FOR ME AND MY GAL (director: Busby Berkeley; screenwriters: Richard Sherman/Fred Finklehoffe/Sid Silvers/based on the story “The Big Time” by Howard Emmett Rogers; cinematographer: William Daniels; editor: Ben Lewis; music: George E. Stoll; cast: Judy Garland (Jo Hayden), George Murphy (Jimmy K. Metcalf), Gene Kelly (Harry Palmer), Marta Eggerth (Eve Minard), Ben Blue (Sid Simms), Richard Quine (Danny Hayden), Keenan Wynn (Eddie Milton), Horace [Stephen] McNally (Mr. Waring), Lucille Norman (Lily Duncan); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM; 1942)
“A nostalgic homage to vaudeville during the pre-WWI period that is no better than a routine musical.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A nostalgic homage to vaudeville during the pre-WWI period that is no better than a routine musical and much too filled with sentimental hokum to be endearing. It features MGM’s new 30-year-old dancing star Gene Kelly, in his film debut, playing an ambitious vaudeville hoofer, a heel who unconvincingly transforms into a good guy and war hero over his love for his leading lady. The film excels only through its fine music that include numbers like “For Me And My Gal,” “After You’ve Gone,” “How You Gonna Keep ’em Down on the Farm,” “Pack Up Your Trouble,” “Till We Meet Again,” “I Wore a Big Red Rose,” “When You Wore a Tulip” and “Ballin’ the Jack.” Busby Berkeley (“Gold Diggers of 1935″/”Babes in Arms”/”The Gang’s All Here”) sustains the old hat showbiz plot with excellent production numbers for the music that was staged by Bobby Connolly. It’s based on the story “The Big Time” by Howard Emmett Rogers and is written by Richard Sherman, Fred Finklehoffe and Sid Silvers.
It opens in 1916 in the hick town of Clifton Junction, Iowa, where aggressive smalltime vaudeville headliner Harry Palmer (Gene Kelly), a juggler and a hoofer, meets the vaudeville singing partners of Jo Hayden (Judy Garland) and Jimmy K. Metcalfe (George Murphy), playing at the same theater and with George singing “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.” The unscrupulous Harry, in love with himself and his showbiz ambitions, falls for the pretty and talented Jo. Meanwhile Jimmy and Harry dream of playing in the ‘big time’ at the Palace Theater in New York.
Harry schemes to steal the new song “For Me And My Gal,” which was arranged for Jimmy, and then steals Jo away from Jimmy when he teams up with her to sing that song. The story then chugs along over the next few years with the expected heartaches and jealousies (Harry falls for headline singer Marta Eggerth) that go with entertainers like ham and eggs. It leads to smoothie draft dodger Harry (injures his hand to avoid service) redeeming himself during World War I as he volunteers as an entertainer to help sell Liberty bonds and incredibly enters the fray during an emergency when Harry takes a car to warn ambulances of dangers ahead and in the process uses a grenade to wipe out a machine gun nest of the enemy and becomes, if you can believe, a genuine war hero. That leads to Harry’s ‘big time’ engagement on the Palace stage and winning back Jo, the gal he really loves.
The hokum musical proved to be a big hit, grossing $4.8 million on an investment of just over $800,000.
REVIEWED ON 3/13/2008 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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