I realize a lot of my taste in movies has been inherited from my parents. I get my love of fantasy and screwball comedies from my dad and my love of musicals and romantic comedies from my mom. Well, one of the movies that I have seen too many times to count (so many times that I could practically recite the whole thing to you) is The Harvey Girls.
The Harvey Girls is one of my mom’s favorite movies of all time, and it is one that we watch together on a regular basis. But that just wasn’t enough for me because sometimes I just feel the need to watch it when I’m not with her, so I had to get my own copy.
The Harvey Girls is a big time production musical starring the wonderful and amazing Judy Garland. It is about a group of women who worked in a Harvey House restaurant in the southwest in the 1800s (I should probably be a lot more precise about the year, but I am too lazy to look it up, and too much of a failed history major to be able to give a reasonable guess). They move into a town and get in the way of the local saloon and the girls who work there.
Now there are a lot of awesome things about this movie….
THE MUSIC!!! All of the songs are great (except for maybe “Great Big World…..I’ve never been fond of that one). I LOVE “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe.” I used to think that they were speaking some kind of foreign language every time they got to the chorus…..I had no idea they were listing off town names. Oh, and the song mentions Dubuque, Iowa, which is pretty awesome!
THE DANCING!!! Lots of fun dancing, including a lovely demonstration of how to do the waltz. I think that we need to have more town dances like the party in the movie…..I would totally go to those all the time.
THE COSTUMES!!! Call me a giant nerd, but I adore the dresses in this movie. It is pretty hilarious how the Harvey Girls have on all of these very wholesome dresses with pretty floral patterns and puffy sleeves, but the saloon girls have sequined dresses with shiny fabric and feathers. Heehee…..when I was a girl I totally wanted to dress like the saloon girls…..now I have matured into a dowdy old lady and prefer the Harvey Girls more demure ensembles.
ANGELA LANSBURY!!!!! The best part about this whole movie is that Angela Lansbury (as in Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast and J.B. Fletcher from Murder She Wrote) plays the head bad girl Em. She pouts around the saloon and bullies poor little Judy Garland’s character. And the greatest thing is that she was only 19 when she made this movie!!! AAAAACCCKKK! That means she was almost 10 years younger than I am now! It’s funny because she looks like she is 30, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. She just looks very mature and grown up even though she was still a teenager.
JOHN HODIAK!!!! John Hodiak of course plays Judy Garland’s love interest. I love his character in the film because he does not sing at all. There is all this singing and dancing going on around him and he just plays the manly man and doesn’t get mixed up in it. I kind of like that. (Not that singing isn’t manly, but it just didn’t fit his character.) Plus, he is the kind of guy that when you first see him you’re like, “Really?? This is the main guy?? He’s kind of ugly……no wait a minute…..there’s something about him……oh, I think I love him…..whoops, how did that happen?”
A HUGE GIRL FIGHT IN A BAR!!!! The movie manages to do the impossible and have a fight where nobody actually hits each other. There is a huge Harvey Girls vs. Saloon Girls battle royale where nobody seems to actually hit anybody, but there is lots of falling off tables and someone literally swings from the ceiling.
JUDY GARLAND HOLDS THE BAR AT GUNPOINT!!!! This is my favorite scene in the movie…..Judy does a fantastic job of playing a woman who has absolutely no idea what to do with a gun (let alone two).
Be forewarned that even though this movie is awesome, it will not appeal to everyone. It is a muscial. From the forties. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I would probably avoid it. But I love to have it on in the background and sing along to the songs. It takes me back to my childhood and makes me think of my mom, which is also cool.
Here is a little video about the movie to give you a feel for what it is like. It’s a little blurry, but you get the picture. (I was going to post the trailer, but it is so hideously bad that I don’t want anyone to see it without giving the movie a chance.)
P.S. Interesting Tidbit….I love Virginia O’Brien’s character of Alma. She is a pretty important part of the movie and she even gets her own solo…..but then she disappears and isn’t in the second half at all. Apparently she got pregnant and so they just cut her out of the movie……aaaahhhh Hollywood politics of the 40s.