Ok to be fair, there is not a lot of dancing in this one… But there is some, including a big snazzy ending number set to “I Got Rhythm.” Just like my previous movie post, all the music in MGM’s 1943 film Girl Crazy is by the Gershwin brothers, which means it’s all fantastic. And the film follows a good deal of the storyline from the Broadway play of the same name (which was revived and rewritten slightly in the early 90’s under the name Crazy For You.)
The film stars a young Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney – one of the best and final films in their series of “barn musicals.” It tells the story of a rich New York playboy Danny Churchill Jr. (Rooney) who gets sent out west to the all-male Cody College, as his father’s effort to curb his wild girl-chasing ways. He’s completely depressed until he lays eyes on Ginger Gray (Garland) the daughter of the dean and the only female at Cody.
What ensues is a fairly typical, humorous romp in which Ginger starts out detesting Danny for his city-boy ways, while Danny struggles to keep up with his cowboy-like peers. But eventually Danny wins Ginger’s affection and the two work together to put on a fundraising Rodeo / beauty contest to save the school from financial ruin. Along the way there are some really fun numbers, including a charming rendition of “Embraceable You” from Garland, a cute campfire version of “Bidin’ My Time” and an early appearance from June Allyson singing “Treat Me Rough.” The film also features Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra with a performance of Fascinating Rhythm on which Rooney plays the piano with impressive skill.
The final number is the only one directed by Busby Berkley, who holds the directing credit on this film (and you can totally tell, because it’s got that over-the-top Busby style that doesn’t match the rest of the movie.) But the majority of the film was directed by Norman Taurog in a much more tempered, modern style.
The Verdict: This is one of those films that is guaranteed to make you smile. It’s silly, fun and yes, totally dated, but that’s precisely what gives it its charm. As I mentioned before, the music is great on it’s own, but it also captures Garland and Rooney at their best. I think it’s a perfect summer flick, one that’s too cute to pass up.