PRODUCTION NUMBER: 1477
PRODUCTION DATES: October 1949 – February 1950
PRODUCTION COST: $2,024,848
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
RELEASE DATE: August 1950
INITIAL BOX OFFICE: $3,400,000+
Summer Stock is one of Judy’s (and MGM’s) most charming and enjoyable MGM films, and notable in film history for two reasons:
At the time it was made Summer Stock was a let down for Judy. After her artistic growth (and triumphs) with the Freed Unit in the mid-to-late 40’s (Meet Me In St. Louis, Easter Parade), followed by the professional and personal lows of the late 1940’s, going into Summer Stock was a step backward to the “let’s put on a show” musicals she made with Mickey Rooney. In fact, Summer Stock producer Joe Pasternak had originally wanted Rooney for the role of Joe Ross, intending the film to be a nostalgic reunion for the two stars. But by 1949 Rooney’s box office clout had waned and Gene Kelly was offered the part. Kelly was definitely great box office, having just completed two major hits, both released in 1949: Take Me Out To The Ball Game and On The Town. Thanks to Kelly’s guidance, On The Town was also an artistic success with its advancement of dance on screen. Due to this, under normal circumstances Kelly would have rejected the Summer Stock script as not worthy of his talents. But as a favor to Judy, who was his helpful champion during his film debut when they co-starred in For Me And My Gal in 1942, Kelly agreed to make the film. He later said: “We loved her and we understood what she was going through, and I had every reason to be grateful for all the help she had given me.”
When she reported for work on Summer Stock in October 1949, Judy had just returned to the studio from the disappointment of being let go from Annie Get Your Gun and a resulting recuperative stay at the Peter Brent Bingham hospital in Boston (“Rehab” as it’s termed today). During her stay in Boston she had gained some needed weight and physical and emotional stability. Knowing that putting Judy on a crash diet for the film meant a return to the diet pills and the horrors that went with them, Pasternak wisely did not require any weight loss thus alleviating undue pressure on Judy. Still, after about a month of work on the film, Judy asked the studio to let her out of her contract and the film. She was fearful that she would lose the physical and psychological good health she had just achieved. Studio head Louis B. Mayer convinced her to carry on.
As filming commenced, Judy was still shaky both physically and emotionally. Chuck Walters recalled: “Gene took her left arm and I took her right one, and between us, we literally tried to keep her on her feet. But it wasn’t easy. Emotionally she was at her lowest ebb. Physically she was pretty unsure of herself as well. There were even times when we had to nail the scenery down and provide her with supports so she wouldn’t fall over. Once, I remember, she had to walk up a few steps, and she couldn’t do it. So I had to cheat the shot, and shoot the scene from a different angle. The whole experience was a ghastly, hideous nightmare which, happily, is a blur in my memory.” Insecure about her weight and her ability to perform, costume designer Walter Plunkett was exposed to some of her lowest points, later recalling: “She was paranoid about her inability to work,” he said, “and felt she was letting Gene and Chuck Walters down terribly. And the more she tried to pull herself together, the more hysterical she became. It was heart-breaking to see.”
At one point even Pasternak, who had been in awe of Judy’s talent from as far back as the mid-30’s, thought it best to stop filming for Judy’s sake. He went to Mayer to convince him to shut down the production. Thinking he had Mayer’s sympathy, Pasternak was surprised by his response. Per Pasternak, Mayer said to him: “Judy Garland has made this studio a fortune in the good days, and the least we can do is to give her one more chance. If you stop production now, it’ll finish her.” Pasternak went back and finished the film.
It wasn’t all difficult times. Many times Judy could summon up her special magic and deliver. Just watch her dance with Kelly in “The Portland Fancy.” It’s some of the best and most intricate dancing she ever put on film. She could also help out the rest of the cast. For example, she went to Eddie Bracken’s aid when he was in fear of losing a stage role in New York due to the film’s being over schedule. He later recalled: “[The Executives] would tell me how difficult Judy was to deal with. I said, ‘Do you mind if I call her?’ and Dore Schary said, ‘No, but it won’t do any good.’ He laughed at me, really. But I called Judy and said, ‘I know that you’re feeling terrible, but I’ve got another job on Broadway, and could you try and gain enough strength to get here and knock off this scene?’ and she said, ‘I’ll be there at ten o’clock [that next morning].’ And she was there at ten o’clock; that was Judy. She would do anything for a friend. But the authority – the upper echelon – people who were yelling at her, telling her what to do, that she refused to do. And if someone had asked her nicely, it would have been done in one second. That was the difference with Judy Garland.”
In spite of the issues, filming took only fifty days and was over budget a minor 43k (it was common for films to be over budget, especially musicals). Much of the final success of the filming can be attributed to the affection and support of Judy’s co-stars and crew. Everyone rallied around her because everyone loved her and wanted her to succeed. Ever the trouper, Judy delivered regardless of her physical and emotional weaknesses. .
Summer Stock turned out to be a breezy and sparkling lark. Critics and audiences love it (see reviews below), making the film a financial and critical success. Audiences applauded Judy’s numbers as though they were watching a live stage show, something unheard of even today. Judy’s performance is, as usual, wonderful.
Of particular note is the fact that Summer Stock bridges the style of Judy’s on-screen singing from the sweeter sound of the 40’s to the fuller, more mature sound that she would present to moviegoers in 1954’s A Star is Born. In Summer Stock Judy really lets go vocally, more than she ever had in her previous films. To electrifying effect. Her voice is strong with a new maturity. This is nowhere more evident than in the the usually overlooked “Friendly Star.” Judy sings with such intensity of emotion the result is an instant classic.
Judy’s final solo number in the film is also the last number she filmed at MGM: “Get Happy.” For years many assumed the number was an outtake from a previous film and inserted into Summer Stock to pep things up at the end. The reason for this is that Judy’s appearance in “Get Happy” is much thinner than the rest of the film. This is because “Get Happy” wasn’t an outtake but an addition that was recorded and shot over a month after production had finished. During that time, Judy was afforded more rest and lost more weight. It was Judy’s idea to sing “Get Happy” being a personal favorite. The outfit that Vincente Minnelli originally came up with for Easter Parade’s eventually cut number “Mr. Monotony” became an iconic Garland look: A man’s tuxedo jacked and fedora. “Get Happy” turned out to be one of the best numbers Judy ever performed on film and was a fitting finale to her MGM era.
Not long after completing Summer Stock, Judy was called back to replace a pregnant June Allyson and reunite with Fred Astaire for Royal Wedding. Sadly, Judy’s health had not recovered sufficiently to allow her to endure the toll of making another musical, and she was suspended from the film. Contrary to popular belief, Judy was not fired by MGM. On September 29, 1950 she asked for (and was given) a release from her MGM contract. Within a year she would successfully begin the next era of her career: The legendary “Concert Years
First week of October 1949: Judy began rehearsals.
October 13, 1949: Recording session – “If You Feel Like Singing, Sing,” and “(Howdy, Neighbor) Happy Harvest.”
October 27, 1949: Recording session – “Friendly Star” (also noted as taking place on November 27th)
October 31, 1949: Judy received a warning letter from MGM for missing six out of the first twenty days of pre-production. It was on this afternoon that Judy went to Louis B. Mayer and asked for a release from the film and her MGM contract. He convinced her to stay.
November 16, 1949: Wardrobe tests.
December 19, 1949: Judy, Gene Kelly and Marjorie Main filmed the kitchen scene where Judy’s character (Jane) impersonates Kelly’s character (Joe). On set photos were taken this day of Judy and Gene watching a scene being filmed.
January 12, 1950: Judy and cast rehearsed and filmed the scene in the film where the on-screen cast is rehearsing “All For You.”
February 2, 1950: Recording session – “All For You” and “(Howdy, Neighbor) Happy Harvest (Finale),” both with Gene Kelly.
February 3, 1950: Recording session – “You, Wonderful You” with Gene Kelly.
February 13, 1950: Recording session – “You, Wonderful You (Reprise)” with Gene Kelly.
Mid-February 1950: Judy completed filming Summer Stock.
March 15, 1950: Recording session – “Get Happy”
Mid-to-late March 1950: Judy filmed her final musical number for MGM: “Get Happy”
August 1950: MGM released Summer Stock to great success. Some of the reviews:
Life Magazine: “The great song and dance actress [Judy] makes this movie a personal triumph.”
Time Magazine: “One of Hollywood’s few triple-threat girls. Thanks to actress Garland’s singing, dancing, and acting,
the picture seems considerably better than it is. Though the show’s only distinguished song is an old one, ‘Get Happy,’
her voice and hornlike delivery do wonders for the whole score.”
The Los Angeles Times: “There can be no rivalry for the individuality she brings to the musical film.”
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: “Hers is the genuinely satisfying performance of a seasoned, generously endowed
trouper who instinctively knows what it’s all about and who has a personality and an individuality of style which can’t be replace.”
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner: “The mere flash of (her) name on the screen created excitement, but when the little star went into action Zounds!”
United Press (wire service): “The Hollywood press gave Judy the kind of ovation that any big star dreams of.”
Judy Garland as Jane Falbury
Gene Kelly as Joe Ross
Eddie Bracken as Orville Wingait
Gloria DeHaven as Abigail Falbury
Marjorie Main as Esmé
Phil Silvers as Herb Blake
Ray Collins as Jasper Wingait
Nita Bieber as Sarah Higgins
Carleton Carpenter as Artie
Hans Conried as Harrison Keath
Paul E. Burns as Frank
Michael Chapin as Boy
Teddy Infuhr as Boy
Almira Sessions as Constance Fliggerton
Kathryn Sheldon as Amy Fliggerton
Jack Gargan as Clerk
Eddie Dunn as Sheriff
Erville Alderson as Zeb
Showgirls: Bette Arlen & Bunny Waters
Townsmen: Henry Sylvester, George Bunny & Frank Pharr
Producers: A. Cameron Grant, Jack Daley, Reginald Simpson
Stock Company Members:
Carol Haney, Dorothy Tuttle, Arthur Loew Jr., Dick Humphreys, Jimmie Thompson, Bridget Carr, Joanne Tree, Jeanne Coyne, Jean Adcock, Rena Lenart, Joan Dale, Betty Hannon, Elynne Ray, Marilyn Reiss, Carol West, Eugene Freedley, Don Powell, Joe Roach, Albert Ruiz, Roy Butler
Produced by: Joe Pasternak
Directed by: Charles Walters
Screen Play by: George Wells and Sy Gomberg
Story by: Sy Gomberg
Songs by: Harry Warren and Mack Gordon
Musical Direction: Johnny Green and Saul Chaplin
Orchestration: Conrad Salinger and Skip Martin
Dances Staged by: Nick Castle
Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons and Jack Martin Smith
Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
Associate: Alfred E. Spencer
Costumes by: Walter Plunkett
Gloria DeHaven’s Costumes by: Helen Rose
Hair Styles Designed by: Sydney Guilaroff
Make-Up Created by: William J. Tuttle
Recording Supervisor: Douglas Shearer
Director of Photography: Robert Planck
Color by Technicolor
Technicolor Color Consultants: Henri Jaffa, James Gooch
Film Editor: Albert Akst
If You Feel Like Singing, Sing
(Howdy Neighbor) Happy Harvest
(Judy Garland & The MGM Studio Chorus)
Dig-Dig-Dig-Dig for Your Dinner
(Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Carleton Carpenter & The MGM Studio Chorus)
(Gloria DeHaven and Pete Roberts for Hans Conried)
The Portland Fancy
(Dance by Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, & Dancers)
You Wonderful You
(Judy Garland & Gene Kelly)
You Wonderful You (reprise)
(danced by Gene Kelly)
All for You
(Judy Garland, Gene Kelly & The MGM Studio Chorus)
You Wonderful You (reprise)
(Judy Garland & Gene Kelly)
(Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Chorus Girls, and several dogs!)
(Judy Garland & & The MGM Studio Chorus)
Finale: (Howdy Neighbor) Happy Harvest
(Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers & The MGM Studio Chorus)
Fall In Love
(Gloria DeHaven & Phil Silvers)