Alright, kids, let me tell you about one of my favorite movies, SUMMER STOCK!
For those who haven’t seen it, or even those who have, it’s a fucking weird plot. Judy Garland runs a farm (I mean, sure, did you see the overalls?) and her overly-dramatic sister, Abigail (played by the thoroughly lovely Gloria De Haven), brings an entire musical theater troupe (headed by the perfect talent and sex machine that is Gene Kelly and his goofy buddy Phil Silvers) to the family farm to use the barn for rehearsals. Joe (Gene Kelly) is engaged to Abigail, and Jane (Judy Garland) makes everyone help out on the farm, which, as actors and dancers, they are horrible at in the most comedic fashion. Eventually Abigail leaves the show with the show’s star, and Jane takes her place. Obviously Joe and Jane fall in love because after a straight-up tap dance battle in the barn, how could you not fall in love? The most well-known thing about the movie is probably the “Get Happy” scene where Judy Garland sings one of her best-known songs in a hat and jacket with men falling at her feet (see picture bottom right).
Beyond the music and cast and cute (stupid) story, I love this movie because of the backstage stories. Facts about production include:
No one wanted to hire Judy Garland because she was fat and a complete drug addict (story of Judy’s fucking life). Gene Kelly was hired first, because Gene Kelly is a fucking genius of song and (mostly) dance and has charisma like no one else. He and Judy had already done two movies together (For Me and My Gal, which was Gene’s first film and I’m pretty sure his only B&W movie, and The Pirate, which is a triumph of nonsense which is only worth seeing a scene where Gene Kelly dances all sweaty in REALLY short shorts. God bless.), so Gene knew Judy’s talent and loved her and they were friends. He put up his OWN MONEY and made sure the producer and director knew Judy and loved her like he did. Gene wanted Judy for the movie and wanted to make sure she would be comfortable and supported.
As I said, Judy was fat in most of this movie. “Hollywood fat” which in the 1950s and on her five-foot-tall frame with her round face just makes her look kinda pudgy and cute. Why was she “fat”? Because she was trying to get sober. She’d been on uppers her whole life to keep her dancing and singing for literally 12-20 hours a day. So she was trying to wean off the pills, and it ruined her metabolism and she got “fat.”
Despite being “fat” she dances like no one’s fucking business. Gene Kelly is arguably the greatest dancer on screen of all time. And in the dance battle scene in the barn (photo below left of the movie poster), she matches him step for step PERFECTLY. Like they are 100% equally matched. Except for probably Cyd Charisse, or maybe Ann Miller, I’ve never seen anyone dance with Gene Kelly as masterfully as Judy Garland does. And she does it about 3 dress sizes above her normal working-weight. Size obviously has zero to do with talent or ability, but for someone who is definitely not used to dancing at that weight, she does it better than I’ve ever seen her in any film.
THE NEWSPAPER DANCE. Gene Kelly, as is a staple of his movies, does a solo dance number. This one (pictured bottom left), is done with a sheet of newspaper, a squeaky board, and two stairs on a stage. And it’s brilliant and perfect and so creative. The athleticism of it is astounding (and a huge turn-on).
There is one scene in the movie where Judy magically loses like half her body mass (only to regain it one scene later), and that is the Get Happy number. After the first screening of the film, everyone decided Judy needed a big solo. She has a few songs in the movie, but nothing that really pops. So they gave her Get Happy and choreographed and filmed the number a few months after the film wrapped. It was inserted near the end, and other than the fact that Judy lost all the weight in the interim, you’d never know it wasn’t originally intended to be in the film. It was rumored that this scene was actually filmed for another film years before, but that isn’t actually the case. It was intended for Summer Stock, it was just an afterthought. And it’s the best afterthought ever, and one of Judy Garland’s most iconic music numbers from her adult career.
In conclusion, this movie is great and the best part about it is the fact that everyone involved literally made it to save Judy Garland’s career because they loved her and believed in her talent.