(Busby Berkeley, USA, 1942) 104 minutes


Director: Busby Berkeley
Producers: Arthur Freed
Screenplay: Richard Sherman, Fred Finklehoffe, Sid Silvers.
Based on a story by Howard Emmett Rogers
Cinematography: William Daniels
Editor: Ben Lewis
Sound: Douglas Shearer
Judy Garland (Jo Hayden)
George Murphy (Jimmy Metcalf)
Gene Kelly (Harry Palmer)
Marta Eggerth (Eve Minard)
Ben Blue (Sid Simms)
Horace McNally (Mr Waring)

Reviews and notes

A delightful and nostalgic return to the fun-filled pre-WWI days of vaudeville. Jo Hayden (Garland) troops the boards with Jimmy Metcalf (Murphy), Sid Simms (Blue), and Lily Duncan (Norman). Though she loves the hardscrabble life of the stage, Jo's main career motive is to send her kid brother (Quine) to medical school. When smoothie Harry Palmer (Kelly) advises Jo that she could do much better in his song-and-dance act, she, with Jimmy's blessing, teams up with him. They struggle along for two years; meanwhile, Jimmy and Sid hit the big time. Harry, meanwhile, becomes infatuated with a singing star (Eggerth), even though Jo is the one who truly loves him. When WWI threatens to halt his burgeoning success, Harry compounds his sins by dodging the draft, causing Jo to leave him - until he redeems himself in heroic style. The story is pure hokum, but this warm film is more than buoyed by the many old tunes and the superb production numbers - staged, surprisingly, not by specialist Berkeley, who directed, but by Bobby Connolly. The dynamic Kelly, in his film debut, exhibits star quality in spades, while at the same time hinting at the darker side to his persona in the scene where he maims his hand to avoid the draft. He and Garland play beautifully off each other, and of course their performance of the title standard is a highlight of the film.
- TV Guide.

FOR ME AND MY GAL was a World War I story with a vaudeville background that introduced movie audiences to Gene Kelly, a 30-year-old song and dance man who, a couple of years earlier, had electrified Broadway with his performance as Joey Evans in the Richard Rogers-Lorenz Hart-John O'Hara musical Pal Joey.

I a perfect piece of casting, the movie had Kelly as a hoofer called Harry Palmer who teams up with Judy Garland and her boyfriend George Murphy to form an act. But there are complications: Murphy is in love with Garland; Garland is in love with Kelly; and Kelly is in love with Kelly - and with the idea of success. His lifelong ambition, which he finally acchieves, is to play the Palace Theatre in New York, but getting there is an uphill battle, particularly with the War intervening in his plans.

Producer Arthur Freed originally intended to cast Murphy in the Kelly role but, realizing the similarity between Harry Palmer and 'Pal' Joey, switched them around in the hope that Kelly would bring the same dynamic quality to the screen as he had to the stage. He did, but he was let down by the screenplay which, with its combination of corn and sentimentality, and its characterization of Harry which transformed him from ruthlessly ambitious hoofer to self-effacing war hero, was more contrived and unsubtle than anything in vaudeville itself. Richard Sherman, Fred Finkelhoffe and Sid Silvers wrote it from an original story by Howard Emmet Rogers.

The film, however, did give audiences an introduction to Kelly's energetic dancing in a series of routines that, although cornball, perfectly evoked the mood and flavour of the period. Kelly and Garland (who received top billing) worked brilliantly together, establishing a magical rapport, and their performance of the title number (by Edgar Leslie, E Ray Goetz and George W Meyer) was the undoubted highligh of the movie.

The contrast between a vulnerable, hesitant Judy and a confident, punch-packing Kelly was highly effective and, despite the film's somewhat maudlin plot, 1942 audiences were not averse to undiluted patriotism, and they turned it into a box-office smash for MGM making, at the same time, an international star of Gene Kelly.

Marta Eggerth (her US debut) appeared briefly, with other parts going to Ben Blue, Horace (later Stephen) McNally, Richard Quine, Lucille Norman and Keenan Wynn. Is was directed by Busby Berkeley but, surprisingly, the musical numbers were staged by Bobby Connolly.

Songs and musical numbers:
Oh, Johnny, Oh (danced by Kelly) Ed Rose, Abe Olman
They Go Wild, Simply Wild Over Me (Kelly dance) Joseph McCarthy, Fred Fisher
The Doll Shop Roger Edens
Oh You Beautiful Doll (Kelly, Garland) A Seymour Brown, Nat D Ayer
Don't Leave Me Daddy Joe Verges
Sailors' Hornpipe Traditional
By the Beautiful Sea Harold Atteridge, Harry Carroll
When You Wore a Tulip (Garland, Kelly) Jack Mahony, Percy Wenrich
Do I Love You? (Eggerth) E Ray Goetz, Henri Christine
After You've Gone (Garland) Henry Creamer, Turner Layton
Tell Me (Eggerth, male group) Max Kortlander, J Will Callahan
Till We Meet Again (Eggerth) Ray Egan, Richard A Whiting
We Don't Want the Bacon Howard Carr, Harry Russell, Jimmie Havens
Ballin' the Jack (Garland, Kelly) Jim Burris, Chris Smith
What Are You Going To Do To Help the Boys? Gus Khan, Egbert Van Alstyne
Mademoiselle From Armentieres authorship uncertain
How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm (Garland) Sam M Lewis, Joe Young, Walter Donaldson
Where Do We Go From Here (Garland, chorus) Howard Johnson, Percy Wenrich
It's a Long Way To Tipperay (Garland) Jack Judge, Harry Williams
Goodbye Broadway, Hello France (male chorus) C Francis Riesner, Benny Davis, Billy Baskatte
Smiles (Garland) J Will Callahan, Lee M Roberts
Oh Frenchy Sam Ehrlich, Con Conrad
Pack Up Your Troubles (Garland) George Asaf, Felix Powell
When Johnny Comes Marching Home (Garland) Louis Lambert, adapted by Roger Edens

- Clive Hirschhorn, The Hollywood Musical, Octopus Books 1981.

Weblink: Review by David Krauss, Digitally Obsessed, May 05, 2004

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