Classic of the Week: Summer Stock (1950)

Summer Stock is a 1950 American Technicolor musical film directed by Charles Walters and stars Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Eddie Bracken, Gloria DeHaven, Marjorie Main and Phil Silvers. Judy struggled with many personal problems during filming and Summer Stock proved to be her final film with MGM, as well as her last onscreen paring with Kelly. By mutual agreement MGM terminated her contract by September 1950, something the head of studio, L.B. Mayer said he later regretted doing. 

Jane Falbury (Garland) is a farm owner whose actress sister, Abigail (DeHaven), arrives at the family farm with her theater troupe. They need a place to rehearse, and Jane and her housekeeper Esme (Main), hesitantly agree to let them use their barn. The actors and actresses, including the director, Joe Ross (Kelly), pay back her hospitality by doing chores around the farm. Although Joe is engaged to Abigail, he begins to fall in love with Jane after Abigail leaves him in a rage. Likewise, even though Jane is enaged to Orville (Bracken), she falls in love with Joe. 

Although this is not Garland’s or Kelly’s best work, it is still a really fun film, filled with laughter, fun songs, dancing and romance, their best is perhaps 1942’s For Me and My Gal. But Summer Stock is still worth seeing for the songs, choreography and romance. Some of the songs are a bit cheesy like so many classic musicals and Gene Kelly is a typecast again as the romantic song and dance man, but he does a great job regardless. Judy Garland is fantastic in her role, and though she was a tiny 4’11,” she seems much taller with her wide voice range and her excellent dancing skills. 

This film will have you singing and dancing and it will warm your heart. Warning, there is a scene that might make you tear up. There are many great songs throughout this musical such as “Wonderful You,” “If You Feel Like Singing, Sing” and “Get Happy” (One of Judy’s signature songs). The choreography by Nicholas Castle Sr. is so much fun, it’ll have you either tapping your foot, or dancing right along. 

There is no foul language, drinking or smoking shown and there is only one scene where Jane is shown showering and putting on clothes, but she is shown from shoulders up, so this is a very family friendly film. This is a feel good movie, one that can brighten you right up if you’re feeling sad or angry. Just the “Get Happy” scene alone will have you smiling ear to ear. Yes, this musical is a bit cheesy, but not as cheesy as Oklahoma! or Easter Parade, and many others from back in the day. That still does not make this one bad.

This is definitely not as a good as Singin’ in Rain or An American in Paris, but it’s not terrible. It is wildly entertaining from begining to end, though the plot is very simple. Would I have paid to see this on the big screen or on stage? Probably not, but if I found it on TV or streaming, I may or may not watch it. Having seen this film already, I can say, this is not one I could watch over and over again like Singin’ in the Rain. It’s a cute movie, very enjoyable, but the over the top cheesiness could have been dialed back a lot. Overall, this a very good, not great movie, though it is a joyous watch. 9+ 3.5/5

70 Years Later: “Singin’ in the Rain” — Keith & the Movies

(CLICK HERE to read my full piece in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) In their heyday studio musicals brought with them an entirely new philosophy of moviemaking as colorful and vibrant music-driven set-pieces often trumped more dramatic storytelling. While these light and frothy concoctions did little to showcase what the burgeoning medium would soon become, they did […]

70 Years Later: “Singin’ in the Rain” — Keith & the Movies

tick…tick…Boom! (2021)

Tick…Tick…Boom! is a 2021 American biographical musical drama film directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and is written by Steven Levenson, based on the stage musical of the same name by Jonathan Larson, it is a semi-autobiographical film story about Larson writing a musical to try to enter into the theater industry. The film stars Andrew Garfield as Larson, alongside Vanessa Hudgens, Robin de Jesus, Alexandra Shipp, Joshua Henry and Judith Light. 

In 1992, Jonathan Larson performs his rock monologue Tick…Tick…Boom! at New Theater Workshop with his friends Roger and Karessa. He describes an annoying ticking sound he hears in his head and begins to tell his story. An unseen narrator explains the films is the true story of Larson, “except the parts Jonathan made up.” 

In early 1990, Jonathan balances work at the Moondance Diner in SoHo with getting ready for a workshop for his musical Superbia. He feels pressure to be successful before he turns 30: with his birthday just over a week away, he sees the workshop as his last chance. He has a party at his apartment with his friends, including his former roommate Michael and his girlfriend Susan. Susan tells Jonathan about a teaching job at Jacob’s Pillow and asks him to come. Michael, who recently left theater for a mediocre advertising career, sees Susan’s offer as a chance for Jonathan to consider a serious future and invites him to join an advertising focus group at his company. Jonathan’s producer asks him to write a new song for Superbia because the story needs it. This depresses him, as his idol Stephen Sondheim told him the same thing at a composong workshop several years prior, but can’t come up with anything and he only has a week. 

Jonathan finds himself unable to concentrate on getting ready for the workshop as he thinks about Michael and Susan’s offers. His worries grow when he learns from Carolyn (friend from the diner) that Freddy (also works at the diner), is HIV-positive, has been hospitalized. Susan angry at Jonathan’s hesitance to make a decision and obsession with his career, breaks up with him. 

To get money for a full band for the workshop, Jonathan attends the advertising focus group. However, he purposefully ruins it, making Michael mad, who feels Jonathan is wasting the chance to have a life with the person he loves on an unstable theater career, something Michael can’t do as a homosexual man in the AIDS crisis. After getting a promising call from his agent Rosa, Jonathan tries to write the new song, but his power get cut off. He goes to a swimming pool to rant his frustrations over his personal life and the workshop, before coming up with the new song at last. At the workshop are friends, family, industry professionals, including Sondheim. Jonathan recieves praise but no offers to produce Superbia. Discouraged, Jonathan begs Michael for a job in his company, but Michael changes his mind after seeing the workshop and urges Jonathan to continue with his theater career, revealing that he is HIV-positive. 

Though I haven’t seen Tick…Tick..Boom! on stage, I did enjoy Larson’s Rent on stage and the film version, though it was not as good as the stage production. Rent is a wonderful story filled with wonderful music. I thought it was terribly cheesy and depressing at first, but once I saw both the movie one and the stage one, I fell in love with it and I now wish this musical could continue on stages forever just like other greats like Chicago and Fiddler on the Roof. 

Andrew Garfield does an outstanding job as Jonathan Larson, giving him a perfect New York accent, as well as acting, singing and playing the piano and keyboard himself. Most of the songs are super cheesy, but that’s musical theater for you and Garfield performs the songs with the perfect cheese factor with song and in several scenes with dancing too. Most of the songs, besides being corny, don’t sound like a mature adult wrote them and since the movie is filled with those kind of songs, it does get a bit annoying and makes the film almost unenjoyable at times. 

Alexandra Shipp is great as Susan Wilson, based on the real life Janet Charleston, Jonathan’s girlfriend, a former dancer. Robin de Jesus does a fine job as Michael, Jonathan’s best friend, based on the real life Matt O’ Grady, who left theater to work in advertising. Vanessa Hudgens is also great as Karessa Johnson, although she has very little dialogue and mostly sings and dances. Joshua Henry is very good as Roger Bart, Jonathan’s friend and performer in Superbia and Tick…Tick…Boom! Bradley Whitford is superb as Stephen Sondheim. 

This film does a splendid job telling of Larson’s journey to become the next great musical theater sensation, even though it is a bit of a cheeseball at times. The songs, choreography, and acting are all eqaully fantastic. This is drama filled, song filled movie that will have you tapping your feet at times, getting angry at moments and also crying at times too. It teaches you to never give up on your dreams and that the great things you do will live on forever after you die. 

There is song and dance, drama, heart and passion in this film that make it such an entertaining watch. There is fighting, sex, rejection, drinking, smoking, disease, cursing and selfishness that make this movie inappropriate for really young viewers. Teenagers and adults will enjoy this one much more. Tremendous film!  13+ 4/5 

Classic of the Week: Animal Crackers (1930)

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Animal Crackers is a 1930 American pre-code comedy and musical film directed by Victor Heerman and stars the Marx Brothers, Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo with Lillian Roth and Margaret DuPont. It was based on their Broadway musical of the same name. The film follows the story of how a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famous African explorer Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding.

This is not only a Marx Brothers and comedy classic, but it is truly one of the funniest films of all time. It is clever and funny. There musical numbers and Groucho and Zeppo sing as well and Harpo and Chico both play the piano, Harpo also plays the harp. Like most of the Marx Brothers’ films, Groucho is the ringleader. There is lots of cheesy, yet fun songs (except for one love song), slapstick fighting, clever humor, tricks and flirting.

Groucho is fantastic as Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding, Harpo is great as the professor, Chico is also great as Signor Emanuel Ravelli and Zeppo does a fine job as Horacio Jamison. Margaret Dumont does a fine job in her role as Mrs. Rittenhouse, owner of the house (on Long Island) and Lillian Roth does equally god as her daughter Arabella.

There are many fun musical numbers in this film such as, “Hello, I Must Be Going,” “Hooray For Captain Spaulding” and “He’s One of Those Men.” There’s also the love song, “Why. Am I So Romantic?” The songs give this film the right amount cheese and excitement.

There is also a lot of jokes, some that have become famous with the brothers like Groucho saying, “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know” and when the party guests are giving three cheers to Captain Spaulding, Harpo brings in three chairs. Harpo is the only Marx brother that doesn’t speak in their films, although he occasionally laughs and whistles, he is also very gullible and naive.

This movie will have you laughing, cheering and dancing. There is mild sexual innuendo and flirting and slapstick violence, but no one is seriously injured. There is drinking and smoking throughout, Groucho is seen with his trademark cigar. But other than that, it is very mild and okay for older children, as younger ones won’t understand the jokes.

Never once is this film boring. It is truly hilarious and entertaining and gets that way more and more after viewing. The Marx Brothers were and still are some of not just the funniest, but greatest actors and movie makers of all time. They, to this day, can put a smile on a person’s face and brighten a day with laughter. This is a wonderful movie that is just as quick-witted as it an enjoyment. With music, dancing, humor, peril and romance, this one will never disappoint. 8 & up 5/5

Classic of the Week: A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

A Hard Day’s Night is a 1964 comedy film directed by Richard Lester, starring British Invasion band The Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr- during the height of Beatlemania. The film follows the band after they are swarmed by fans while boarding a train to London. The band get into mischief running from crowds of screaming fans, they meet schoolgirls on the train and many other good and bad people.

This is fun and humorous filled film, that any fan of musicals, The Beatles, or both will enjoy. It is filled familiar songs to sing along to, a song well as an easy to follow plot that’s never boring. This is a highly entertaining film that anyone will enjoy. You’ll love the laugh out loud humor, the music, the scenery, fashion, accents, everything. It takes you on a train ride with the most famous band of all time.

The band perform live in one scene. They weren’t the best actors, because of course they were (Ringo and Paul still are) mainly musicians. They had acting teaching prior to the filming of this movie. They were only told how they should act in scenes. They weren’t horrible at acting, but that’s not that’s not really their fault.

This is such an iconic film, not just for Beatlemania, the British Invasion, but for music in general. All four members were alike in way, but different too. They had a unique style in their music, fashion sense, hairstyles and Liverpool accents. They are still loved to this day from all ages.

This movie captures the Beatles outstandingly. You see the funny, silly and clever sides of The Fab Four. There is smoking, occasional drinking, flirting and a tad bit of sexual innuendos. Overall this is a fantastic film that everyone should watch at least once in their lives. 7+ 5/5