For Me and My Gal

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the heyday of vaudeville, on the verge of America’s entrance into World War I, two talented performers, Jo Hayden (Judy Garland) and Harry Palmer (Gene Kelly), set their sights on playing the Palace Theatre on Broadway, the epitome of vaudeville success, and marrying immediately after.

Just weeks before their plans are to be realized Harry gets a draft notice. Intending to obtain a short delay before reporting for duty, he intentionally smashes his hand in a trunk. That same day Jo is notified that her brother, who had been studying to be a doctor, has died in the war.

When she realizes what Harry has done, she rejects him and leaves the act. Harry then tries to undo his rash act and enlist, but none of the armed services will take him as his hand has been permanently crippled. Eventually he resigns himself to participating in the war effort the only way left open to him, entertaining front line troops for the YMCA.

When he and his partner find themselves dangerously close to the front, Harry heroically sets out to warn off an ambulance convoy heading into an artillery bombardment.He is wounded while destroying an enemy machine gun emplacement ambushing the convoy and is apparently commended for his bravery.

After the war, during a victory performance at the Palace Theatre, Jo sees Harry in the audience and runs to him. The two reunite on stage to sing “For Me and My Gal”, the first song they ever performed together.

REVIEW:

Gene Kelly is my one my favorite stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Look through the archives and you will notice that he is well represented on this blog. With that in mind, I was asked the other day why I hadn’t reviewed Kelly’s film debut. The answer was that I didn’t know what it was, until now. Good or bad, For Me and My Gal will forever be etched in the annals of history as the films that brought us the immortal Gene Kelly. As a matter of fact, the last Kelly film I reviewed, Les Girls, turned out to be his last musical, so from the last to the first we go!

What is this about?

Judy Garland puts Gene Kelly (in his MGM screen debut) through his musical paces in this tuneful delight about a couple of vaudeville hoofers on the rise. But things go inconveniently dark when America enters World War I and Kelly gets his draft notice to report for duty. Will he dodge the draft now that stardom is just within reach?

What did I like?

Vaudeville. Before the film begins, there is a public service announcement saying that the film is dedicated to the men and women who gave audiences countless hours of entertainment. I think it is safe to say that we have all heard of vaudeville, especially those of us that watch old movies and television shows, but how many of us really know what it is? This film actually gives us a look at what it was like to watch a vaudeville show. As I was watching, I asked myself, why is that vaudeville died, again?

Look who it is. Gene Kelly is great as always, but I was impressed with how he managed to keep it together on-screen with megastar Judy Garland. Remember, this isn’t the Gene Kelly of Singin’ in the Rain fame, this is his debut, while Garland is a seasoned veteran, so there had to be some kind of intimidation, at least initially, when they would come to work every day. With that being said, the chemistry between these two is magic! One would never have guessed it, but watching them together, especially the first time they sing “For Me and My Gal”, you know that you are watching the stuff of legends, the beginning of one in Kelly’s case.

Love story. There are two things that people complain about with musicals more than anything else. First is that people randomly break out into song and choreographed dance. My response to that is if you have that much of a problem with that, why are you even watching a musical? Second, the love story is quite sappy. I can’t argue with this one, as many of these productions do feel oversaturated with sap. What does this have to with this film? Well, there actually isn’t much in the way of songs to be heard, in comparison to other musicals, but the love story is actually a good one. Kelly and Garland present one that doesn’t feel rushed, forced, or unbelievable. This may be because this is based on a true story, but hey, it works, and that’s all that matters.

What didn’t I like?

Shine bright like a diamond. I read a comment somewhere that no matter how good Gene Kelly was, Judy Garland managed to outshine him. Watching them perform, this becomes more and more obvious that she is the seasoned veteran and perhaps is even the star. My only problem with this is that it seems that this should be more of an even balance between the leads. There is once scene where they are performing together and Kelly, who is already a somewhat soft singer, is overshadowed by Garland’s larger than life voicing.

Opera. On the train, when Kelly goes for a cigarette, he finds himself in the compartment of a popular opera singer. I can’t recall how it happened, but she goes on to be in the story for a little bit. Even going so far as to give Garland’s character advice about Kelly. I don’t really see what this had to do with anything. Other than having Kelly gush over meeting a “real life celebrity” and her seeming like some sort of bitchy, feminist who didn’t want Garland with him, the scenes with her, especially the later ones, could have been replaced with something more relevant.

Tap. I guess I’ve just become spoiled by other performances of Gene Kelly, but I was disappointed that he didn’t take the time out to do a dance routine. Sure, there are a couple of sequences with Judy, but what about some solo work? Again, it is important to remember than this is only his first film, but many of the things that he is known for (smile, dancing, singing, etc.) are obvious, so why not a solo number? Maybe he just didn’t have the clout, yet.

There really isn’t much to be said about For Me and My Gal. This is an enjoyable film that served as war propaganda, introduced us to Gene Kelly, and reminded us about the magic of Vaudeville. The whole picture isn’t a barrel of fun, as there is a bit of melodrama, but when push comes to shove there in no reason to not carve out some time to watch this. So, do I recommend this? Yes, very highly, but be warned those of you that hate on non-colorized film, as this is a black and white film. Everyone else should thoroughly enjoy this picture!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “For Me and My Gal”

  1. […] but there is a mutual respect between the two that shows. The last film I saw starring these two, For Me and My Gal, was actually their first pairing. The years since then have done nothing but improve not only the […]

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