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Jul 13 2016

Judy by the Numbers: "I Don't Care"

Though nobody foresaw it at the time,1948 was a major turning point in what would be Judy Garland's last few years at MGM.After the one-two Freed Unit punch ofEaster ParadeandWords and Musicat the beginning of 1948,Judy was supposed to head straight into her third Arthur Freed film,The Barkleys of Broadway.With Fred Astaire coaxed out of retirement,the duo of Astaire and Garland looked to be a new box office guarantee.Unfortunately,whatwasn'ta guarantee was Judy's health.After two months of rehearsal,Judy backed out ofThe Barkleys of Broadway,to be replaced by Ginger Rogers.This decision sounded the death knell for her partnership with Arthur Freed,the producer who had created the Judy Garland formula.Judy was too tired,too thin,and too weak to go on filming,until another producer from her past swooped back into the picture: Joe Pasternak.

The Movie:In The Good Old Summertime(1949,MGM)
The Songwriter:George Evans (music),Ren Shields (lyrics)
The Players:Judy Garland,Van Johnson,Buster Keaton,S.Z.Sakall,Spring Byington,directed by Robert Z.Leonard

The Story:Joe Pasternak would end up producing what would be Judy Garland's last two pictures at MGM.The first was InThe Good Old Summertime.Pasternak used many of the Freed Unit tricks,including recycled music and a recycled plot,this time from the 1940 filmThe Shop Around the Corner(which would also be remade again into aMeg Ryan/Tom Hanks comedyand aBroadway musical that was revived just this year).Despite the title,In The Good Old Summertimewas shot in Fall and set during Christmas.Such is Hollywood.It teamed Judy with the affable black hole of charisma Van Johnson,the (at the time) nearly forgotten Buster Keaton,and a cameo by three-year-old Liza Minnelli.This movie also gave us Judy Garland's single most gif-able song.

There's a lot to love about this number.Judy is healthy,smiling and sassy.With less focus on footwork,we get some great Judy gestures and a lot of broad comedy from the diminutive diva.(The foot kick is my personal favorite.) As is so often the case during these high-energy numbers,Judy looks like she's having a lot of fun and by all reports that was really the case,because Joe Pasternak did one thingverydifferent from Arthur Freed: he refused to overtax his star.No more pressure,no more forced slimdowns.And it worked! Judy finished the shoot incident-free.Unfortunately,MGM took this as a sign that her health and ability had returned,and immediately cast her inAnnie Get Your Gun.Judy wouldn't complete that picture,though the film she made after would add another iconic performance and sad chapter to the Judy Garland legacy.

Select Previous Highlights:
"Dear Mr Gable"(1937),"Zing Went the Strings of My Heart"(1938),"Over the Rainbow"(1939),"I'm Always Chasing Rainbows"(1941),"For Me and My Gal" (1942),"The Trolley Song"(1944),"On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe"(1946),"I Love a Piano"(1948),"Johnny One Note"(1948)

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Reader Comments (7)

Barkleys.Barkleys.Just Barkleys.It's not a contraction,it's not possessive.The Barkleys are plural;they are not the Barkley Is,Of Broadway does not belong to The Barkley.The Barkleys of Broadway is the name of the movie.I'm sorry.This has been a great series,and I know this is a minor punctuation issue,but good golly,it's maybe my single biggest grammatical pet peeve.The Barkleys of Broadway.Not The Barkley Is Of Broadway,not The Of Broadway Belonging To The Barkley,The Barkleys of Broadway.

July 13,2016 | Unregistered CommenterGrammar Pedant

I like this number and it all the things you say Ann Marie but I prefer both her hauntingly beautiful rendition of Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland which lands her the job in the music shop and the zesty Put Your Arms Around Me Honey to this.

The movie itself is sweet but missing the lyricism of the original,and the depth.But it's miles better than the ghastly You've Got Mail.

I'm glad to see we share the same opinion of Van Johnson!But Judy liked him and he was one of the people who kept her focused and relaxed on the set and allowed this to be the last picture that was a trouble free shot for her.

July 13,2016 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

I always liked Van Johnson,hmmm.This was one of those Judy movies I mysteriously hadn't seen until recently and it's so fun and warm.This number in particular is just bliss.

July 13,2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I never really wanted to see this one till this article changed my mind!I heard Liza's debut is spectacular.

July 13,2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Grammar Pedant - Fixed.

Nathaniel & joel6 - I don't have anything against Van Johnson.I actually like him a lot in witty supporting roles.But when he's asked to carry a movie as the lead,he usually ends up fading into the background when standing next to a more charismatic costar.

brookesboy - Baby Liza is adorable.

July 13,2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

Love this film even though it is a trifle.I agree with Joel that Judy's rendition of "Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland"is just lovely,but "I Don't Care"is one of my all-time favorite Judy numbers.She's so free and easy in it,and it's not like this is an easy song to sing!

I like Van Johnson in general,but not so much in this film - it certainly doesn't help that Judy's charisma would outshine anyone's,but he comes off as way too unlikeable.But otherwise the cast is fun - especially love Buster Keaton and Spring Byington.And the film is another example of just how foolproof the source material is: even when the film isn't very good,everything still works.

July 13,2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I get exhausted just watching this one,with Judy in full-on Martha Raye mode.

"Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland,"yes,but this famous outtake is exquisite:"Last Night When We Were Young."

July 14,2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

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