100 Years of Judy
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of screen icon Judy Garland, who will forever be known for playing Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” To celebrate, Warner Archive has released two new to blu-ray movies from Garland’s time with the studio that made her famous, MGM. From 1942 we have Garland paired alongside a making his screen debut Gene Kelly in “For Me And My Gal,” then from 1945 we have Garland in a rare non-musical in the romantic wartime comedy/drama “The Clock.”
“For Me And My Gal” marked a few firsts for the two lead stars. It was another MGM musical coming from the studio’s legendary Freed unit headed by producer Arthur Freed, who produced nearly every single one of the studio’s famous musicals. It’s one of the lesser-known black and white musicals the studio made. For Judy Garland, it was the first time she was given a role with a chance to show off her dramatic skills. For Gene Kelly, it was his first time on the big screen in a role that Garland lobbied for the unproven Kelly to have after seeing him in a Broadway show.
Directed by Busby Berkeley and set during the era of Vaudeville in the days leading up to World War One, “For Me And My Gal” is the story of traveling performers who at first clash with each other backstage at a theater, then through a series of conversations, start to fall in love. Garland is great in the film, and her romance with Kelly is great. Kelly starts as a cocky and arrogant star, then mellows as he begins to fall for Judy. What’s surprising about the film is how sure-footed and strong Kelly is in his debut film.
Garland took Kelly under her wing and helped him adjust to being in front of the camera, even going to his side in fights the young actor would have with director Berkeley, whom Garland hated. Towards the end of the film the war tone overtakes things, though showing World War One, the movie was released fresh into the U.S.’s involvement with World War Two. The film even has a “buy war bonds” tag right at the end. Overall it’s a very good, entertaining, and overlooking MGM musical that’s well worth owning.
Warner Archive brings “For Me and My Gal” to blu-ray for the first time using a brand new 2K master that looks fantastic. If you’ve bought Warner Archive’s other blu-rays of 1940s black and white MGM films you know what to expect here. It’s a solid, sharp presentation that looks great in HD. Bonus materials are ported over from the DVD release of the film. They include a commentary by Garland biographer John Fricke, two vintage musical shorts, two deleted scenes from the film, outtakes, and a 1943 radio adaptation with a “Leo on the Air” radio promo for the film. All this is capped by the trailer and it makes for a great presentation.
Jumping ahead three years we have Garland in her first non-musical role, “The Clock,” co-starring Robert Walker and directed by Garland’s soon-to-be husband Vincente Minnelli. Walker plays a small-town soldier with a two-day leave in New York City. Overwhelmed by the city, the young soldier bumbles his way through Penn Station bumping into a young working girl played by Garland.
The soldier inadvertently breaks the heel of her shoe and rushes her off to find a shoe repair shop. This sets off a series of the gal giving the naive young man a tour around New York City, and soon they begin to develop feelings for one another. “The Clock” is a classic film that is a little bit overlooked, which is a shame as it’s a gem of a movie. It’s sweet, romantic, and funny, but also realistic about the realities of a wartime romance, being released in 1945. It’s a real charmer worth seeing.
Again, using a new 2K master this blu-ray of “The Clock” is as clear and as sharp as it’s ever looked. The nighttime scenes where the young couple helps a milkman on his route show off a fine dark contrast. Again a few bonus features from the DVD are ported over. We have the trailer, a Pete Smith short, and a vintage cartoon. Topping it this time is a radio adaptation of the film.
Warner Archive has done a fine job celebrating Garland’s centennial with a pair of lesser-known films from her filmography. These are top-notch transfers and anyone who is a fan of Garland’s work would be doing themselves a disservice not picking these two discs up. See you next week.