Towards the middle of the 1940’s, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland had established themselves as a couple of the brightest MGM stars on the roster, with a series of “backyard” musicals that showcased their talents. However, they were maturing and were nearing the end of playing juvenile roles on the screen; as a result, Girl Crazy marked the end of their star pairing and one final romp through the formula that helped them to success. Warner Bros. has given this MGM musical its Blu-ray debut as part of the Warner Archive Collection line.
The Production: 4/5
Danny Churchill Jr. (Mickey Rooney) is the scion of a New York business tycoon with a zeal for life and the ladies. After a show stopping appearance at a Manhattan nightclub that becomes the talk of the town, Danny’s father decides to send him to Cody College out west to “cure” him from becoming a character. Upon arriving, Danny doesn’t find much to warrant him staying, except for Ginger Gray (Judy Garland), the local town’s postmistress; when Danny and Ginger learn that the college is about to go belly up due to enrollments drying up, they decide to come up with a plan to not only secure the college’s financial future but put it on the map.
As the last of the series of musicals that made stars out of Mickey and Judy, Girl Crazy is both a nod to and a departure from the formula responsible for said success. For instance, the film is based off of the George & Ira Gershwin musical play – previously filmed by RKO Radio Pictures in 1932 with the comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey among the cast members – but unlike the earlier Mickey and Judy musical Strike Up the Band (1940), the movie keeps the original stage score completely intact (with the addition of “Fascinating Rhythm”). Another major departure was that Norman Taurog took over directing duties from Busby Berkeley, who had directed the duo’s previous three movies and is responsible for the lavish “I Got Rhythm” finale here; as a result, the movie uses its musical numbers to aid in the character development – something that was to become more common in the years following this movie. Aside from those major differences, the movie once again gives its two lead a chance to show off their amazing talents in musical numbers and trading comedic barbs with each other. Working with a wealth of great talent in front of and behind the camera as well as a timeless score, Girl Crazy is likely the best of the Mickey and Judy musicals and a fitting coda to the series.
Mickey and Judy are great as always, but the supporting cast here are equally worthy of praise as well. Future sportscaster Gil Stratton is notable as Danny’s roommate at Cody College; it was his film debut. Former boxer and burlesque comic Rags Ragland brings the comic relief as the college hired hand; he would make a handful more films before uremia sadly cut his life short in 1946 at the age of 40. Nancy Walker, a then recent addition to the MGM roster from Broadway, brings additional comic timing – and even showed off her singing chops in a number that was cut from the final print – as the college dean’s granddaughter; June Allyson (still a couple of years away from joining the upper levels of the MGM pantheon of stars) makes an early impression as a novelty singer of “Treat Me Rough”. Rounding out the cast here are Guy Kibbee as the Cody College dean, Henry O’Neill as Danny Churchill Sr., Howard Freeman as the governor, Frances Rafferty as the governor’s daughter, Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra, Silent Era star King Baggot in an uncredited appearance, Peter Lawford and Don Taylor as students (also uncredited), and future director – and this movie’s dance director – Charles Walters as Ginger’s dancing partner in the “Embraceable You” number.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in it original theatrical ratio of 1:37:1, taken from a 4K transfer of surviving film elements, for this release. Film grain is organic with fine details and gray scale rendered faithfully; problems like scratches, tears and dirt are fairly minor here. Overall, this is another quality HD transfer and represents not only an improvement over the previous DVD release, but likely the best the movie will ever look on home video.
The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue is strong and clear along with the sound mix; the George and Ira Gershwin score is also given great depth, strength and fidelity to it. Problems like crackling, hissing or distortion range from minimal to nonexistent here, making this likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.
Special Features: 3.5/5
Commentary by film historian John Fricke – Recorded for the 2007 DVD release of the movie, Fricke goes into detail about the film’s production background and the profiles of the cast and crew behind it.
Introduction by Mickey Rooney (4:10)
Pete Smith specialty Hollywood Daredevils (9:21)
Tex Avery cartoon The Early Bird Dood It (8:51)
“I Got Rhythm” stereo remix (7:31)
“Bronco Busters” audio outtake (2:22) – The song – performed by Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Nancy Walker – that went unused in the final cut is presented here as an audio only bonus.
Theatrical Trailer (2:13)
Though it would be the last time they would share joint billing as stars after three musicals together, Girl Crazy sends both Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland off on a high note as one of the best MGM musicals of the 1940’s. Warner Archive has done it again, giving the movie a great HD transfer while carrying over all the special features from the 2007 DVD release. Highly recommended and absolutely worthy of an upgrade.
Amazon.com: Girl Crazy [Blu-ray]: Norman Taurog, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Gil Stratton, Robert E. Strickland, Rags Ragland, June Allyson, Nancy Walker, Guy Kibbee, Frances Rafferty, Henry O’Neill, Arthur Freed: Movies & TVhttps://www.amazon.com/Girl-Crazy-Blu-ray-Norman-Taurog/dp/B08BDRJ4V8/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3CBFLOZ6YEA47&dchild=1&keywords=girl+crazy+blu-ray&qid=1596344734&s=movies-tv&sprefix=girl%2Caps%2C246&sr=1-1
Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.
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