IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME
PRODUCTION NUMBER: 1440
PRODUCTION DATES: October 11, 1948 – January 27, 1949
PRODUCTION COST: $1,576,635
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
RELEASE DATE: July 29, 1949
INITIAL BOX OFFICE: $3,534,000+
1948 was a long and tough year for Judy Garland, full of highs and lows. But she ended the year on a positive note by delivering one of her sweetest, most charmingly comedic performances for 1949’s In The Good Old Summertime.
Judy began 1948 finishing up her work on Easter Parade. When that was completed, she went right into filming her guest spot in Words And Music, singing “I Wish I Were In Love Again” with Mickey Rooney (their final film appearance together). Judy always gave 200% to everything she did, and the previous films’ schedules had simply worn her out, making her weak and dangerously underweight – and relying too much on her medications. Regardless, MGM immediately put her into rehearsals for the big budget follow-up to Easter Parade, The Barkleys of Broadway – again co-starring with Fred Astaire. Always eager to please, Judy tried for two months to get through the rehearsals, but it was too much. Her doctor advised producer Arthur Freed that the very thought of having to report to work every morning was creating a “mental disturbance within her.” Freed took Judy off the film and replaced her with Ginger Rogers.
Judy had a much needed few months of rest, getting herself back in shape and more importantly, gaining some weight. During her time off, Words And Music was previewed and audiences were practically unanimous in wanting a second Judy Garland number. They simply couldn’t abide with Judy Garland coming on and singing only one song! MGM called her back to rehearse, record and film “Johnny One Note”, which she did without mishap. Also at this time, MGM had the Irving Berlin mega-hit Annie Get Your Gun waiting in the wings – specifically purchased for Judy. But there were pre-production delays pushing back the start date, so producer Joe Pasternak was able to snag Judy for his intimate musical remake of 1940’s The Shop Around The Corner, titled The Girl From Chicago and to star June Allyson and Frank Sinatra together for the first time. That pairing never made it past the planning stages before Judy and Van Johnson were cast as the co-workers who antagonize each other by day while at the same time unknowingly engage in a pen-pal love affair through letters simply addressed “Dear Friend”. The title was then changed to more musical (this was Judy Garland, mind you!) In The Good Old Summertime.
Pasternak and company wisely did not pressure Judy to go on a crash diet to get down to the “camera thin” size that the Freed Unit insisted on. This helped to keep the pressures of making the film down to a minimum. Plus, although there were several songs, the film was more of a comedy with music, rather than a huge, splashy dance-filled musical extravaganza that would have again worn Judy out. Pasternak ensured more good spirits by having a single rose anonymously delivered to Judy’s dressing room every morning with the note “Happy Day, Judy”. He later remarked: “A great artist is entitled to a lot more latitude. The quality that makes [Judy] great makes her feel more deeply. All of us felt – and you don’t often feel this way in Hollywood – that we would accommodate ourselves gladly to work with Judy… We knew her magical genius and respected it.”
In The Good Old Summertime was the last time Judy would make it through the filming of an MGM musical without any major issues. Even studio chief Louis B. Mayer was impressed. When he asked how this was accomplished, Van Johnson replied: “We made her feel wanted and needed. We joked with her and kept her happy.” The result is one of her best and most underrated performances – showing off her wonderful flair for comedy. She looks healthier than she had in her preceding films, and her voice is at it’s late-40’s best. The film would go on to become a huge hit, with audiences actually applauding after several of Garland’s performances as if it were a live show.
Mary Astor was originally slated to play the role of “Nellie”, but was deemed too young, so Spring Byington was reassigned from the role of Veronica’s aunt to this larger role of “Nellie Burke.”
Judy recorded all of her solos in just two consecutive days: On November 16, 1948 she recorded: “Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland”; “Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey” “Last Night When We Were Young”; and “Merry Christmas” – On November 17th she recorded: “Play That Barbershop Chord”; “I Don’t Care”; and the ultimately deleted finale reprise of “In The Good Old Summertime.”
Buster Keaton, who had choreographed the scene in which Oberkugen’s nephew ruins his violin, was given the part by director Robert Z. Leonard when he realized that Keaton was the only person who could perform this feat without it looking fake. The role originally was scripted as a much younger man to vie more for Judy’s character’s affections. Keaton also devised the first comically disastrous meeting of Judy and Van’s characters – which shows off Judy’s expert comic timing (and Van’s too!).
The story was originally a 1937 Hungarian play written by Miklós László titled “Parfumerie” before becoming the 1940 Ernst Lubitch classic MGM comedy The Shop Around The Corner starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan. After this 1949 Garland version musicalized it and moved the era and locale to early 1900’s Chicago, the story was made into another musical in 1963 on Broadway as “She Loves Me” starring Barbara Cook & Daniel Massey and with an entirely new score and era and locale changed again, this time to an unspecified European city in the 1930’s. It won the Tony Award for Jack Cassidy (David Cassidy’s father) for “Best Featured Actor in a Musical”. A 1993 revival of the show won the Tony Award for Boyd Gaines for “Best Actor in a Musical.”
The story’s most recent incarnation was the 1998 non-musical comedy film starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan titled You’ve Got Mail – updating it to modern day New York and the electronic age with the two leads communicating via email. Which is now very dated. The film features a version of Judy’s “Over The Rainbow” sung by Harry Nilsson.
The title is misleading, in that most of the film takes place during the Christmas holiday season. It has since become a minor Christmas classic airing each year during the holidays on the Turner Classic Movies network.
TIMELINE AT A GLANCE:
November 16, 1948: Judy prerecorded “Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland”; “Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey” “Last Night When We Were Young”; and “Merry Christmas.”
November 17, 1948: Judy prerecorded “Play That Barbershop Chord”; “I Don’t Care”; and the ultimately deleted finale reprise of “In The Good Old Summertime.”
November 22, 1948: Filming started.
December 20, 1948: Photos were taken of Judy in costume for the party scenes where she sings “Play That Barbershop Chord” and “I Don’t Care.”
December 23, 1948: Filmed on this date was the scene where Judy’s character, Veronica Fisher, is at home not feeling well.
January 9, 1949: On set studio photos were taken for use in promotional materials.
January 27, 1949: Filming was completed.
July 19, 1949: The film was released nationwide.
August 4, 1949: The film opened at New York’s Radio City Music Hall
Judy Garland as Veronica Fisher
Van Johnson as Andrew Larkin
S. Z. (“Cuddles”) Sakall as Otto Oberkugen
Spring Byington as Nellie Burke
Buster Keaton as Hickey
Marcia Van Dyke as Louise Parkson
Clinton Sundberg as Rudy Hansen
Lillian Bronson as Aunt Addie
Ralph Sanford as Policeman
Charles Smith as a member of the Barbershop Quartet (uncredited)
Liza Minnelli as the daughter of Veronica & Andrew (Liza’s uncredited film debut!
Produced by: Joe Pasternak
Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard
Written for the Screen by: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich and Ivan Tors
From a Screen Play by: Samson Raphaelson
And a Play by: Miklós László (“The Shop Around the Corner”)
Musical Direction: Georgie Stoll
Vocal Orchestrations: Conrad Salinger
Song: “In the Good Old Summertime” Music by George Evans, Lyrics by Ren Shields
Musical Sequences Directed by: Robert Alton
Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons and Randall Duell
Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
Associate: Alfred E. Spencer
Women’s Costumes by: Irene
Men’s Costumes by: Valles
Hair Styles Designed by: Sydney Guillaroff
Make-Up Created by: Jack Dawn
Recording Supervisor: Douglas Shearer
Director of Photography: Harry Stradling
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe
Color by Technicolor
Technicolor Color Director: Natalie Kalmus
Associate: James Gooch
Film Editor: Adrienne Fazan
In The Good Old Summertime
(Van Johnson, Buster Keaton, Spring Byington, S. Z. Sakall & Chorus)
Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland
(violin solo by Marcia Van Dyke)
Put Your Arms Around Me Honey
(Judy Garland with Van Johnson)
Wait ‘Til The Sun Shines Nellie
(The King’s Men)
Little Brown Jug
(MGM Studio Orchestra)
Play That Barbershop Chord
(Judy Garland and The King’s Men)
I Don’t Care
Souvenir From Moscow
(violin solo by Marcia Van Dyke)
In The Good Old Summertime
(Chorus finale reprise)
Last Night When We Were Young
In The Good Old Summertime (finale reprise)
(Judy Garland, Van Johnson, and The King’s Men)
These playback discs are two different types. The first two are the standard 80 rpm MGM playback discs that feature the MGM logo and typed information on the labels. The rest are double sprocket hole discs which were played on different equipment. These had blank labels on which the details were handwritten. It’s unknown if these are more casual “first run” playback discs not meant for filming but more for test purposes or something else.
The Daily Music Reports note that only one take of “Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey,” “Last Night When We Were Young,” and “Play That Barbershop Chord” were printed, the discs here have notes such as “T 2” or “T 3.” This indicated that perhaps more than one take was “printed” (kept as the version to use in the film) but an alternate was also kept for another unknown reason.
All discs from the Hisato Masuyama collection. Thanks Hisato!