Judy Garland, Van Johnson, S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Buster Keaton. Dir: Robert Z. Leonard, Buster Keaton
I think I need to say at the outset that I do like this movie. A lot. And the reason I need to say that now is because I’m going to say something negative about it that really doesn’t amount to anything, but since I can say what I want, I will, it being my blog and all.
Let’s get the negative out of the way. You know how Old Hollywood used to make a musical and then name the film after the show-stopping song contained at some point within it? This is one of those. But it’s not a show-stopping number, it’s the show-starting number. The opening song. And they say “Fall in Love in the Good Old Summertime” on the poster, but they actually fall in love at good old Christmas time. Or else they put their tree up in the summer. Like I said, that’s neither here nor there. It has no bearing on the movie, just the title is somewhat misrepresentational.
And you know how Old Hollywood would take a great movie and then remake it as a musical with a different name, like Ball of Fire/A Song is Born, The Philadelphia Story/High Society, The Women/The Opposite Sex, The Land that Time Forgot/Barney? This is one of those. But that’s not really a negative. The movie is a re-working of “The Shop Around the Corner” starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, with Van Johnson and Judy Garland stepping into their roles. Also, instead of a gift shop it’s a music shop, which may or may not be around a corner. The story revolves around two people who are penpals and then things happen.
I have to say, the sparks between Garland and Johnson are intense no matter what the circumstances throughout the film, good or bad. They worked so well together, I’m getting feelings just thinking about it.
Regarding the musical-ness of it: There really aren’t that many songs in it. And they’re not randomly placed, epic, production numbers where everyone magically knows the words and men in tights appear out of nowhere either. So if you’re not a musicals fan, you should be able to withstand this.
Now, here’s where I get to talk about the love of my life- Buster Keaton. He’s my number one boyfriend. If you are not familiar with his work, let me know and I can send you to some websites where you can watch him in motion. There’s a singular action in one of the scenes that is the whole reason he is in this movie. They wanted someone to plan it and do it and they realized that he was the only one that could, even though he was, at this point, over 50 years old. And it’s jaw dropping to see him do it, honestly, he looks like he could have broken his neck. BUT. It’s Buster Keaton. This was easy for him to execute without injury. After a lifetime of pratfalls and stunts it was nothing. He also did the choreographing and directing of Garland and Johnson’s meet-cute and you can see his fingerprints all over it. I was so impressed with the way they carried it off so perfectly, because it’s not easy to do all that and make it look accidental. And it’s so funny. And Buster was so very funny. And that’s all I have to say about that.
I suppose I should mention that a third film version of this story exists in the form of “You’ve Got Mail”, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In that one, however, they were owners of competing book shops in New York City, and I think it was somewhere near a corner, however, I don’t remember if Christmas or summer time are factors in it at all. Pride and Prejudice is a factor though, that much I remember. AND there’s a Broadway musical version of the story which was written in the 60’s called “She Loves Me”. This story takes place in a women’s toiletries shop. I don’t know why.
Please do yourself a favor and watch this movie. You can silently thank me later.