STRIKE UP THE BAND ( 1940 )

MUSICAL MONTH

STRIKE UP THE BAND ( 1940 )

To coincide with the one year anniversary of Mickey Rooney’s passing yesterday, and as a small tribute to him, I thought I would present you all with a Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movie. The film I have chosen is “Strike Up The Band”, one of my favorite vehicles featuring one of Hollywood’s famous onscreen couples, and one of the films which showcases Mickey’s talent at playing the musical instruments.

strike-up-the-band-judy-garland-mickey-rooney-1940

After the success of “Babes In Arms”, audiences couldn’t get enough of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney putting on a show, and were asking for another vehicle pairing the two. Shortly after Arthur Freed announced that a film titled “Good News” was in the works for the two teens, and was to serve as a Rooney, Garland, Berkeley follow up, but when the script proved deficient, Louis B. Mayer suggested that Arthur Freed amass some ideas for a screenplay based on the George and Ira Gershwin song title “Strike Up The Band”. Once the new story was done, the film was set for the original casting of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, with Busby Berkeley as director.

Strike-up-the-band

Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney Strike Up The band in their fifth movie together. The film casts Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney as aspiring young hopefuls, who yearns for a place in the musical industry. Jimmy Connors ( Mickey Rooney ) is a proficient drummer for Riverwood High School’s band, but with his talent he dreams of one day escalating to great heights. When the idea of forming his own band with Mary Holden ( Judy Garland ) his close friend as vocalist piques an interest in him, he accompanies Mary to the school principal and sells him the latest idea. At first the principal is apprehensive, but eventually he warms up to the offer, and agrees to purchase the first ticket.

Meanwhile, Jimmy’s mother has visions of her son inheriting his father’s profession and becoming a doctor, but Jimmy’s passion is music, so he dismisses the idea. Realizing that Jimmy is dedicated to his chosen career, and is determined to become a successful drummer, she starts to support Jimmy by giving him her backing.

When it is announced that Paul Whiteman is sponsoring a national radio contest for young musicians in Chicago, Jimmy is eager to compete and parlay all is musical talents and his prowess as a drummer into the hopes of winning the contest, but first they must get to Chicago, and with insufficient funds it’s quite of a battle, so they approach the principal about requesting travel funds, but when he dissents, Jimmy and Mary are forced to raise money themselves.

As time progresses, Mary becomes even more infatuated by Jimmy, but can’t seem to get his interest in return. Any hopes of a love affair is shattered when a new blonde student, Barbara Frances Morgan arrives on the scene and steals Jimmy away. By coincidence, Barbara’s father happens to know Paul Whiteman, and when Whiteman and his orchestra are brought to town to play at Barbara’s birthday party, Jimmy and Mary are euphoric that they can audition for him on the spot. Upon witnessing Jimmy and Mary in action, Paul recognizes their dexterity and offers Jimmy a drumming career in New York. However, Jimmy’s mother rejects the idea by saying that he will be abandoning Mary, his friends, and the band by going to New York. After some reasoning, Jimmy approaches Paul Whiteman with his answer, and Whiteman agrees to include Mary and Jimmy on his upcoming radio broadcast in Chicago. Jimmy is elated by Paul Whiteman’s approval, but explains to him that he needs a loan to get to Chicago, so Whiteman assists him with the funds.

Problems arise when one of their close friends falls ill and requires emergency surgery, and Jimmy has to donate his mutual fund to help with the transportation and surgery. With this latest dilemma, they are now penniless and uncertain whether they will get to Chicago to compete in the competition.

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Being an avid Judy Garland fan, I progressed my way through her entire filmography years ago, and I can easily say that out of all the films that Judy and Mickey made together, this remains one of my favorites. “Strike Up The Band” is an absolute delight to watch from start to finish. Not only is it packed with an array of fun and catchy songs like “Do The La Conga” and “Our Love Affair”, it also includes many elements of comedy, drama and emotion. In fact there is something in this movie for everybody.

Judy Garland as always is adorable and charming, and she’s at the height of her loveliness here, but when she’s paired with Mickey Rooney, you can really witness the chemistry that they had together. Judy and Mickey are such a cute couple, that one can’t resist watching them on screen, and that is perfectly augmented in this film.

All-in-all, this is an excellent film that showcases some of the rising stars of the time. It has a big-name band, great imagination, and wonderful musical numbers. And, it’s topped off with clever scenes, lots of laughs and tons of energy. As for Rooney’s high energy that some may find over the top at times – it was as much a part of the story and movie as all the other pieces that, put together, add up to a very good comedy musical. It’s first rate entertainment. Oh, yes – there are a few tender, serious moments, and those fit very nicely.

judy sing

Songs from film:

Strike up the Band
(1927)
Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Played during the opening credits
Sung by Judy Garland (uncredited), Mickey Rooney (uncredited), and chorus in the finale
Our Love Affair
(1939)
Music by Roger Edens
Lyrics Arthur Freed
Played during the opening and end credits
Played on piano by Mickey Rooney (uncredited) and sung by Judy Garland (uncredited) and Mickey Rooney (uncredited) with orchestral accompaniment
Reprised by the animated fruit orchestra
Reprised by the band at rehearsal and at the dance
Reprised by Judy Garland (uncredited) and Mickey Rooney (uncredited) in the finale
Played as background music often
Do the La Conga
(1939) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Roger Edens
Performed by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Sidney Miller, William Tracy and chorus at the dance
Reprised by the cast in the finale
Nobody
(1939) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Roger Edens
Sung by Judy Garland
Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
(uncredited)
Traditional
Played as background music at the start of the fair sequence
The Gay Nineties
(1940) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Roger Edens
Performed by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, William Tracy, Margaret Early and chorus at the Elks Club show
Nell of New Rochelle
(1939) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Roger Edens
Performed by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and chorus in the Elks club show
Sidewalks of New York
(1894) (uncredited)
Music by Charles Lawlor
A few notes played at the start of the ‘Nell of New Rochelle’ sequence
Walking Down Broadway
(uncredited)
Traditional
Music Arranged by Roger Edens
Sung by the chorus in the ‘Nell of New Rochelle’ sequence
A Man Was the Cause of It All
(1939) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Roger Edens
Sung by Judy Garland in the ‘Nell of New Rochelle’ sequence
After the Ball
(1892) (uncredited)
Music by Charles Harris
Played as dance music in the ‘Nell of New Rochelle’ sequence
Sobre las olas (Over the Waves)
(1887) (uncredited)
Music by Juventino Rosas
Played as background music in the ‘Nell of New Rochelle’ sequence
Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl
(1909) (uncredited)
Music by A. Baldwin Sloane
Lyrics by Edgar Smith
Sung by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and chorus in the ‘Nell of New Rochelle’ sequence
Home, Sweet Home
(1823) (uncredited)
Music by H.R. Bishop
Played as background music when Nell rocks the cradle
Ta-ra-ra Boom-der-é
(1891) (uncredited)
Written by Henry J. Sayers
Danced to and sung by June Preisser and sung by the chorus in the ‘Nell of New Rochelle’ sequence
Reprised in the finale of the ‘Nell of New Rochelle’ sequence
Come Home, Father
(1864) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Henry Clay Work
Sung by Larry Nunn and Judy Garland in the ‘Nell of New Rochelle’ sequence
The Light Cavalry Overture
(1866) (uncredited)
Music by Franz von Suppé
Played in the ‘Nell of New Rochelle’ sequence several times
Rock-a-Bye Baby
(1886) (uncredited)
Music by Effie I. Canning
Played as background music when Willie is told to go home
Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (Has Anybody Seen My Girl)?
(1925) (uncredited)
Music by Ray Henderson
Played as background music when Jimmy and Barbara wait for her parents
When Day is Done
(1926) (uncredited)
Music by Robert Katscher
Opening number played by Paul Whiteman and Orchestra at Barbara’s party
Wonderful One
(1922) (uncredited)
Music by Paul Whiteman and Ferde Grofé Sr.
Played as dance music by Paul Whiteman and Orchestra at Barbara’s party
Drummer Boy
(1939) (uncredited)
Music by Roger Edens
Lyrics by Roger Edens and Arthur Freed
Performed at Barbara’s party by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney (on drums and vibraphone) and other band members
Reprised by the cast in the finale
China Boy
(1922) (uncredited)
Written by Dick Winfree and Phil Boutelje
Played as background music during the travel and contest montage
Hands Across the Table
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Jean Delettre
Played as background music during the travel and contest montage
Limehouse Blues
(1922) (uncredited)
Music by Philip Braham
Played as background music during the travel and contest montage
Tiger Rag
(1918) (uncredited)
Written by Edwin B. Edwards, Nick LaRocca, Tony Sbarbaro, Henry Ragas and Larry Shields
Played as background music during the travel and contest montage
Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean
(1843) (uncredited)
Music Arranged by Thomas A. Beckett
Played as background music when the flag is raised at the end.
Strike-up-the-band
Trivia:
The puppet orchestra made of fruit that comes to life playing instruments for Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland on a kitchen table, was the work of animator George Pal. He had just arrived in Hollywood from Europe via New York and this was among his first projects. Pal’s work was relatively unknown by American audiences, thus he was uncredited. The idea for the sequence was that of another New York-to-Hollywood transfer: Vincente Minnelli.
“Lux Radio Theater” broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on October 28, 1940 with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney reprising their film roles.
The 1930 Broadway production of “Strike Up the Band”, with music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, had no relation to the story of this film. That was a political satire that had trouble getting to Broadway, and when it did, it had only a short run of 191 performances. However, the title song became very popular and is included in this film.
strike-up-the-band-mickey-rooney-judy-garland-1940
Quotes:
Paul Whiteman: Take that boy on the street. Teach him to blow a horn and he’ll never blow a safe.
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Cast:
Judy Garland: Born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10th, 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Died: June 22nd, 1969 in Chelsea, London. Aged 47. Cause of death ( Barbiturate overdose ).
Mickey Rooney: Born Joseph Yule, Jr. on September 23rd, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York. Died: April 6th, 2014 in Studio City, California. Aged 93.
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