SMB: In the Good Old Summertime (1949)

Now, I don’t usually write posts about films for this blog, but when I saw an opportunity to take part in Blog of the Darned’s Summer Movie Blogathon I took it. Thank you to Chris Sturhann for allowing me to contribute.

I’m here to talk about MGM’s 1949 technicolour marvel In the Good Old Summertime, which stars Judy Garland and Van Johnson. The film is based on a play that was written in 1937, Parfumerie. The play went on to inspire not only this film, but The Shop Around The Corner (1940) and You’ve Got Mail (1998). The 1963 Broadway musical She Loves Me was also inspired by the play.

I won’t venture much into the plot of the film, as I am sure that most of you will have seen at least one adaptation. Long story short, at the turn of the century in Chicago, Veronica Fisher (Judy Garland) is looking for work. She manages to get job at Oberkugen’s Music Store, thanks to her impressive musical ability (who wouldn’t want to hire Judy Garland to tout their instruments?), but constantly butts heads with colleague Andrew Larkin (Van Johnson). Neither Fisher or Larkin have a clue that they are both corresponding with each other via frequent letters, in which they find each other completely irresistible. Andrew realises before Veronica does, and the pair gradually begin to fall in love. The end sequence shows the pair walking in hand in hand with their little girl, in the good old summertime. 

During her career, Judy Garland starred in a total of nine movies that were set in ‘the olden days’, for example the 1900’s. I think this is really interesting, because lots of people watch classic films today as they hark back to a simpler time, and are a form of escapism from the harsh realities of the 21st Century. It seems as though MGM wanted to do the same for audiences in a world that was ravaged by World War Two.

I have to admit, In the Good Old Summertime isn’t my favourite of these films, I much prefer Easter Parade (1948) and especially Meet Me in St Louis (1944). Not to say that this picture doesn’t have any good qualities, but I find the overall plot a tad mundane. Anyway, onto the best moments:

1. Judy Garland’s snide remarks. These are especially entertaining because Judy didn’t have a mean bone in her body. It’s fun to see her poke fun at Van Johnson.

2. The big reveal. At Christmastime, when Andrew reveals to Veronica that he is her pen pal, I swear that my heart skips a beat. The chemistry between Garland and Johnson is palpable. 

3. Liza Minnelli’s screen debut. Yes, you heard me. The little girl walking with Judy and Van in the final scene (which you can see here, along with some home movie footage) is three year old Liza Minnelli. I’m sure that you are all aware that she is Judy’s daughter. Judy was completely against pushing her children into show business, but I think that this was a sweet idea. After all, it’s not like the baby had to do anything besides walk, and she loved to be at the studio. Liza herself told a wonderful story about the shooting of the scene in conversation with the late Robert Osborne for TCM’s Private Screenings:

“I got all dressed up and I had a parasol, and they remembered everything I should wear, it was very detailed. But they didn’t put any panties on me, and all I remember is Van Johnson’s hand on my butt. It was very strange, just vaguely uncomfortable.”

On that note, I think that it is apt to end this post with a small gallery of images that show Liza on set. I couldn’t include them all, because I’m afraid that I would have lost all of my readers from death by cuteness. I hope that you enjoyed my contribution to Blog of the Darned’s Summer Movie Blogathon, and be sure to check out the other posts here.

“While strolling through the park one day…” Image courtesy of Pinterest.

Sharing a snack. Image courtesy of IMDB.

Like mother, like daughter. Image courtesy of Pinterest.

Hooray for Hollywood. Image courtesy of Tumblr.

“In your Easter bonnet…” Image courtesy of gummgarland on Tumblr.

All in the family, Judy, Liza, and Van. Image courtesy of Pinterest.

“Ready for your close up, Miss Minnelli?” Image courtesy of Kansas City Star.

Come to the cabaret: Seth Sikes Sings Judy Garland

In my opinion, there is something about the idea of a cabaret that is completely enthralling. I can’t put my finger on why I feel this way. Maybe it’s the intimacy of the venue, or maybe it’s because I know that the audiences are always filled with likeminded people. Everybody knows that I am a HUGE fan of the late, great Judy Garland, so you can imagine my delight when I was given the chance to interview the star of an upcoming cabaret that utilises her songs. What makes this one night only cabaret performance special, however, is fact that the star of the show is male.

 Seth Sikes is well known on the American cabaret circuit, and on 10th June 2017 at 7:00pm will make his London debut at The Crazy Coqs. I love this venue. The Art Deco vibe allows you to really immerse yourself in the action, and harks back to a much more sophisticated time. I asked Seth ten questions, and here’s what he had to say:

1. How do you feel about making your London cabaret debut on 10th June?

London loved Judy. She often went there when she wasn’t having a pleasant time in the States so I couldn’t be more thrilled to be going there on what would have been her 95th birthday, to sing her songs in the city that celebrated her and lifted her up when she was down.

2. What are you most looking forward to doing when you come to London?

 I’m staying an extra week after my concert, so I’m looking forward to seeing a bit of theatre. But I always overschedule my visits in London with too many shows and museums, so this time I mainly want to just hang around the city, reading and roaming and pretending that I live there, because I love it so. 

3. Which is your favourite song to sing in the show, and why?

I really like singing When the Sun Comes Out. It’s Harold Arlen. It’s huge. It’s hopeful. It’s not as well known as the other Arlen songs, because she didn’t sing it at Carnegie Hall. (See Seth sing the song here).

4. I know that your love for Judy goes all the way back to childhood. How has Judy shaped the man that you are today?

That’s what my show is all about! Actually it’s about how her songs, which I’ve listened to all my life, have meant different things to me at different points in life. How they got me into show business, how they got me through a heartbreak, how they got me BACK into show business, how they put me on the cabaret map. It has been a lifelong relationship. She and her songs have been there for me all the way. She also taught me that you have to really mean what you sing, and that too much control is boring.

 5. What is your favourite Garland movie, and why?

I grew up as a little boy in a small, rural town called Paris, Texas. I saw a VHS tape of Judy in Summer Stock. Judy was on a farm, wearing overalls, driving a tractor, and singing a fabulous song. I thought, “Who is that woman?” (I only realized a little later that she was the same lady who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, another favorite.) Anyway, that was the tape I watched over and over again because that’s the only one I had! I was completely obsessed, and I wanted to be like Judy and go on in a show in our barn! I still like it today, not just for sentimental reasons, but because she was so healthy in that movie. She looked great, not too thin; her voice was never richer. And she dances brilliantly with Gene Kelly. I just love it.

Seth Sikes. Image courtesy of Brasserie Zedel.

6. Which of Judy’s songs do you think is most underrated, and why?

There’s a brilliant performance of comedic genius called The Great Lady Has an Interview in Ziegfeld Follies, which I find just hilarious. She’s so funny and elegant and that dress.

 7. What is one myth about Judy that you would like to dispel?

It bothers me when people joke about her forgetting her lyrics. She knew the lyrics to everything! Probably thousands of songs. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I heard she often pretended to forget the lyrics at the same spot in You Go To My Head in order to get a reaction out of the audience.

 8. I know that you also perform a salute to the music of Liza Minnelli from time to time. Do you feel different when you are performing her songs compared to when you are performing the songs made famous by her mother?

Yes! They are different beasts, entirely. For one thing, Liza’s range was freakishly big, and I don’t have that many low notes. Liza’s songs are also more character based. And they’re scary to do because they’re often manic and have a thousand lyrics.

 9. If you could invite any celebrity to one of your shows, who would it be and why?

Liza. I think she would be expecting something else, but would be surprised by the love letter to her mother’s songs that is my show. And maybe she’d do a number with me. One can dream!

 10. How would you describe Seth Sikes Sings Judy Garland in three words, and why should people come and see the show?

Exciting, Heartfelt, Tribute. I think people should come out to celebrate the birthday of the greatest entertainer who ever lived by enjoying her music, and maybe even singing along a little.

It really is refreshing to see a male tackle the unforgettable Garland standards in a way that is not imitative. In a world that sometimes forgets to be as accepting as it should be, we need people to challenge backwards thinking by going against the norm. I wish Seth all the luck in the world with his London cabaret debut, and I’m sure that the audience will love him. You can get tickets for Seth Sikes Sings Judy Garland at The Crazy Coqs here.