Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Van Johnson and Judy Garland

IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME (1949). Director: Robert Z. Leonard.

"I have hardly any voice at all." -- Judy Garland

This venerable story was originally filmed as The Shop Around the Corner. This [first] semi-musical remake casts Van Johnson and Judy Garland in the roles originally essayed by Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, and both are fine. The two are clerks in a shop [in this version a perfumery has been turned into a music store] who can't stand each other, but unknowingly have been sending romantic letters to one another via mailbox. [The third version of the story, You've Got Mail, turned the letters into email.] Johnson and Garland, both at their most charming, play very well together whether they're antagonists or falling in love. "Cuddles" Sakall is swell as the old man who owns the shop, with Spring Byington her usual adept self as the clerk who has unofficially been engaged to him for decades. The only cast mate who doesn't really deliver the goods is silent star Buster Keaton, who seems completely out of place as the boss' nephew, although he tries. This version drops some sub-plots relating to the other employees, and adds a completely unnecessary one involving Johnson's fellow boarder, Louise (Marcia Van Dyke), who plays the violin and is in love with him; Van Dyke is fine but had very few credits. Of course, Garland is given ample opportunities to sing [and for a mere music ship clerk she sure sings like a trouper!], and she delivers, especially on the "Barbershop Chord" production number, although some may feel the quivering lips bit during other numbers is a little too much. The sequence when Johnson and Garland first bump into each other, literally, is very funny, as is their encounter in a restaurant. The same story was the basis for the Broadway musical "She Loves Me."

Verdict: A Technicolor treat with music and romance. ***1/2.

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