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Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Harvey Girls (1946) - Star of the month... Angela Lansbury

'The Harvey Girls' is a 1946 MGM musical-western directed by George Sidney and starring Judy Garland, John Hodiak, Angela Lansbury, Virginia O'Brien, Ray Bolger, Marjorie Main, Preston Foster, Chill Wills and Cyd Charisse.

Judy Garland, Virginia O'Brien and Cyd Charisse in 'The Harvey Girls'
Based on the 1942 novel 'The Harvey Girls' by Samuel Hopkins Adams, the film was produced by Arthur Freed.

The film tells the story of Fred Harvey's famous traveling waitresses, The Harvey Girls. A group of Harvey Girls are travelling to the western town of Sandrock on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railway to open a new franchise of Harvey House restaurants.  On the train they met Susan Bradley (played by Garland), who is on her way to Sandrock to marry a blind date she has corresponded with via letters. Once the Harvey Girls arrive, they find themselves competing against the dance hall girls at the local saloon, led by Em (played by Lansbury). The rest of the film becomes a case of the saloon girls vs. the Harvey Girls, which eventually leads to an amusing and hilarious cat fight.

Watch the trailer:

Judy Garland & John Hodiak in "The Harvey Girls" (1946)

The Harvey House restaurant chain

The Harvey House restaurant chain was established by Fred Harvey in 1870 to provide good, inexpensive food and lodging in clean, elegant surroundings for travellers to the west. At one point there were 84 Harvey Houses throughout seven states in the US. The waitresses working at the restaurants were famously known as The Harvey Girls.

Musical program

Angela Lansbury showing some leg in "Oh, You Kid"
  • "In the Valley (Where the Evening Sun Goes Down)" - Judy Garland
  • "Wait and See" - Angela Lansbury (dubbed by Virginia Rees)
  • "On the Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe" - Ben Carter, Marjorie Main, Ray Bolger, Judy Garland, Virginia O'Brien, Cyd Charisse and Chorus
  • "The Train Must be Fed" - Selena Royle & Marjorie Main
  • "Oh, You Kid" - Angela Lansbury (dubbed by Virginia Rees)
  • "It's a Great Big World" - Judy Garland, Virginia O'Brien and Cyd Charisse (dubbed by Marion Doenges)
  • "The Wild, Wild West" - Virginia O'Brien
  • "Swing Your Partner Round and Round" - Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Cyd Charisse (dubbed by Marion Doenges) and Chorus

The following songs were filmed but cut from the film - all 3 numbers are included as bonus features on the DVD:

  • "The March of the Doagies" - Judy Garland
  • "The March of the Doagies (Reprise)" - Judy Garland
  • "My Intuition" - Judy Garland & John Hodiak

The following song was recorded but not filmed - an audio recording is included as a bonus feature on the DVD:

  • "Hayride" - Judy Garland and Ray Bolger

Song: "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" - Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Marjorie Main, Virginia O'Brien, Cyd Charisse, Ben Carter & Chorus

Song: "It's a Great Big World" - Judy Garland, Virginia O'Brien and Cyd Charisse

Ray Bolger's dance solo

Song: "In the Valley (Where the Evening Sun Goes Down)"

Deleted song: "My Intuition" - Judy Garland & John Hodiak

Did you know...

  • The fim was originally intended to be a dramatic film for Lana Turner and Clark Gable, but after seeing the musical 'Oklahoma', Roger Edens felt the film could work as a musical for Judy Garland
  • Judy Garland was not interested in appearing in this film, as she wanted to appear in 'Yolanda and the Thief' (1945) with Fred Astaire, which was being directed by her husband Vincente Minnelli
  • Judy Garland missed 11 days of filming, and arrived late on 40 days
  • Gene Kelly was considered to play the role of Ned Trent
  • Angela Lansbury's singing in this film was dubbed by Virginia Rees - although Lansbury could sing, her singing voice was considered unsuitable for her character
  • Cyd Charisse's singing was dubbed by Marion Doenges
  • Ann Sothern, Eve Arden and Lucille Ball were considered for role of Em
  • Edward Arnold was originally considered to play Judge Pervis
  • This film features Cyd Charisse's first speaking role
  • As Virginia O'Brien was pregnant during filming, some of her scenes with Ray Bolger cut or not filmed, where it was difficult to hide her pregnancy - this is why both O'Brien and Bolger's character disappear towards the end of the film
  • This was Virginia Davis' final film
  • Ray Bolger was burned by steam from the train during the filming of the song "On the Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe"
  • After the film was released Angela Lansbury was hissed at in public, due to her character being Judy Garland's rival - Garland was loved by the public
  • Byron Harvey Jr., (grandson of the Harvey Girls founder, Fred Harvey) has an uncredited appearance as a train conductor - Byron Harvey Jr. was also president of the Fred Harvey Company at the time the film was made
  • Location filming took place at the Iverson Ranch in Victorville, at Chatsworth near Los Angeles and in Monument Valley - studio filming took place at MGM's Culver City studios

Awards and nominations

  • Academy Award winner for Best Song ("On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" - written by Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Musical Score (Lennie Hayton)

Closing remarks

Angela Lansbury at her most glamourous in
'The Harvey Girls'
'The Harvey Girls' is an enjoyable MGM musical, although it does start off a little slow. That said, there are better and more entertaining western musicals, such as 'Calamity Jane' (1953) and 'Annie Get Your Gun' (1950). Judy Garland delivers her usual performance, but sadly Ray Bolger's great talent is wasted in a rather small role. Fortunately, we are treated with one of Ray Bolger 's greatest dance solos.

Highlight stars in this film are Angela Lansbury and Virginia O'Brien. This is by far Angela Lansbury's most glamourous role, we see her act sexy for the first and only times as dance hostess Em. Very sadly Lansbury's singing was dubbed as usual. What makes this even more unfortunate is Lansbury could sing quite well and did not deserve the dubbing treatment. As for Virginia O'Brien, she's fantastic as always as one of the lead Harvey Girls.

My 3 reasons to watch this film:
  • Judy Garland singing "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" - not to be missed!!
  • Angela Lansbury showing some leg and kicking up her heels 
  • 2 underrated stars, Virginia O'Brien & Ray Bolger at their best

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