her legs stretch on forever. If Summer Stock is remembered for nothing else, it will be that number, and rightfully so. It’s iconic. The other show stopper is Kelly’s later solo, You, Beautiful You, a gorgeous empty-stage piece where Joe just can’t help but dance about his feeling after having first kissed Jane. Kelly choreographed the piece and it shows the brilliance that was to come a few years later in Singin’ in the Rain. Kelly needs only a creaky floorboard and a few sheets of newspaper to make an utterly beguiling dance number, one that even Steve at 1001plus likes! Seriously, if you like musicals, Summer Stock delivers on the musical number side.
And that’s just Gene and Judy. Phil Silvers and especially Eddie Bracken are such superb comic relief in this film. Eddie Bracken steals nearly every scene he’s in as Jane’s practical fiancé who is allergic to pretty much everything under the sun. Phil Silvers is as goofy as always (if truth be told, more obnoxious than goofy), but I love him because he brings out Gene Kelly’s goofy side. One of my favorite things about Gene Kelly is that he was never afraid to let himself look like a fool, and every time he’s paired with Phil Silvers, you know they’ll have at least one utterly ridiculous song together. In fact, every time I get too wrapped up in my Gene Kelly fixation, my husband likes to show me a picture from Summer Stock of one of his duets with Phil Silvers to knock him off his sexy pedestal just a bit.
|Nope, still sexy.|
If I may go off on a tangent (like I haven’t already), I showed this film to my good friend Angie (who shares my Gene Kelly obsession) and naturally, she immediately fell in love. Like I said, if you love Gene Kelly, you need this movie. Regardless, there is one scene where Eddie Bracken and Phil Silvers, both of whom wear glasses, bump into one another, knock off each other’s glasses, then put the wrong glasses on. Angie, in all her fangirl awesomeness, immediately started talking about shipping them together. And now that’s all I can think. I love to imagine that Orville and Herb run off together and have very nebbish gay sex together at the end of this movie. Thanks, Angie. You did this to me.
Is this one of the best movies ever made? No. Is it one of my favorite movies? Yes. Do I recognize its shortcomings? Yes, empirically I recognize that this is not Citizen Kane. Do I care about its shortcomings? Hell no. Will this movie always make me happy regardless of my mood? YES.
Arbitrary Rating: I’m giving this a very personal 10/10. It has flaws, for sure, but my love of it overrides the flaws. Gene Kelly, get in my pants.