Monday, July 27, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Girl Crazy (1943) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney light up the screen in GIRL CRAZY (1943), just released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

GIRL CRAZY is a film I saw many times on TV growing up -- on L.A.'s KTTV Channel 11, to be exact! -- so it's a movie I know well. However, I hadn't seen it in years; I loved that it was quite familiar, yet there was enough distance from my last viewing that it simultaneously felt quite fresh.  What a treat to revisit it!

The story concerns Danny Churchill Jr. (Rooney), the son of a wealthy publisher (Henry Daniell).  

Danny Jr. is gaining a reputation as an unserious party boy, and after his nightclub photos appear in the papers a few times too many, Dad transfers him from Yale to the all-male, isolated Cody College in the west, far from girls and the New York night scene.

Danny is initially unhappy with the school's rigorous schedule and feels like the proverbial fish out of water on the campus, but he's sweet on local postmistress Ginger Gray (Garland), who also happens to be the granddaughter of the college president (Guy Kibbee).

When the state legislature threatens to close the college due to low enrollment, it's up to Danny and Ginger to find a way to save the school.

The plot's pleasant enough, but the viewers are there for are Judy and Mickey, Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra, the songs of the Gershwin brothers, and a grand finale choreographed by Busby Berkeley.  That's entertainment!

Judy was as lovely in this film as she ever was on screen, and, it goes without saying, what a performer!  She truly could do it all, including comedy, melancholy drama, and knockout singing and dancing.

My favorite scene in the film is when Garland dances "Embraceable You" with dance director (and future film director) Charles Walters, seen here. They move so beautifully together, and when you add in the gorgeous music and my memories of having met "Chuck" a couple of times, I get a big lump in my throat watching this dance. It's just wonderful in every way.

Then you've got Judy singing "But Not for Me" and "Bidin' My Time," a June Allyson specialty in the opening nightclub scene ("Treat Me Rough"), and the fabulous Berkeley finale set to "I've Got Rhythm," and truly, who could ask for anything more? 

Rooney also does a good job, carefully walking the line between being sympathetic and amusing versus obnoxious, and he has wonderful chemistry with Garland.

The supporting cast includes Gil Stratton Jr. (last seen here in HOT ROD from 1950), Frances Rafferty, Nancy Walker, Rags Ragland, Robert E. Strickland, Irving Bacon, and Howard Freeman.  

Peter Lawford and Don Taylor can be spotted in the background among the school's students.  The nightclub showgirls include future Western leading lady Karin Booth and Hedy Lamarr lookalike Inez Cooper.

This 99-minute film was directed by Norman Taurog.  It was filmed in black and white by William Daniels and Robert Planck.

The Blu-ray includes the extras which were also on the film's original DVD release, including an introduction by Mickey Rooney, the trailer, a commentary track by Judy Garland biographer John Fricke, a cartoon, a short, and an outtake. The movie print and sound are excellent.

GIRL CRAZY is recommended for pure movie musical joy.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


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