|THE HARVEY GIRLS (director: George Sidney; screenwriters: Edmund Beloin, Harry Crane, Nathaniel Curtis, James O'Hanlon, Samson Raphaelson/book by Samuel Hopkins Adams; cinematographer: George Folsey; editor: Robert Akst; music: Lennie Hayton, Harry Warren; cast: Judy Garland (Susan Bradley), John Hodiak (Ned Trent), Ray Bolger (Chris Maule), Angela Lansbury (Em), Selena Royle (Miss Bliss), Marjorie Main (Sonora Cassidy), Cyd Charisse (Deborah), Ben Carter (John Henry), Chill Wills (Hartsey), Kenny Baker (Terry O'Halloran), Ruth Brady (Ethel),Jack Lambert (Marty Peters), Virginia O'Brien (Alma), Marris Ankrum (Rev Claggett), Preston Foster (Judge Sam Purvis); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM/Warner/Turner; 1946)|
MGM Western musical."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A lively MGM Western musical. The musical has a good score, a star performance by Judy Garland and good production values. It's directed in a formulaic mode by George Sidney ("Pal Joey"/"The Swinger"). Writers Edmund Beloin, Harry Crane, Nathaniel Curtis, James O'Hanlon and Samson Raphaelson base it on the book by Samuel Hopkins Adams.
In the 19th century, the attractive wholesome Susan Bradley (Judy Garland) leaves Ohio by train to go West to a frontier town called Sand Rock, Arizona, and marry a cowboy (Chill Wills) after exchanging letters. When she learns the letters were written for the illiterate hick correspondent (Chill Wills) by the suave saloon owner Trent (John Hodiak), she gets out of the marriage to the much older man and stays in town to be a Harvey Girl, a waitress for a new place in town named after restaurant owner Fred Harvey, a businessman who ran a chain of high-class restaurants that reached across the country and competed with the rowdy saloons.
The action of the corrupt judge (Preston Foster), a silent partner in Trent's saloon, to get the thug Peters (Jack Lambert) to harass the Harvey Girls with a ratllesnake so the restaurant will fail, backfires. In this Western home cooking and nice women serves the town better fare, as Trent reforms and Susan falls for him.
Its featured musical number The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe is far better than the overlong film and stale story. Other delightful but more ordinary numbers include "Wait and See," "It's Wild in the Wild, Wild West." "The Train Must Be Fed" and "Around and Around and Around."
Cast members of note include the loose-living Angela Lansbury, as the saloon gal rival of Susan for Trent; Cyd Charisse as Susan's waitress friend; Kenny Baker is the sentimental singing piano player; Ray Bolger as the blacksmith wooed by Harvey Girl Virginia O'Brien and character actress Marjorie Main as the film's comic relief.
It's a decent musical that outperforms its silly script thanks to a great performance by Judy. At the box office it was a big hit. It looks like a stage production, even if filmed at Monument Valley.
REVIEWED ON 7/13/2017 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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