By Marcina Zaccaria
BroadwayHD takes us back to 1950 to reveal a bit of movie magic in “Summer Stock.” An overhead crane shot leads the viewer to a large farm. Judy Garland begins with the musical “If You Feel like Singing.” After calling above, with a whole town seemingly at her command, the people near Wingate Falls fall in. Summer Stock boasts some of the best ground sequences ever. Horses, dogs, cows, and chickens vie for the camera time with Gene Kelly. With carefully tracked movement, the melee never really collides. Instead, it’s a whimsical flow representing the best of improvisation and pre-planned action, making even the most serious reviewer break into laughter.
Judy Garland portrays an owner of a farm in a difficult year. Struggling with paying for the new tractor while hosting friends of Abigail, her sister, a small rural town becomes a Summer Stock stage. A team of 24 young chorus people stretch for ballet, gracefully lifting their arms and crossing through the outdoor sets. Reliable tunes like “(Howdy Neighbor) Happy Harvest,” “Friendly Star,” and “You Wonderful You” are sung by those that look like the average American, but sing and dance a whole lot better.
The real gem here is the relationship between Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. While I always appreciated the muscularity of Gene Kelly’s presence, Summer Stock sheds light on that, with a conscious sense of humor. Chorus girls surround him scene after scene, not certain whether to impress with geeky glasses or chic poses. As the film heads toward rehearsal, the players manage to coordinate each tier of their scenographic landscape. Hollywood wasn’t afraid of Broadway. This MGM classic demands that we look knowingly at how, by 1950, the genre had become so successful. When we see Judy Garland finally shed a tear, we get the feeling that all the technique in the world doesn’t take the place of finding the organic, human emotion, deep inside of you.
Finally, the diva in Judy Garland presents, as she sings the greatly recognizable, “Forget Your Troubles/ Come on Get Happy/ Ya Better Chase All Your Cares Away.” With music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Ted Koehler, “Get Happy” delivers all the style and sense that MGM could possibly offer. An older Judy Garland wears a long suit jacket and hat, across one eye. She is center stage, surrounded by dancers, with the type of glamour that took an entire movie to reveal.
Those who have lit up the Silver Screen for so long found the most astonishing ways to command attention. BroadwayHD gives us the opportunity to look back before we look forward, inspiring filmmakers to create truly great movies, with everything we go to the cinema to see and hear.
Summer Stock will be playing on BroadwayHD for the remainder of August.