Classic Judy Garland musical has never looked this good before. 4.5 Stars

George Sidney’s The Harvey Girls, here under consideration, was a glimpse at the settling and taming of the Wild West inspired by the vast success of the Broadway musical Oklahoma!

The Harvey Girls (1946)
Released: 29 Apr 1946
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 102 min
Director: George Sidney
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Western
Cast: Judy Garland, John Hodiak, Ray Bolger, Angela Lansbury
Writer(s): Edmund Beloin (screenplay), Nathaniel Curtis (screenplay), Harry Crane (screenplay), James O'Hanlon (screenplay), Samson Raphaelson (screenplay), Kay Van Riper (additional dialogue), Samuel Hopkins Adams (novel), Eleanore Griffin (original story), William Rankin (original story)
Plot: On a train trip West to become a mail-order bride, Susan Bradley meets a cheery crew of young women travelling out to open a " Harvey House " restaurant at a remote whistle-stop.
IMDB rating: 7.1
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 41 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 12/15/2020
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 4/5

During her MGM career in the 1940s, Judy Garland, apart from her films co-starring with Mickey Rooney, made a series of Americana musicals: pictures which focused on an aspect of American life of a certain time and place: Little Nelly Kelly concentrated on the Irish immigrants making a new life for themselves in New York, For Me and My Gal  looked at the lives of vaudeville performers prior to World War I, Meet Me in St. Louis focused on a typical family and their trials and tribulations in turn-of-the-century Missouri, and The Harvey Girls, here under consideration, was a glimpse at the settling and taming of the Wild West inspired by the vast success of the Broadway musical Oklahoma! Garland was the center of attention in all of these smash hit musicals, but director George Sidney and his collaborators made sure that in this movie, Judy wasn’t the whole show, sometimes, however, to an overcrowded degree.

Mail-order bride Susan Bradley (Judy Garland) arrives in Sandrock, New Mexico, with the intention of marrying H.H. Hartsey (Chill Wills) who she’s under the impression has been sending her beautiful letters expressing his love of the prairie and his desire to create something beautiful and long lasting there. Imagine her surprise when she learns that Hartsey wasn’t the writer of these poetic letters; instead, they were the work of saloon owner Ned Trent (John Hodiak) who was helping his friend and has no interest in marriage for himself. Stranded in Sandrock, Susan signs up as a waitress in Harvey House, a franchise of eateries established along the railroad lines throughout the West. The town’s lusty and covetous bigshots including Judge Sam Purvis (Preston Foster), his hired gun Marty Peters (Jack Lambert), saloon madam Em (Angela Lansbury) and Trent are none too keen on welcoming the wholesome, well-scrubbed Easterners to their town for fear its wildness and lawlessness might become a thing of the past putting them out of business, so it becomes a test of wills to see who’ll pull up stakes and leave first.

It’s not much of a story that screenwriters Edmund Beloin, Nathaniel Curtis, Harry Crane, James O’Hanlon, Samson Raphaelson, and Kay Van Riper have created (based on a book by Samuel Hopkins Adams), but it’s sprightly enough on which to hang a series of solos and production numbers to serve an overstuffed cast. In fact, you’ll note that most of the film’s musical stars apart from Judy Garland get a specialty number but then exist pretty much on the periphery of the action as the town’s do-gooders and do-badders duke it out (in Virginia O’Brien’s case, it was expedient since she was pregnant at the time so she pretty much disappears from the movie after her stone-faced comic turn “The Wild, Wild West”). Ray Bolger gets one of his gangly tap numbers during a square dance sequence, and Kenny Baker gets to apply his lilting Irish tenor to the film’s most beautiful song “Wait and See” which is then danced by Cyd Charisse (whose vocals elsewhere in the film are provided by Marion Doenges). Director George Sidney helms both the mammoth production numbers like the “Harvey Ready” montage,  “Round and Round” as the citizenry is introduced to the waltz by Harvey cook Sonora Cassidy (Marjorie Main) and the stupendous, multi-part town arrival to the Oscar-winning “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” with just as much experienced skill as the movie’s prime action sequences like the all-stops-out fight between the town’s female population and the climactic fire which finally shows the town pulling together at long last.

But, of course, it is a Judy Garland musical, and MGM’s first lady of song is well served by the Harry Warren-Johnny Mercer songs: a melting ballad to start the movie “In the Valley When the Evening Sun Goes Down,” her arrival chorus of “Atchison,” and the delectable trio “It’s a Great, Big World” which she shares with Virginia O’Brien and Cyd Charisse. In the comedy and romance department, she also scores grandly as she struggles to master six-shooters as she tracks down and retakes the stolen Harvey meat supply and attempts to maneuver the rocky terrain where her crush Ned Trent likes to spend his quality time. Clark Gable was originally slated for the role of Ned Trent, but John Hodiak is certainly an able substitute, and though his song with Judy (“My Intuition”) was cut in the final edit, he had a passable baritone and might have been given more to do musically. Angela Lansbury is a hoot as tough dance hall hostess Em kicking up her heels and belting out “Oh, You Kid” (dubbed by Virginia Rees; yes, this multiple Tony-winning Broadway musical star was dubbed in her first movie musical). Lansbury doesn’t stint on the acting either as she conveys both her tough outside and her heartsick inside at being rejected by the man she loves. Preston Foster and Jack Lambert sneer effectively as the overt bad guys, and familiar faces like Marjorie Main, Chill Wills, Selena Royle, and Morris Ankrum play their parts with aplomb.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 is faithfully rendered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Warner Archive has done another astonishing high definition mastering of a Technicolor jewel from its library with this release with gorgeous, nicely saturated color, expert sharpness with loads of detail, and beautiful contrast to make the image look wonderfully dimensional. There are no signs of age-related anomalies to mar the viewing experience. The movie has been divided into 30 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix offers robust fidelity throughout. The dialogue, songs, background score, and sound effects have all been professionally combined into a single track without a trace of hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter to spoil the aural experience.

Special Features: 4/5

Audio Commentary: ported over from a previous laserdisc release is director George Sidney’s interesting but occasionally rambling reminiscence about the making of this movie and several others during his MGM career.

Deleted Musical Numbers: “March of the Doagies (3:26, HD), its reprise (1:58, SD), “My Intuition” (3:47, SD)

Audio Scoring Stage Sessions: “It’s a Great Big World” (two takes), “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” (four takes and the complete track), Training Montage (two takes), “The Wild Wild West” (two takes), Bolger Dance Track (two takes), “Oh, You Kid,” “Wait and See” (two takes), “My Intuition,” “In the Valley” (two takes), “March of the Doagies” (two takes), “Hayride” (two takes), “Round and Round” (two takes and the complete track), “In the Valley” (rehearsal with Judy Garland and vocal arranger Kay Thompson).

“On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” in Stereo (9:00, HD)

Theatrical Trailer (2:51, HD)

Song Selection: ready access to the movie’s musical numbers can be achieved through this main menu listing.

Overall: 4.5/5

George Sidney’s The Harvey Girls is one of the more celebrated of MGM’s Technicolor musicals even if it isn’t quite in the same league with other Garland classics like Meet Me in St. Louis, The Pirate, or Easter Parade. Warner Archive has delivered a splendid high definition rendition of this musical, and it comes most highly recommended for fans of the stars of the genre.

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Matt Hough

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Reed Grele

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So glad that I ordered this! I love watching well done Technicolor film transfers, and since I've never seen this (except for the clips in That's Entertainment) I'm sure that it will be an enjoyable experience.
 

Matt Hough

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You're right about Sidney's commentary. I have that set, too, and forgot all about its being on there. I'll amend the review.
 

noel aguirre

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After viewing The Pirate this I must get if it looks as good as that did. Unbelievable how astonishing these look from from Waners yet Paramount gives us On a Clear Day , Popeye and from Fox we got The King and I and Sound of Music.
Uprezzed to 4K these Warner discs look unbelievable!
 

Mark B

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I just returned from a zero degree, 3500 feet above sea level day in the Pitchoff Range, and this was waiting when I got home. A big flat blanky and The Harvey Girls looking amazing is going to end a really good day on a high, high note. Thank you, WAC, for finally getting around to releasing some all time favorite MGM films.
 

davyblu

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Just watched it also. It's like seeing the film again for the first time. . .it really is an amazing transfer, even slightly better than The Pirate. The only thing that disappointed me a bit was that the outtake of March of the Doagies was not in HD, despite what it says here.
 

benbess

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Watching this new blu-ray now—and wow, it looks and sounds great. The young Angela Landsbury in jewels singing (although is that her voice?) is a good endorsement for this new restoration. The costumes are clearly designed to make the Technicolor pop. MGM must have spent a fortune on this tuneful cotton candy fantasy.

"On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" is a popular song written by Harry Warren with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.[1] The song was published in 1944, spanned the hit chart in mid-1945, and won the 1946 Academy Award for Best Original Song,[1] the first win for Mercer.[2]
Full lyrics....

Do you hear that whistle down the line?
I figure that it's engine number forty-nine,
She's the only one that'll sound that way.
On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe

See the ol' smoke risin' round the bend,
I reckon that she knows she's gonna meet a friend,
Folks around these parts get the time o' day
From the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe

Here she comes!
Hey, Jim! yuh better git the rig!
She's got a list o' passengers that's pretty big
And they'll all want lifts to Brown's Hotel,
'Cause lots o' them been travelin' for quite a spell,
All the way to Cal-i-forn-i-ay
on the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.

Oh, the roads back east are mighty swell,
The Chesapeake, Ohio and the ASL,
But I make my run and I make my pay
On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.

Goin' back and forth along these aisles,
My land, you must've walked about a million miles.
It's a treat to be on your feet all day
On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.

Here we come!
She's really rakin' down the line
Looky, look
Oh, boy, we're huffin' and a-puffin' on the forty-nine!

In this day and age girls don't leave home
But if you get a hankerin', you wanna roam
Our advice to you is run away
On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.

Hey, men, did you ever see such perty femininity
arrivin' all at once in this here town?
Never saw the likes of this for miles around!

Round and round our heads are spinning,
New adventures are beginning.
What a length of calico,
It's taffet-ee and calico to really put a cowboy on the kibosh
Cowboy, kibosh
It's enough to make a fella wanna wash...

Wash your face and hands, we hope you'll never be afraid of soap!
Button shoes and powdered chalk and fancy smells and baby talk-
It's awful what a gal will stoop to do!
Even so, we aim to say we love to honor and oh-
Baby, are there any more at home like you?

Hand me my hair combed and my slicker,
Gonna get spruced up and I'll --- her.
Put on the dog and I'll city-slick her,
Mr. Harvey, Mr. Harvey,
Fred Harvey knows exactly how to pick 'em!

We come from Dubuque, I-O-Way,
That's where the tall, tall, tall corn grows.
We come from Louisiana,
That's where the Mis-is-is-is-isippi flows.

I was the Lilian Russell of Cherryville, Kansas,
But they never gave me a chance.
I finished high school in Providence, Rhode Island,
And Providence, Rhode Island is where dance.

(Virginia O'Brien)
Oh, I'm from Chillicothe-Ohio!
My middle name's Hi-a-wath-ee -Ohio!
I'm gonna git the gold in them thar hills,
So I said good-bye-o, Ohio!

We were school marms from Grand Rapids, Mich.
But reading, writing, 'rithmetic were not our dish.

(Ruth Brady)
I was born in Paris,
I was raised in Paris,
Went to school in Paris, Where I met a boy
I was married in Paris,
Almost buried in Paris,
But I finally left Paris-
Paris, Illinois!

(Ray Bolger)
So this is the wild and woolly west!
Give me my chaps and my checkered vest.
Give me a girl and a holster for my hip!
Bang, bang! Yip, yip!

What a lovely trip
I'm feeling so fresh and alive
And I'm so glad to arrive
It's all to grand
It's easy to see, you dont need a palace
To feel like Alice in Wonderland

Back in Ohio, where I come from
I've done alot of dreamin' and I traveled some
But I never thought, I'd see the day
When I ever took a ride on the Santa Fe
Wanna take a ride on the Santa Fe
I would lean across my window sill
And hear the whistle echoin' across the hills

Then I'd watch the lights as they fade away
On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe
What a thrill
What a great big wonderful thill
With the whistle singing westward ho!
Right from the day I heard them start
'Cross the Kansas plains through New Mexico
I guess I've got a little gypsy in my heat
When I'm old and gray and settled down
If I ever get a chance to sneek away from town

Then I'll spend my busman's holiday
On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe
All aboard!!
I can't believe we're here at last
I can't believe that anything would go so fast
Then your pullin' throtle, whistle blows
A-huffin' and a-puffin' and away we go
All aboard for Californi-a
On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe
 
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Mikey1969

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Looking forward to this. The George Sidney commentary is indeed quite good. Despite being quite old at the time of recording, he is engaging and his memory is very sharp. He's also had quite an interesting life and was involved in many interesting projects in and out of the industry. Apparently he was set to record a commentary for the DVD of Annie Get Your Gun when it was finally released in 2000 but fell ill shortly beforehand.
 

Will Krupp

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"On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" is a popular song written by Harry Warren with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.[1] The song was published in 1944, spanned the hit chart in mid-1945, and won the 1946 Academy Award for Best Original Song,[1] the first win for Mercer.[2]

For years I was only familiar with the song as it appeared in the movie. I knew there were other versions recorded by a series of other artists but I really didn't pay them all that much mind. It wasn't until the Judy Garland boxset of Decca masters was released on CD that I was even AWARE that she recorded a "Single" version (for lack of a better term) with the Merry Macs for Decca. It's both awful (in its kitschy "pop" arrangement) and wonderful (Judy) but undeniably charming in any event.

 
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Mark B

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For years I was only familiar with the song as it appeared in the movie. I knew there were other versions recorded by a series of other artists but I really didn't pay them all that much mind. It wasn't until the Judy Garland boxset of Decca masters was released on CD that I was even AWARE that she recorded a "Single" version (for lack of a better term) with the Merry Macs for Decca. It's both awful (in its kitschy "pop" arrangement) and wonderful (Judy) but undeniably charming in any event.

I love that arrangement. But, I am a sucker for those big band tunes with the vocal trio/quartet backup singers.
 

Matt Hough

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For years I was only familiar with the song as it appeared in the movie. I knew there were other versions recorded by a series of other artists but I really didn't pay them all that much mind. It wasn't until the Judy Garland boxset of Decca masters was released on CD that I was even AWARE that she recorded a "Single" version (for lack of a better term) with the Merry Macs for Decca. It's both awful (in its kitschy "pop" arrangement) and wonderful (Judy) but undeniably charming in any event.

Thanks for providing that, Will. On the Decca Meet Me in St. Louis/The Harvey Girls LP, Judy basically sings her verse of the song as she did in the movie. I had heard this pop version before but a long, long time ago.