Sunday, December 12, 2021

Tonight's Movie: In the Good Old Summertime (1949) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME (1949) is one of the most recent MGM musicals given a sparkling Blu-ray treatment by the Warner Archive.

The Blu-ray was released in late summer, but -- despite the title -- I think of this musical version of THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) as more of a Christmas movie, so right now was the perfect time to watch it.

I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting several Judy Garland musicals thanks to the Warner Archive's Blu-rays, including GIRL CRAZY (1943), THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946), THE PIRATE (1948), and SUMMER STOCK (1950). IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME is another Blu-ray winner which would make an excellent Christmas gift for any musical fan.

The story of IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME will be familiar to many viewers thanks to its various incarnations over the years. In addition to THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, the story was also filmed as YOU'VE GOT MAIL (1998).

In 1963 it was turned into the marvelous Broadway musical SHE LOVES ME, with all all-new Bock-Harnick score. I've reviewed a 1978 British TV production of that musical, which starred Robin Ellis and Gemma Craven.

The Bock-Harnick musical was revived a few years ago with Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti; I saw that production via a livestream and in 2016 saw a recording of it at my local movie theater.

For completeness's sake, I'll also mention that I twice saw an excellent '80s stage production starring Joel Higgins, Pam Dawber, and Gary Sandy.

Returning to IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME, Andrew Larkin (Van Johnson) and Veronica Fisher (Garland) work in a Chicago music store owned by Mr. Oberkugen (S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall).

By day Andrew and Veronica constantly annoy one another, but by night they share a romantic penpal correspondence, having no idea they're each writing to their disliked coworker. Then Andrew finds out...

IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME changes the setting from a parfumerie to a music shop but largely adheres to the familiar plot of THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER. The biggest changes involve Andrew's friendship with a violinist (Marcia Van Dyke) and the shop owner having a sweet romance with his longtime assistant (Spring Byington), rather than being an unhappily married man.

While I enjoy the latter change, which lightens the overall story and makes it less bittersweet, the subplot with the violinist is completely pointless. I would have excised it to reduce the film's 102-minute running time.

Otherwise this is quite an enjoyable movie, with Garland and Johnson both in fine form as the leads. The big reveal scene at the end is both romantic and very Christmasy, beautifully lit and filmed.

The fine supporting cast includes Clinton Sundberg, Buster Keaton, and Lillian Bronson.

Garland's daughter, Liza Minnelli, appears as Andrew and Veronica's daughter in a brief epilogue scene at movie's end, filmed when she was about two and a half years old.

IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME was directed by Robert Z. Leonard and filmed in Technicolor by Harry Stradling Sr.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is a fine print with beautiful color and excellent sound. Extras carried over from the 2004 DVD are an introduction by John Fricke; the trailer; and two Traveltalk shorts on Chicago. A welcome extra added for the Blu-ray release is a song selection menu.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection Amazon Store or any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Vienna said...

Lovely film. And I too loved the stage musical version, She Loves Me.. I am so looking forward to seeing Shop Around the Corner on the big screen this month. A rare event for me.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Vienna, so glad to know you enjoy both this film and SHE LOVES ME.

How wonderful you'll get to see THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER on a big screen! I was lucky to see a nitrate print at UCLA a few years ago, a very memorable experience.

Best wishes,

7:14 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Sadly, Laura, I’ve decided to cancel my booking for Shop Around the Corner. Covid is spreading so rapidly and my sister is at risk.
I shall watch my dvd instead.

12:56 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Oh, what a disappointment for you, Vienna, I'm so sorry! It's hard to believe how much COVID is still impacting making plans nearing the two-year mark, isn't it?

I hope you and your family will have a very happy Christmas!Q

Best wishes,

8:46 AM  

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