Summer Stock


Jane Falbury (Judy Garland) is a farm owner whose actress sister Abigail (Gloria DeHaven) arrives at the family farm with her theater troupe. They need a place to rehearse, and Jane and her housekeeper Esme (Marjorie Main) reluctantly agree to let them use their barn. The actors and actresses, including the director Joe Ross (Gene Kelly), repay her hospitality by doing chores around the farm. Although Joe is engaged to Abigail, he begins to fall in love with Jane after Abigail leaves him in an angry fit. Similarly, although Jane is engaged to Orville (Eddie Bracken), she falls in love with Joe.


So, Friday night, I was at a friend’s house and Summer Stock came on, but because I was so sick, I fell asleep and couldn’t enjoy it. Now, for me to not enjoy a Gene Kelly film, it either has to not be that great or something is wrong with me. This go around, it was the latter. So, with this being the second opportunity to watch this in past 5 days, what did I think?

What is this about?

Jane Falbury (Judy Garland) thinks she’s doing her sister, Abigail (Gloria DeHaven), a favor by allowing her troupe of summer stock actors to use her barn as a theater. But when Jane meets her sister’s fiancé, director Joe Ross (Gene Kelly), she realizes she’s made a big mistake. She finds herself falling for him in this 1950 musical, which was Garland’s last with Kelly, a longtime collaborator, and features her performance of “Get Happy.”

What did I like?

Together again. Gene Kelly and Judy Garland have a nice chemistry when they are together on screen. I won’t say it is the greatest, because I’ve seen better, 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 acting, dancing, and singing of Kelly and Garland, but also their ability to play off of each other.

Dance. With every Gene Kelly film, you get a fantastic dance scene or scenes. This is one of those in which Kelly is dancing every chance he gets, and not a single one of those moments will have you bored. The two scenes that stick out the most in my mind are a pseudo-challenge scene that happens in the barn between he and Judy Garland’s character and, even more impressive, is the solo scene Kelly does on the creaky stage using newspaper. Who would have ever thought to dance with a newspaper? Go look this scene up on Youtube and you’ll see why it is so impressive. Nothing fancy or spectacular about it, just Gene doing his best tap dancing in a darkened barn, but it is so meticulous you can’t help but watch in awe.

Work. Most of the time in cinema, we will see a group of actors or similar group move into a farm and all they do is leech off the people who are nice enough to let them stay there. That isn’t the case with the film as Judy Garland’s no-nonsense character puts them all to work. Granted, it is a total disaster, but at they tried, right?

What didn’t I like?

Tone it down. I’m the last person to complain about the comic relief, but there is such a thing as too much. Phil Silver is an accomplished comedian, yes, but he just was a bit too much for this film. Had this been a Jerry Lewis picture, it might have fit, but as it is his over the top, in your face comedic stylings just seemed out of place.

Wait for weight. In the film’s big number, “Get Happy”, Judy Garland slips into a leotard tuxedo and stockings, but also looks noticeably slimmer. Apparently, this scene was filmed 2 months following completion of the rest of the film. Kudos to Garland for dropping the lbs, especially given what was going in her life at the time, but the noticeable difference hurt the film for me, especially since a couple of scenes later, I do believe we get another shot of her, but back at the size she is for the rest of the film. Also, as much as I love this song, it does seem a bit out of place with the show they were putting on. It was like if you were listening to a country compilation and all of a sudden you hear Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, or some other big band music.

Weak. Don’t get me wrong, but I came out of this film feeling as if the plot wasn’t as strong as it probably could have been. There is a love story, or rather a love square that is hinted at but never really executed until the finale. By that time, the audience is more concerned with how the show is going, rather than the personal lives of a few of the stars. The random way in which the actors are brought in and shown to be inept on the farm could have been expanded on, rather than one and done. I guess I just wanted a plot that seemed like it wasn’t done in a weekend over a couple of pots of coffee.

I knew there was a reason I wanted to watch Summer Stock again after my experience on Friday. This is another fun musical that stars Gene Kelly and will make you want to go out and sign up for dance lessons so that you can at least pretend to be the man. Do I recommend this picture? Yes, very highly! There is nothing in here that could offend anyone and the only real issue anyone may have is that the outfits are a bit dated, the redneck show could be construed as offensive, and this is an older picture, which seems to turn people off. If you can get past those things, then this is the film for you, so check it out and have some fun!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars


2 Responses to “Summer Stock”

  1. […] Check out the trailer for Summer Stock […]

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