TCM Greatest Classics Collection: Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland
Pros: Rooney; Garland; song & dance numbers; amusing story
Cons: can’t think of any
Four discs, including great extras,, with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland MGM musicals, at only a fraction of the 2007 package from TCM, is what you get in this collection. They are Babes in Arms, Strike Up The Band, Babes on Broadway, and Girl Crazy. Though each one is amusing and includes wonderful song and dance numbers, my favorite is the last one. You may prefer another one more, but you won’t hate any if you’re a fan of MGM musicals.
Rather than tell you a bit about all of these World War II.-era, black-and-white spectacles, I’d like to tell you a lot about Girl Crazy so you can better decide if these type of movies are for you.
Back in 1943 the top box-office star was still 22-year-old Mickey Rooney, and in his fourth (and arguably the best) Arthur Freed production Girl Crazy with 20-year-old Judy Garland, he gets top billing. World War II was a long way from being over and Americans were sacrificing their lives to defeat Hitler. This big band musical remained a big favorite with the hardworking audiences through the next year, making them laugh as well as be romanced by the stars. George and Ira Gershwin tunes were hits with them, and Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra.
It was beautifully shot in black-n-white while other films used very expensive Technicolor to draw in audiences. Based on an Ethel Merman Broadway play, this ninety-nine minute film could’ve been much longer and even more delightful. I listened to Jim Fricke’s commentary on it and so much was deleted, including many Gershwin songs from the play. There still remain at least five that are sung by Garland and/or Rooney, but others are only included as background music or played by the orchestra. If Girl Crazy had been filmed after the war, it probably would’ve kept all the songs in.
Rooney plays a college playboy on the East Coast and he opens the movie being escorted by lovely ladies to a nightclub where Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra are featured. Soon he’s lavished with female attention and urged to sing a boisterous kind of song, which makes the papers that his father owns. Before long he’s sent out West to attend an all-male college where his father went, but of course he meets Garland’s character. After he checks in and gets a dose of the cowboys, bucking horses and workaholic schedule, he decides to leave in a few days and she, the dean’s granddaughter and U.S. Postmistress, drives him back to the station while he does his adorable best to woo her. He stays.
After she and Gramps learn the college will be closed down if the Governor signs the paper, the smitten playboy and cowgirl team up to see the Governor and put on a Buffalo Bill-type rodeo (pronounced ro-DAY-oh) mostly directed by Busby Berkeley/ and a spectacular marching scene of a hundred young people. Rooney and Garland sing and dance their hearts out.
If you love musicals, you really should enjoy Girl Crazy as well as the other films in this collection, all romantic comedies and Americana treasures. Commentator Fricke clearly feels there have never been a more talented, dynamic duo in the movies than Rooney and Garland and I think he may be right. You can consider it a bit dated, of course, even schmaltzy, but so what? I found it great, escapist fun with stars at the top of their game and classy, engaging music. The DVD extras include a 2007 introduction by a much slower Rooney of the commentary.