100 New Code Films – #87. “Summer Stock” from 1950; Gene and the Lady Farmer

100 New Code Films

Today is Saturday, which is the day on which I usually publish the week’s first 100 New Code Films article. In all but four weeks of 2020, I publish two articles in this series here at PEPS, equaling 100 articles in all this year. These articles are reviews of American Breen Era (1934-1954) films which I have watched for the first time during the week. This gives me a great opportunity to couple blogathon entries which articles I’m already planning on writing.

Summer Stock - Wikipedia

Today’s topic is Summer Stock from 1950. This is one of the last Judy Garland films which I hadn’t seen, so I’ve been wanting to watch it for a while to get closer to completing her Breen Era filmography. I now only have three more of her movies to watch, Pigskin Parade (1936), Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937), and Everybody Sing (1938). When I heard about a blogathon honoring Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, I decided this was a great opportunity to write about this third and final pairing of him and Judy Garland. I watched this film on Amazon Prime Video on Sunday.

Summer Stock (MGM, 1950). Folded, Very Fine-. Half Sheet (22" X | Lot  #55438 | Heritage Auctions

Plot

A lady farmer in New England is struggling to make ends meet, especially after the two farm hands quit because they haven’t been paid in months. The young lady and her faithful cook are the only ones left, but she hopes that her flighty, pampered younger sister will soon come to the farm from New York to help. In the meantime, she persuades the pushy storekeeper, who has had her engaged to his bashful son since childhood, to give her a tractor on credit. The first day she uses the beautiful new tractor, her sister arrives, but not to work on the farm. She comes with a troupe of performers, whom she has promised access to their barn for putting on a show. She also is the leading lady of the show and the current sweetheart of the director. The older sister is appalled by this development, and the director is horrified to learn that the lady farm wasn’t given prior warning. She wants to throw them out, but her sister persuades her not to. As the show goes on, she forces the actors to help around the farm, although they often prove to be more destructive than helpful. She is surprised, however, to feel herself discovering kindness and sincerity in the director, who notices that she has acting and dancing talent, too.

Summer Stock (MGM, 1950) Folded, Fine/Very Fine. Six Sheet (80" X | Lot  #53381 | Heritage Auctions

Cast

This movie stars Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and Gloria DeHaven. Supporting actors include Eddie Bracken, Marjorie Main, Phil Silvers, Ray Collins, and Nita Bieber.

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE: SUMMER STOCK: A 1950 REVIEW

Production Notes

This movie was directed by Charles Walters. It was produced by Joe Pasternak. The production company was MGM. The screenplay was written by George Wells and Sy Gomberg. The story was written by Sy Gomberg. Since this is a musical, it contains four songs which were copyrighted by Harry Warren Music, Inc., all of which featured music by Harry Warren and three with lyrics by Mack Gordon and one with lyrics by Jack Brooks and Saul Chaplin. It also contains two other songs by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon which aren’t listed with specific copyright dates of 1950. In addition, there are two songs by Saul Chaplin. This movie was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award (Screen), Best Written American Musical for George Wells and Sy Gomberg.

Summer Stock (MGM, 1950). Half Sheet (22" X 28") Style B. Musical.. | Lot  #54378 | Heritage Auctions

Code Compliance

This is a fair Code film. For the most part, it is very Code-compliant. However, it contains a few elements which do not meet the Motion Picture Production Code’s standards. The main thing is two musical numbers which are sacrilegious. Both are in the style of a revival meeting. The first is called “Dig-Dig-Dig Dig for Your Dinner,” and it begins with a mock revival meeting hosted by Gene Kelly, in which Phil Silvers does a comical Southern accent. The other sacrilegious number is Judy Garland’s famous “Get Happy” finale of the show. This is one of her best moments, since she looks significantly thinner than in the rest of the film. The singing is peppy, and the choreography is entertaining. However, the theme of the song’s lyrics are religious in nature, and it is somewhat sacrilegious because of the jazzy rhythm, the energetic dancing, and Judy Garland’s very short costume. The number is great, but it would have been better if a different song had been used. Other than those two points, this is a very decent and wholesome movie.

Summer Stock (1950) blu-ray movie title

Recommendation

I recommend this film. It is certainly not the greatest musical I have seen from either of the stars, but it is enjoyable. Even if you don’t know the backstory of the troubled production and Judy Garland’s struggles at the time, you can see that she is not at her best here. She looks significantly heavier in many scenes. Although she looks a bit dowdy in the plainer farm costumes, I appreciate that producer Joe Pasternak did not force her to diet, as other producers did. Also, she looks more like a farm girl when a little rounder, so it works for this role. I think she gives a good performance in this role. Her voice sounds good, and I enjoyed the musical numbers. I really liked the number she sang while driving her new tractor, “Happy Harvest.” She also performed “Get Happy” really well. I was impressed by the tapdancing skills she displayed in this film. Gene Kelly was good in his part, too. His solo dance, comprised of unique sounds made by a squeaking board, a crumpled newspaper, etc., was really impressive. Phil Silvers was hilarious in this film, in his really crazy way. Gloria De Haven is fairly cute but also sufficiently obnoxious as the selfish sister. Eddie Bracken is really funny as Orville, playing the poindexter part which he did so well. Marjorie Main plays the housekeeper, Jane’s (Judy Garland) righthand woman, with skill and dispatch. Although the plot is not very complex, the great cast makes it a very enjoyable film.

For the Blogathon

This is my second article in With Glamour & Panache: A Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly Musicals Blogathon, which is hosted by Heidi of Along the Brandywine. This blogathon honors two musical greats, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.

Gene Kelly does Summer Stock – Once upon a screen…

Summer Stock is a fun musical which is more in the style of an Arthur Freed production than a Pasternak unit film. Musical fans will enjoy it. It contains a mixed group of numbers which are diverse and entertaining. The hayseed number which Gene Kelly and Phil Silvers perform together is really funny, featuring oversized feet and magically appearing dogs. If you are a fan of Gene Kelly, you must add this musical to your watchlist!

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2 thoughts on “100 New Code Films – #87. “Summer Stock” from 1950; Gene and the Lady Farmer

  1. I’ve seen two scenes from this movie, the newspaper scene and “Get Happy” (which is one of my favorite songs from Judy!). I actually had heard the song so many times before I watched it that I was pretty surprised with the costume choice. This is one of the movies that is the highest on my to-watch list!

    MovieCritic | Movies Meet Their Match

    Liked by 1 person

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