FOR ME AND MY GAL ( 1942 )
After seeing “For Me And My Gal” on the big cinema screen yesterday, I knew I had to write about it for my next film presentation. I’ve seen an array of classic films at the theatre, but yesterday’s viewing was one of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever had. It’s always thrilling to see your beloved classics on the big screen with an audience of seniors who grew up with those entertainers and appreciate classic films as much as I do. Yesterday’s screening also made me realize how much the younger generation of today are missing out on the quality films of the golden era, which is such a shame, because they haven’t witnessed true celebrities and entertainment, such as Judy Garland, who can’t be dismissed.
Gene Kelly made his debut into motion pictures and starred alongside Judy Garland in this perennial classic that is directed by Busby Berkeley, and based on a true story about the real life Vaudevillians, Harry Palmer and Jo Hayden, and the troubles they faced when the world was on the brink of the first world war.
The film also marks Judy Garland’s first real adult role. Judy was almost twenty years old at the time, and was accustomed to playing juvenile roles, that even Judy herself was tired of being typecast to playing characters that are twelve years of age, and was yearning for a more mature role. When word came along that she was to star in the movie, she automatically agreed, and campaigned for Gene Kelly to be her co-star. Gene Kelly, who was then twenty nine, and fresh from his Broadway success with “Pal Joey” accepted to take on the role. The two formed a close friendship, and would go on to make two more films together: “The Pirate” and “Summer Stock”.
The film tells the story of Jo Hayden and Harry Palmer ( Judy Garland and Gene Kelly ) two eminent Vaudevillians who form a partnership at the inception of World War I, and set their sights on performing at The Palace Theatre. Just as their dreams are about to come true, Harry receives a telegram to say that he’s been recruited into the army, while Jo hears word that her brother Danny has been killed in the war.
To avoid being drafted, Harry intentionally injures his hand, but when Jo discovers that what he has done is self inflicted, she breaks their relationship, intending not to have anything to do with him. Harry is left perturbed, and tries to enlist in the army, but is rejected because his hand has been left permanently crippled. The dreary vicissitude brightens when Harry is accepted in the war effort by entertaining frontline troops for the YMCA.
“For Me And My Gal” is one of my favorite musicals, and seeing this on the big screen yesterday made me realize why. Even though it’s listed as a musical, I wouldn’t classify it as such. Of course there are song and dance numbers, but the music is overshadowed by the plot, and the story is so strong that it’s more like a sad melodrama, and unlike most musicals, the film can easily stand alone without the music, but with the songs and Gene Kelly’s masterfully dancing, it’s an added bonus.
Judy Garland is at the height of her beauty here, and while watching her you can’t help but fall in love with her. This was one of the first Judy movies I ever saw, and from my first viewing of this film, I was totally swept away by Judy’s charm and her indelible talents. Besides from her powerful performance in “A Star Is Born”, this is another film that showcases Judy’s dramatic prowess by proving that she wasn’t just a singer, she was also very adept at solid drama.
It was also this movie that made me develop a crush on Gene Kelly. He was absolutely copacetic, delivering a commendable performance, that you wouldn’t believe that this was his first movie. The chemistry between Judy and Gene is amazing, it’s no wonder he would be Judy’s dancing partner in two more collaborations.
The singing and dancing in the film is also wonderful. The songs are so catchy that every time I watch the film, I get them stuck in my head. It’s hard to say what my favorite number would be, as I love them all. The scene in the café where they tap dance and sing “For Me And My Gal” always gives me chills, and I especially like Judy and Gene performing “Ballin The Jack”.
“For Me And My Gal” is such an enthralling movie that will continue to enchant audiences for many decades to come. Even if you are not a fan of musicals, I think anybody would enjoy this, as it doesn’t rely on the music, and Gene Kelly’s dancing along with Judy’s loveliness makes the film sparkle.
- “Oh, You Beautiful Doll“, music by Nat D. Ayer, lyrics by A. Seymour Brown, additional lyrics by Roger Edens performed by George Murphy, Judy Garland and others
- “For Me and My Gal“, music and lyrics by George W. Meyer, Edgar Leslie and E. Ray Goetz, performed by Gene Kelly and Judy Garland
- “When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose”, music by Percy Wenrich, lyrics by Jack Mahoney, performed by Kelly and Garland
- “After You’ve Gone“, music by Turner Layton, lyrics by Henry Creamer, sung by Judy Garland.
- “Ballin’ the Jack“, music by Chris Smith, lyrics by Jim Burris, sung and danced by Kelly and Garland.
- The film also contains portions of a number of songs popular during World War I, including “By the Beautiful Sea”, “There’s a Long, Long Trail“, “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)”, “Where Do We Go from Here, Boys”, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary“, “Goodbye Broadway, Hello France”, “(There are) Smiles (That Make Us Happy)”, “Oh Frenchy”, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” and “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile“.
- Two additional songs were intended to be included: “Spell of the Waltz”, which was to be performed by Marta Eggerth and a male chorus and “Three Cheers for the Yanks”, written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin.
Harry Palmer: Hello Springtime!
Jo Hayden: Aren’t you a little out of season?
Jo Hayden: Gee what do you do when you love somebody so much, and they don’t even know you’re around?
Jimmy K. Metcalf: I dunno Jo. I guess you just keep right on loving them.
Jo Hayden: You’ll never be big time because you’re small time in your heart.
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.
Gene Kelly: Born Eugene Curran Kelly on August 23rd, 1912 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Died: February 2nd, 1996 in Beverly Hills, California. Aged 83.