Girl Crazy (1943)

“I always said you were girl crazy. I was wrong – you’re just crazy!”

Synopsis:
The girl-crazy son (Mickey Rooney) of a newspaper magnate (Henry O’Neill) is sent out West to attend a boys-only college, where he nonetheless falls in love with one of the only girls around — the dean’s beautiful daughter, Ginger (Judy Garland).

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Review:
Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney’s final film together (at least in leading roles) was this rousing adaptation of George and Ira Gershwin’s 1930 stage musical. The plot is as silly as they come, but ultimately inconsequential in the face of a host of fabulous, memorable tunes — including “Bidin’ My Time”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “But Not For Me”, and “I’ve Got Rhythm”, among others (wowee!). Meanwhile, Garland and Rooney are in peak form here, with Garland lovelier than ever (it’s a treat to see her actually resisting Rooney’s advances for once, rather than the other way around), and Rooney a bundle of typically irrepressible — but somehow tolerable — energy (viz. the random but enjoyable scene in which he entertains Garland by acting out a boxing round). Busby Berkeley notoriously directed the film’s stunningly choreographed finale, “I’ve Got Rhythm” (which was shot first), but was replaced by Norman Taurog, who does a fine job managing the rest of the escapist material. Don’t pay too much attention to details of the plot, however, or you’ll find yourself irritated by what amounts to lazy scriptwriting (I’m speaking specifically about events related to the “Miss Rodeo” contest, but won’t give away more here).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Mickey Rooney as Danny
  • Judy Garland as Ginger
  • Numerous rousing Gershwin tunes

Must See?
Yes, as one of Rooney and Garland’s best films together (in large part due to that Gershwin score!).

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One Response to “Girl Crazy (1943)”

  1. Must-see: for its sheer entertainment value as the best movie Garland and Rooney made together & for the splendid use of classic George & Ira Gershwin tunes.

    It’s true – the story is of little importance here, and it really doesn’t get in the way at all. ‘GC’ has the simple aim of making you feel good and, take it from me, you will feel terrific! As noted, a major plus in the writing here is the fact that Garland has the upper-hand in the relationship. The result is not only a refreshing feminist stance but a more interesting dynamic between the two leads.

    As a musical, ‘GC’ has the distinction of putting every one of its songs to effective use:

    ‘Treat Me Rough’ gets the film off and running with a bang. Ira’s lyrics are something of an ear-opener here, as we’re left to wonder, ‘When you say ‘rough’, what do you mean exactly?’ One could get lost in subtext if it weren’t for the fact that the song is such fun on the surface.

    ‘Bidin’ My Time’ off-sets the opening number nicely. Whereas we first saw Rooney completely surrounded by women, we now see Garland completely surrounded by men – in something of a masculine role (note how she sings, “…’cause that’s the kind of guy I’m…”). This is a marvelously laid-back, understated number for the most part.

    ‘Could You Use Me?’ is very much a plot song, which points up how Garland and Rooney come from opposite worlds. Note Garland’s on-target attitude toward Rooney prior to and during this number: sharp, and sexy actually.

    ‘Embraceable You’ (again, Judy alone with men; this time as many as 100) may be my favorite here. I’ve always thought that my personal fave number in any musical film was ‘Dancing in the Dark’ in ‘The Band Wagon’ (and that probably is still true). Keeping in mind that ‘GC’ was released years earlier, ‘Embraceable You’ reminds me somewhat of ‘DITD’. Hard to say why exactly – except that, for example, the tracking shot of Garland and the film’s choreographer Charles Walters whirling as if on air around the ballroom transports me in a similar way.

    ‘Fascinatin’ Rhythm’ highlights Tommy Dorsey’s band brilliantly. Alas, it is not sung – but that’s a small quibble.

    ‘But Not For Me’: prepare to have your heart broken here, as only Garland can.

    ‘I Got Rhythm’ is the 8-minute-long grand finale. It walks a fine line between extravaganza and insanity (being Berkeley’s only – and way-over-budget – contribution to the film). Anyone who has seen Judy Davis’ Garland in ‘Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows’ will know that Berkeley seemed intent on driving Garland out of her mind. It’s to Garland’s immense credit that she all but keeps that attempt away from her performance in this number. (If you look closely, you may get a trace of just how difficult a time she had.)

    After revisiting this film, I went back and listened to the fact-filled (to say the least) DVD commentary by John Fricke (historian for Garland as well as ‘The Wizard of Oz’ – who knew there was one?!). This is one of the best commentaries I’ve ever listened to: concise and very to-the-point in its dissemination of information. To put it mildly, Fricke knows his stuff (i.e., explaining, for example, how the final film may seem to hold some ‘lazy scriptwriting’ when actually it doesn’t; one learns a lot about how a studio like MGM could manipulate its final product).

    In short, ‘Girl Crazy’ is a joyous occasion; ffs are in for a treat, one that can hold equal delight on return visits.

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