Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Tonight's Movie: For Me and My Gal (1942) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

This summer the Warner Archive Collection has released three Judy Garland films in honor of her centennial: ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941), reviewed here in July; the wartime romance THE CLOCK (1945), to be reviewed here soon; and tonight's movie, FOR ME AND MY GAL (1942).

FOR ME AND MY GAL is a black and white musical directed by Busby Berkeley which is particularly remembered as the film debut of Gene Kelly.

Kelly was always grateful to Garland for her early support of his career. They have an easy rapport and later teamed for two more movies, both of which have been reviewed here via Warner Archive Blu-rays: THE PIRATE (1948) and SUMMER STOCK (1950).

Kelly and Garland play Harry Palmer and Jo Hayden, who form a vaudeville act after he woos her away from another partner, Jimmy Metcalf (George Murphy).

Jimmy goes on to have a successful act with Sid Simms (Ben Blue), and though it takes a while, eventually Harry and Jo have an offer to play the big time -- the Palace Theatre in New York.

Along the way Jimmy carries a torch for Jo, who loves Harry, who might be interested in famed singer Eve Minard (Marta Eggerth).

It's a fairly melodramatic film set against the backdrop of World War I, with Jo's brother Danny (future director Richard Quine), a medical student, enlisting in the army. Between her worry over Danny and loving self-centered Harry, Jo's got a lot to contend with.

As an adult I'm sometimes surprised at how edgy Kelly's performances are, which I didn't notice so much when I was falling in love with him -- all he had to do was smile! -- and MGM musicals. His Harry is selfish and manipulative, even when he's getting Jo to try out a song with him. But then Kelly and Garland launch into their duet of the title tune and it takes me right back to my childhood and the magic of watching them on the shimmering silver screen at L.A.'s Vagabond Theater. The number is pure joy.

Kelly's performance yo-yos like that through the whole movie, veering between annoying and wonderful; in the end, his charisma and more charming moments are such that one understands Jo choosing him over the more reliable but bland Jimmy. The screenplay by a trio of writers does a pretty good job rehabilitating Harry's character to make him truly deserving of Jo's love.

19-year-old Judy is delightful in this film in one of her first truly adult romantic roles; she was also at her loveliest, filmed in black and white by William H. Daniels. There was a half decade or so from the early to late '40s which were her most beautiful years on film, and that includes this movie. Of course, we now know with hindsight some of what those years cost her in terms of physical and mental health, but at the same time I'm forever grateful for the gifts of her performances, which will be enjoyed as long as movies exist.

In the case of FOR ME AND MY GAL, one of Judy's best scenes features her belting out "After You've Gone," while secretly brokenhearted over Harry's apparent interest in Eve. It's a marvelous musical moment.

Beyond "After You've Gone" and the title song, the other numbers aren't as impressive, but they're enjoyable. All in all FOR ME AND MY GAL is a solid 104 minutes of entertainment, providing an interesting look at two ascending stars.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is an excellent print with a strong soundtrack.

Many of the extras on the Warner Archive Blu-ray are carried over from the film's original DVD release, including a commentary track by John Fricke; the trailer; the musical shorts EVERY SUNDAY (1936), costarring Deanna Durbin, and LA FIESTA DE SANTA BARBARA (1935), in glorious Technicolor; a radio production with Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and Dick Powell; and deleted musical scenes.

The Blu-ray also adds a song selection menu, all the better to rewatch my favorite songs on a regular basis!

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 from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.


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