Today is the twenty-fifth day in #CleanMovieMonth here at PEPS. When choosing a month to celebrate Breen era films (1934-1954), July seemed like the logical choice. It was in July of 1929 that Martin Quigley originally mentioned his idea for a Motion Picture Production Code. It was in July of 1934 that the Production Code Administration was put in place. Thus, the beginning of the Code’s life was July 15, 1934. Because of this, we are dedicating this whole summer month to clean movies and decent entertainment. We are celebrating by writing about a different Code film every day.
My film choice for today is based on the fact that we are celebrating during one of the summer months. I am reviewing In the Good Old Summertime from 1949. This MGM period piece was a remake of an MGM film released in 1940. The movie of which I write is The Shop Around the Corner, which I reviewed for the Winter in July Blogathon and as part of #CleanMovieMonth on July 13. Featuring Judy Garland and Van Johnson, the 1949 remake is quite different than its original. Let’s analyse it.
Andrew Larkin is a hard-working young man who works in a music store. He likes his lovable but irascible employer, Otto Oberkugen. The other employees of the Oberkugen music store are Rudy Hansen, a timid, genial man, Hickey, Mr. Oberkugen’s bumbling nephew, and Nellie Burke, Mr. Oberkugen’s fiancé of twenty years. One day, Andrew stops at the post office to receive a letter from his “dear friend,” an anonymous female pen pal with whom he corresponds on intellectual matters. As he is leaving the building, he crashes into an unfortunate young woman. He tries to remedy the situation, but by the time he leaves, her entire wardrobe has been disastrously and comically destroyed. He feels very bad, so he offers to buy her a new outfit. She is furious because of the incident. When Andrew arrives at the store, he quarrels with Mr. Oberkugen about one hundred small harps which the latter bought but the former refuses to praise. Later that afternoon, a young woman comes into the store to apply for a job. Her name is Veronica Fischer, and she is the unfortunate lady from the post office. Mr. Oberkugen isn’t going to hire her, since he doesn’t really need more employees. However, she wins him over when she sells the first harp by singing and playing it. She is hired, and she proves very valuable at demonstrating music because of her lovely singing voice. Naturally, the relationship between Veronica and Andrew, which started so awkwardly, only worsens as they work together. However, Veronica is able to forget the trying aspects of the work day when she receives letters from her “dear friend,” a young man who writes beautifully spiritual letters to her. Although their literary relationship began with just cultural subjects, it has grown into a romantic relationship. She doesn’t know his name or his identity, but she knows his personality or soul, or so she thinks. Little does she know that her nemesis at the music store is really her beloved epistolary sweetheart! Andrew has a casual lady friend who is a very talented violinist, Louise Parkson. She nurtures a very deep love for him, but she fears that he only feels brotherly friendship toward her. He likes her, but his mysterious sweetheart of letters makes all other women pale in comparison to her high-minded loftiness. Meanwhile, Nellie has loved Otto for twenty years, but he has never proposed to her. Will his bashfulness keep them apart forever? Will Veronica and Andrew realize that they are the pen pals who have fallen in love? Will they still care for each other when they learn who they really are? Watch this movie to find out!
Veronica Fischer is played by Judy Garland. Andrew Larkin is played by Van Johnson. Otto Oberkugen is played by S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall. Nellie Burke is played by Spring Byington. Louise Parkson is played by Marcia Van Dyke. Rudy Hansen is played by Clinton Sundberg. Hickey is played by Buster Keaton.
Judy Garland sings a lot in this movie. However, it isn’t one of those musicals in which people break into song. All the songs are within context. In addition, none of the score is original music. All the songs are songs from the period, so you hear a lot of old favorites in this movie. Veronica sings “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland,” accompanying herself on the harp, on her first day at the music store. Later, she sings “Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey” as Andrew grudgingly accompanies her on the piano. At a party later in the film, a barber shop sings “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie.” Afterwards, Veronica sings “Play That Barbershop Chord” with them. The finale of the performance is a rousing rendition of Judy Garland’s funniest song, “I Don’t Care.” Complete with comical choreography, this song shows that director Robert Z. Leonard, the serious director of three Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movies, had a humorous side, which he also revealed in The Firefly from 1937. The vocal score is completed by a final solo for Veronica, “Merry Christmas.”
Mr. Oberkugen has a beautiful Stradivarius violin. Although he was very little skill or talent, he loves to play “Gavotte” by Gossec on the violin. Every time he is in a bad mood, he retreats to his office and fills the store with the horrible strains of his bad playing. There is also some beautiful violin playing in this film. Louise plays the violin on several occasions throughout the film. Marcia Van Dyke was really an excellent violinist, so she did all the violin playing for her role. Of course, “In the Good Old Summer Time” is sung by a chorus many times throughout the film.
This movie is clean, decent, and free from objection. It is a wholesome Code film. It is more of a light-hearted piece of entertainment than the original. The more serious elements of the original film were eliminated from this picture, being replaced with comedy and music. It’s a very enjoyable, memorable film. It is a good Code film, to be sure. It’s not perfect, since it doesn’t have the properly-handled difficult topics which were in The Shop Around the Corner. However, it’s something which should be enjoyed by film lover of all ages. I heartily recommend it to everyone!
As a side note, this is more a time than ever for people in my hometown to divert themselves with good Code films. The mountain community in which my family and I live, Idyllwild, California, is being threatened by a wildfire which broke out around noon today. Mandatory evacuations began later in the afternoon, and we are now safe at our grandmother’s house in the flatlands. We appreciate the thoughts and prayer which our community is receiving from throughout the world during this difficult time. Despite this crisis, we are going to try to keep our celebration of #CleanMovieMonth going. We’ll do our best to keep daily articles going, since it keeps our spirits up. The Code can help us through any crisis!
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We are lifting our voices in classical song to help the sun rise on a new day of pure entertainment!