Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 3, 2019)
Cinematic legends Judy Garland and Gene Kelly unite for 1950’s Summer Stock. Jane Falbury (Garland) enjoys the rural life and she runs her family’s farm.
Jane’s sister Abigail (Gloria DeHaven) dreams of show biz stardom, though, and she upsets Jane’s apple cart when she decides to use the estate’s barn to stage a musical. Joe Ross (Kelly) serves as the director of this production, and he dates Abigail.
Matters deteriorate when Abigail departs so she can pursue Broadway fame. This leaves Joe in need of a new lead actress – will Jane take over for her sister and perhaps fall in love with Joe as well?
Dumb question, right? It doesn’t take a lot of insight to know where this road will lead.
The biggest surprise that stems from Stock relates to its leads. Until I got this Blu-ray, I never realized Garland and Kelly ever worked together, much less did so multiple times.
But they did! In addition to Stock, they shared the lead in 1942’s For Me and My Gal and 1948’s The Pirate. The pair appeared in the same movie three other times as well, but not in co-leading roles.
It surprises me that two legends like Garland and Kelly could work together in three co-starring films and yet these movies largely seem lost to the sands of time. Sure, film buffs might know of these efforts, but shouldn’t legends collaborate on at least one legendary film?
You’d think so, but they didn’t, and I can’t find any reason to classify Stock as a classic. While not without its charms, the movie seems fairly trite and lackluster overall.
When Stock succeeds, it does so due to its cast. In addition to Garland and Kelly, we find other talents like Phil Silvers, Hans Conreid and Eddie Bracken. At no point do any of them dazzle, but they add some spark to the proceedings.
Though I think Garland and Kelly shine less than one might hope. While they offer decent interactions on-screen, I don’t think they ever really gel.
Some of this may come from the now-infamous personal issues Garland went through in this era. Her various concerns already dented her career prior to 1950, and as discussed elsewhere on this Blu-ray, Garland’s struggles made the production a chore to complete.
None of this shows up on screen, as Garland seems fairly invested in the film, but I just don’t think she meshes all that well with Kelly. They’re a pleasant couple but both fare better in their solo scenes.
Like many musicals, Stock often comes across as a series of production numbers connected by a loose plot. Actually, it throws a lot of story/character elements our way, but these feel like window-dressing and seem to exist just to get us to the next song and dance sequence.
That might work if the scenes fared better. Most seem decent but outside of Garland’s “Get Happy”, nothing especially memorable occurs.
With a thin story and mediocre production numbers, Summer Stock can’t capitalize on the magnetism of its stars. Although I think this remains a watchable little musical, it never threatens to become anything great.