Judy Garland
Gene Kelly
Eddie Bracken
Gloria DeHaven
Marjorie Main
Phil Silvers
Ray Collins
Nita Bieber
Carleton Carpenter
Hans Conried

Charles Walters

Time: 108 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Musical/Romance/Comedy
While not one of MGM's most popular or memorable musicals, SUMMER STOCK still delivers thanks to the enormous talent of Kelly and Garland. The plot is nothing new, centering around a struggling theater company; however, the location of the "big show" – a barn in rural Connecticut – has to be the most unusual setting MGM ever used for a song and dance flick. Garland plays Jane, a hard-working young woman who finds her farm invaded by a theater troupe who've been given permission to use the property by her younger sister Abigail (DeHaven), one of the show's stars. Jane initially refuses to let the gaggle of showbiz folk stay, but soon strikes a deal that will be beneficial to all. She lets them use her barn for their show in return for their help with the barnyard chores. Though she needs the extra hands, these city kids don't know the first thing about farm work and end up doing more harm than good. To make matter worse, their presence doesn't go over very well with her fiancé Orville (Bracken) or his overbearing father (Collins), who believe the show will bring nothing but trouble to their quiet community.

Despite her initial reluctance, Jane finds herself charmed by the show's director Joe (Kelly) who goes out of his way to try to make their stay as unobtrusive as possible. He even includes her in some of the singing and dancing, which makes her happier than farming ever did. The fact that he's dating her sister and she's engaged to Orville only slightly dampens the mood. As the day for the big performance looms, tempers flare between Abigail and Joe when she refuses to put in the time necessary to improve her performance. Her sudden defection to New York City is viewed with relief and horror by Joe, who quickly seduces Jane into taking over the role. It's a lot of work, but Jane loves every minute of it, much to Orville's disgust. He vows to shut down the show to prevent his future wife from appearing on the stage. It's his outburst that makes Jane realize her real future is in show business, hopefully at Joe's side. Despite Orville's threat, the show does go on, wowing the Broadway producers in attendance and solidifying Joe and Jane's love for one another. In the end, even Orville finds something to be happy about.

Since the entire film takes place on the farm, the usual lavishness of the Hollywood musical is noticeably absent; however, the simplicity of the setting allows the pure talent of Garland and Kelly to shine through. It's clear from the look in her eyes that this was not a happy time for Garland. That being said, she still delivers on both the vocal and comic fronts. Any energy lacking in her performance is more than made up for in Kelly's. Paired down to their essence, his dance numbers are superb, leaving his feet, instead of elaborate set pieces, to do the talking. He's as irresistible as ever, sharing great chemistry with Garland and proving why he's one a cinema's best song and dance men. The more I see of him, the more I like. I'm beginning to prefer his high energy style to Astaire's high society one. Most of the musical numbers are entertaining, but not memorable. The exceptions are "You Wonderful You," "Howdy Neighbor" and "Get Happy," which was filmed a month after production wrapped with a noticeably thinner Garland. Bracken and Silvers prop up the fairly thin plot with their own particular comic stylings. They are the only real standouts amongst the supporting cast. If you're a fan of the musical genre, Kelly or Garland and have seen everything else, SUMMER STOCK is a fun way to pass the time. It's not one I'll watch again, but it's worth a first pass.