For Me and My Gal Reviews
hall) numbers. Inspired direction from Busby Berkeley. But it's Garland whose personality bubbles to the surface showing that she can dance besides sing and act besides croon. Recommended.
It seems odd that this movie is in B&W. Oh, I know. Colour was only a few years old at this point, and it wasn't being wasted on musicals. And I like B&W quite a lot. Normally, I have nothing bad to say about it. But MGM Musical is a specific genre in my mind, and it is one notorious for its Glorious Technicolor. I expect a certain kind of colour palette from an MGM Musical, and it's odd not to have one. Also, I think the only B&W movie I've ever seen with Gene Kelly was [i]Inherit the Wind[/i], which is a very different kind of movie. Fred Astaire was one thing; his career started only about as far after the origin of sound as this one was after the real beginning of colour. Fred Astaire was different. But Gene Kelly always felt to me to be someone from a later era, and colour was very much part of it. Judy could go either way, but Gene? Even if he wasn't colourful himself, he lived in colourful worlds.
Here, he is headlining vaudevillian Harry Palmer, a baggy-pants comic. One day, he rolls into another small Midwestern town at the same time as the troupe led by Jimmy Metcalf (George Murphy). The other star of Jimmy's troupe is Jo Hayden (Judy Garland), and Harry recognizes her for the talent she is. And Jimmy recognizes them as having the chemistry they do and gives her a way out. She and Harry go on the road together, and she falls in love with him. But he is about to leave her and join the act of Eve Minard (Mártha Eggerth) before he realizes he loves her. They have dreams of someday playing the Palace, and she is putting her brother, Danny (Richard Quine), through med school. And then, World War I comes. Danny volunteers and goes off to fight. Harry is drafted just as they finally get that booking at the Palace. He damages his hand so that he can get out of the draft just long enough for their booking, but he does so on the day Jo gets an unfortunate telegram . . . .
Oh, come on. You know she's going to get that telegram from the minute Danny shows up in uniform. Probably sooner, if you realize that the story will involve World War I in some significant way. Just as you know that, one way or another, those vaudevillians are going to play the Palace. That one is true even if you have no idea what playing the Palace even means, because they certainly talk about it enough. As with various other of the movies we've watched in the past, the plot of this is only sort of the point. You know from the first moment that Gene encounters Judy on that train platform that they're going to end up together. It's just a matter of how. You know that Jimmy is going to pine over Jo to no avail. You know that Eve is going to try to come between Harry and Jo. And you know that there's going to be a happy ending, no matter what difficulties there are in reaching that place. Because this does have some things in common with the colour extravaganzas to come.
More important by far to this kind of movie are the songs. And with very few exceptions, what they have gone with are period numbers; hardly any have a copyright date more recent than 1919, and several of them only have an approximation. Yes, one or two of them are anachronisms, but only one appears to have been written specifically for the movie. This helps in preserving the period feel to the movie, even when it's somewhat violated by Judy's costumes. Gene Kelly does not get the chance to show off his dancing to the extent that he would in later films, but he's no slouch, either, and the pair work together with all the grace you'd expect. Judy matches well with his joy, the thing I have always loved about watching Gene perform. Possibly, they have tamed his dancing a bit so she can keep up with him, but then, he can't keep up with her vocally. She helped to give him this chance, and it is in the music that they show what their strengths were.
Actually, I was looking for a different movie of the same title which does not appear to be available from Netflix. It's on one of the lists of Movies I Should See Before I Die. While I didn't think this one was great, I did think it was in pretty special company. Certainly better than a lot of movies I've encountered on those lists, and I'd argue even more significant than some of them. After all, Gene Kelly is one of the best-known stars of all those glorious musicals. [i]An American in Paris[/i] is on most of them. Oh, yes, part of the issue here is that this movie doesn't feel as draggy. Even though I know now that [i]American in Paris[/i] isn't three hours long, my brain won't accept that. There's more plot to this one, because Judy Garland is technically the star, so the plot is divided between them. This one isn't as beautiful--again, it loses something I think vital to this kind of movie by being in B&W, which is [i]not[/i] a cry for colorization. But there are a lot of movies we wouldn't have if we hadn't had this one first.