Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Movie review, 70 years later

We watched a movie the other night  - it was "For Me and My Gal," starring Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and George Murphy.  1942, the nation at war, and here came a movie about World War I.  

Spoiler Alert: I'm going to tell you every detail about the plot, so if you haven't seen this musical but figure you might want to catch it on TCM, you might want to switch to this blog for a while and come back here later.

I wish I had been around in those great days of vaudeville, when, for one small admission price, one was treated to an evening of song and dance and comedy and skits and more songs and more dances.  That was entertainment in the early part of the 20th Century.  There was no tv, no radio, no cable reality series, so people had to make their own reality, and entertainers entertained them with entertainment that was entertaining, not "Teen Mom" or "Prom Mom" or "Pawn Stars."  We must not have enough trouble of our own these days, to have to spend time importing the miserable lives of others into our own, via cable that we pay for.

The movie intertwines the vaudeville act along with showing the striving and reaching for the top that always accompanies professional pursuits.  In the picture, Judy Garland is a really great singer/dancer, you see, and she is teamed up with George Murphy, who is....not so great.  But he's a really nice guy!  So she gets a chance to work with Gene Kelly, and they are on their way to the top, and then he gets a chance to be part of an act with a female singer who is all mysterious and sexy (we know that right away because she speaks with a European accent) so he dumps old Judy right off the bill.  Then her brother is lost in World War I, a brother who held such promise as a budding doctor, and old Gene here is so avid about getting to the top of show business that he self-inflicts a hand injury so he won't get drafted.  But it all works out in the end, because he becomes an ambulance driver and saves the battalion by driving a car through a hail of gunfire to warn an oncoming convoy that there's a hail of gunfire just ahead.

And of course, the big finale...he shows up at her solo concert - she's a BIG Star now - and she spots him in the audience and all of a sudden she runs to him and they duet off to the big rousing finale.

In real life, Judy Garland suffered through emotional and physical pain that was to end her life way too early. Gene Kelly was a man of many contradictions.  On the one hand, he was a lifelong Democrat and supported progressive thinking.  On the other hand, he was a Steelers fan. He made "Singin' In The Rain" and other great musicals, and he was in the the first movie that ever put me to sleep in a theater - the abysmal "Xanadu."  George Murphy retired from the movies and became a Republican senator from California, setting into motion the tendency of that state to elect washed-up show biz figures to high office, because something seems to make the residents of the Golden State think that Arnold Schwarzenegger could do good things for them when he's not busy impregnating the help.   Other notable Californians who have made great contributions to our national weal include Sonny Bono, Helen Gahagan Douglas and the "great" Ronald Reagan.   He must have been great; everyone says so!

George Murphy, as a Republican senator and leader of the Nixon re-election campaign, was quoted as saying that because people of Mexican descent are "built low to the ground" they are "perfect for doing farm labor."  

He seemed like such a nice guy...in the movie.  What a great actor he was!

No comments: