Matinee Monday: In The Good Old Summertime


Two weeks ago, when writing about a Danny Kaye film, I opened with these questions:

What do you do if you are a movie maker and you own a story that did well in 1941? And if you own a studio that makes the best technicolor musicals in Hollywood? And if you own such talent as Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo?

I can do the same with this one, substituting the names of the always bankable Judy Garland, and popular heartthrob of the day, Van Johnson. And I can answer with the same line line: you make a musical. After all, it worked in 1948 for Danny Kaye, it will surely work for Judy Garland in 1949. And thus, a musical remake of The Shop Around The Corner was made, In The Good Old Summertime.

This time around, instead of being set in Hungary, it is set in turn-of-the-century Chicago, allowing Garland and company to perform nostalgic songs, such as Chicago (That Toddling Town), Wait Til The Sun Shines, Nellie, and the title song, In The Good Old Summertime. It tells the same story, of two co-workers who dislike each other in person, but fall “in like” as penpals.

Again, that wonderful character actor, S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall is a major performer, as the lovable but irascible shop owner. One welcome surprise is that this movie marked the return of the great silent star Buster Keaton to MGM films. Keaton had been reduced to writing gags for MGM, and was consulted by the producers about a plot device. It seems that the film needed a comedic, yet plausible, mishap for a priceless Stradivarius violin to be destroyed, and Keaton, the quintessential “buster”, devised the fall needed. It seems that he was the only one who could make it look real on screen, and so he was cast as the hapless nephew of “Cuddles” Sakall.

In the following trailer, there are several delights to watch for. Of course, you’ll get an idea of the turn-of-the-century music I referred to, above. But, in the first part of the trailer, you’ll see the film debut of Liza Minelli, Judy Garland’s daughter. She is the toddler walking between Garland and Van Johnson. Also, Keaton’s Stradivarius-breaking gag that I mentioned is in the latter part of the trailer. Enjoy.

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