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.

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One comment

  1. Great post, thanks for jumping in on the blogathon. I hadn’t seen most of the Liza photos in your Gallery. They’re so cute. I agree that In the Good Old Summertime not being the greatest film. In the late-40s and 50s, they did a lot of musical remakes of great films from the 30s and 40s. They only rarely work well. In the Good Old Summertime does better than most, for me, mostly on the strength of Judy Garland’s performances. A lot of the time, they eliminate/change subplots and combine characters to make time for songs, but then it pales when compared to the original. In the Good Old Summertime suffers from this, but you do get Garland singing, and as you pointed out, the chemistry between her and Van Johnson does work.

    Like

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