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  Girl Crazy Sweetheart Of The Rodeo
Year: 1943
Director: Norman Taurog, Busby Berkeley
Stars: Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Gil Stratton, Robert E. Strickland, Rags Ragland, June Allyson, Nancy Walker, Guy Kibbee, Frances Rafferty, Henry O'Neill, Howard Freeman, Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra
Genre: Musical, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Danny Churchill Jr (Mickey Rooney) is the playboy son of a millionaire press baron who likes nothing better than to spend his father's money on wine, women and song, as he does tonight when he arrives at a nightclub with a woman on each arm and sits down to enjoy the entertainment. The singer (June Allyson) marches out and begins a tune about being treated rough, so naturally by the end of it Danny has not needed much coaxing to take to the stage himself and finish off the number, thereby making the next day's papers. This is the final straw for his stern father, and deciding his offspring should have an education, he packs him off to a college in the middle of nowhere...

A middle of nowhere which has no girls around at all, lest Danny be led into temptation. Wait, a Mickey Rooney movie made in his heyday with no female presence? That can't be right, and indeed it isn't for Girl Crazy was one of the films he made with Judy Garland, here playing Ginger Gray the daughter of the Dean (Guy Kibbee), and since she was available we could predict she would be in Mickey's arms before the end of the story. Not that it was so easy, as always in a musical the path of true love did not run smooth and there were hiccups along the way, but it was the happy ending audiences needed to be sent home with a spring in their step, particularly when this was released.

Do not underestimate the value of entertainment during the Second World War, as Mickey and Judy were just two of a whole galaxy of stars providing much-needed escapism to a lot of very worried people, although Judy was not exactly the most well-balanced of young ladies herself, though her reasons were more personal to the enormous pressure she felt she was labouring under. As for Mickey, he was a huge star at the time though personally was seeing his marriage to Ava Gardner, his first, falling to pieces; you don't like to think about the volcanic arguments they must have been having. It was the mark of their professionalism that they never allowed their issues to affect their performances, even if Garland's way with a melancholy tune was eerily proficient.

They were cheery tunes here in the main, courtesy of George and Ira Gershwin from a stage show of some years before, here finally reaching the screen, though Judy's mournful But Not For Me must have brought a few viewers to wiping away a tear, just as supporting actor Rags Ragland does in that scene. The plot was basic stuff, more or less a loose framework to hang the numbers around as the Dean receives a missive to inform him the college, which appears solely to teach cowboys how to cope at any rodeo they might encounter, will soon be closing because hardly anyone attends these days. Could the exuberant Danny work out a way of keeping it open whilst simultaneously romancing Ginger? As if the outcome was ever in doubt, but it was the journey more than the destination which mattered in frothy movies such as these.

Girl Crazy stated life - as a film at least - under the direction of Busby Berkeley, that genius of choreographing a whole bunch of folks into interesting arrangements, but by the end of the shoot he was long gone, though the reasons for that have conflicting accounts, but largely budgetary and a personality clash with Judy. It was completed by Norman Taurog, who would end his career making cheap Elvis Presley flicks, but the grand finale where Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra accompanied the stars in I Got Rhythm showed unmistakable evidence of Berkeley's hand, with military parade ground stylings to the Western-themed dancing. That included the bizarre sight of Mickey and Judy performing as about a hundred guns were set off around them; we have to assume they were using blanks, but it did nothing for Judy's fragile disposition. Mostly what you took away were Rooney's dynamism - he seemed to have vast reserves of energy at his disposal at odds with his small, compact frame - and Garland's way with a song, leaving you in little doubt they were a winning duo.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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