Originally framed as a reunion for Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, Summer Stock follows the traditional, “Hey, kids let's put on a show,” format of many of those successes. But in 1949, Rooney was no longer the box-office draw he was and Gene Kelly was brought in for star power.
The Heights Theater
Director: Charles Walters
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Writers: George Wells, Sy Gomberg
Cinematographer: Robert H. Planck
Editor: Albert Akst
Music: Conrad Salinger
Cast: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Eddie Bracken, Gloria DeHaven, Marjorie Main, Phil Silvers, Ray Collins, Nita Bieber, Carleton Carpenter, Hans Conried
Genre: Musical, Romance
US Theatrical Release: August 31, 1950
US Distributor: MGM
Judy Garland's health was inconsistent by this time. Earlier in 1949, she was forced to leave Annie Get Your Gun mid-production, and although she was healthy from rest and care by the time Summer Stock began filming, her depression and addiction were slowing her down. She took a three month leave of absence mid-filming. When she returned, the movie itself took on a let's put on a show mentality, with the supporting cast rallying around Garland and Kelley following through as a personal favor; Garland had co-starred in his first MGM picture, For Me and My Gal.
The plot follows Garland as a singing and dancing farmer. Gloria deHaven plays her kid-sister, a moony teenager with dreams of Broadway who invites Gene Kelly's troupe of actors to use their barn for their summer production. Other MGM mainstays round out the cast including Phil Silvers, Eddie Bracken, and Marjorie Main. The film is funny and exciting and ends with a famous show-stopper: “Get Happy.”
There’s little consensus where Summer Stock belongs in the MGM canon. It’s not Kelly’s best picture, and it’s not Garland’s best picture. It falls between the first musicals and the mid-fifties renaissance that would define the genre. But it has two of Hollywood’s greatest—working hard, toeing the line, and keeping pace step for step—and that’s, as they say, entertainment. A critic once said Garland was the only dancing partner Kelly ever had that drew your eyes away from his feet. It’s true, and she’s irresistible.