For Me and My Gal (1942)

“You think anything’s going to stand in the way of us playing the Palace this time? Oh no, not even a war.”

Synopsis:
An ambitious vaudevillian (Gene Kelly) falls in love with a young singer (Judy Garland) and promises to marry her once they’ve hit the big time; but when World War One arrives and Kelly attempts to temporarily dodge the draft, he loses not only the respect of everyone around him, but the love of his life as well.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
For Me and My Gal — directed “with surprising restraint by Busby Berkeley” — is primarily notable as the film in which “Judy Garland got her first solo star billing and Gene Kelly made his screen debut” (after impressing audiences in Broadway’s “Pal Joey”). As Peary notes, the film’s storyline is “obvious, sentimental, [and] patriotic”, but “is bolstered by [the] charisma of the two energetic stars and some fine musical numbers” — most notably “the cheerful title song”. Much has been made about the fact that Kelly’s character is too much of a self-centered heel to be worth rooting for as Garland’s love interest — but at least his character stays consistently opportunistic throughout, and comes across as refreshingly human (until the laughably unrealistic finale, which simply adds an irritating twist of delusional escapism to the entire affair). More frustrating to me than Kelly’s character is the lack of development afforded to George Murphy, playing Garland’s former partner and would-be love interest; Murphy is highly sympathetic in his tiny supporting role, but ultimately never poses enough of a threat to Kelly.

P.S. Don’t bother trying to avoid spoilers about what exactly Kelly does that’s just so awful, as it’s broadcast everywhere, even in Peary’ review — though I’ll refrain from mentioning it here.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Judy Garland as Jo
  • George Murphy as Jimmy
  • Garland and Kelly singing “For Me and My Gal”

Must See?
No — though naturally fans of Garland and/or Kelly will want to check it out.

Links:

One Response to “For Me and My Gal (1942)”

  1. Not a must.

    The assessment sums up rather well and I’m in mutual agreement.

    ‘FMAMG’ insinuates itself upon the audience as a backstage drama, so it’s something of a surprise when it dawns on us that it’s a film designed for support of the WWII effort. Being more of a “patriotic” film is not in itself troublesome. But it does make the latter half awkward in its storytelling. As well, much of your enjoyment is going to rely on how sentimental you are about the many songs used from a period now long gone.

    The good news is the dynamic between Garland and Kelly. Judy comes off surprisingly well and, at 19, shows considerable potential for dramatic range. Kelly meets her head-on and their chemistry, whether they’re falling in love or fighting, is solid. Their best routine together is the one for the title song; it’s quite lovely to watch.

    Murphy does register well. (Apparently his part was trimmed even though preview audiences made it clear they wanted Murphy to end up with Garland at the end. Rather than cave to audience wishes, the studio simply – and rather unbelievably – made it possible for Kelly to become a likable guy.) It’s also (always) nice to see Keenan Wynn – even if he isn’t called on for much here.

    Not a terrible film but it does begin to plod along as it goes. Still, it was ultimately pro-America enough to make it a success upon release.

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