The butt is actors, “hambo” one gets called. Publicity men meet and greet them, squire them to their digs, deal with them generally. As in Victor Fleming’s Bombshell, publicity men (and personal assistants) are very sane and savvy, as far as it goes, the studio head still more so, and he has people working for him. The director is a general in the field, Perc Westmore a scientific artist.
Benny Goodman’s singer-saxophonist gets a contract, falls in love with a movie star’s double, gets himself fired and hired again as a crooner by way of a gag later varied for Singin’ in the Rain.
Lots of money cushions the star’s angst, her leading man feels no pain, either.
A monstrously fast and funny musical admired by Variety and the New York Times (Frank S. Nugent), “half-hearted, overlong” in Halliwell’s Film Guide, “fluff” to Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader).
Garden of the Moon
For the purposes of this film, the title means a Hollywood nightspot, finest room in the land, with a collection of bandleaders’ right arms to prove it, part of the Royal Hotel.
The brothers McGillicuddy own the place, they turn up later in Huston’s Moby Dick and Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack. Pat O’Brien runs it for them right off Milestone’s The Front Page with a drawer full of gold watches. John Payne in the Hildy Johnson role doesn’t want out, he’s a bandleader who wants in.
A director of famous amusements conducts this as one of the best, sans dancing girls.
For Me and My Gal
The ridiculously shallow careerists who are practically a byword in our own day are answered in this, which might be (and is) a Jeremiad against their folly, except that by dint of sheer inspiration and insight and depth of skill it accomplishes their redemption.
It all pivots on David’s utterance, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.” You will not see Busby Berkeley in the grand manner you are accustomed to, but rather with a great deftness educing characterizations from his principals that are very surprising in a very subtle sort of way. The acuity of the cinematography is exactly suited to Judy Garland viewed not round but sleek and not boisterous but torchy and even jazzy. Gene Kelly is all bold front and nothing there. George Murphy reveals a Gary Cooper softness.
The signature of this great work of art is Kelly’s underplaying in the song-and-dance numbers he has with Garland especially or Ben Blue, a very delicate give-and-take. The M-G-M dance camera records the vaudeville numbers au naturel, but the characteristic musical arrangements (particularly of the title number) show once again the foundation of the style.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
This is a job for Busby Berkeley, who adopts a De Kooning stance and drives his film along a straight line from hoke to homer, with a tag to abstract the mickey.
Because of the labor involved in constructing a musical on an antithetical theme, the corruption of baseball by the entertainment industry, this has been a very influential and maybe even transitional film. Here is Berkeley cutting by camera movement (in a musical number) after The Stranger but before Royal Wedding. The clambake announces Carousel and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (and Kelly dances a tribute to Cagney that modulates into a little bit of Astaire). By the end, a whole range of films is foretold, including The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings and Diggstown (the tag tosses in White Christmas).