FOR ME AND MY GAL (1942) 

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Judy Garland
Gene Kelly
George Murphy
Martha Eggerth
Ben Blue
Stephen McNally
John Dilson
Richard Quine
Keenan Wynn

Busby Berkeley




Time: 104 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Musical/Drama/Romance

Nominated for Academy Awards for Best Music/Score.

SYNOPSIS: An unlikely pair of vaudeville performers – Jo Hayden and Harry Palmer – team up to try to find success and eventually find romance. But just when things are looking up, World War I intervenes, and Palmer takes drastic measures to keep a promise and avoid the war, losing the respect of his friends and love of Jo – until he finds a way to win it back.

BOTTOM LINE: This film is the first and best of the pairings between Garland and Kelly. They both had a lot to prove in this picture – it's his screen debut and her first major role as an adult romantic lead – and their combined talent makes this film a real winner. It's at times a bit melodramatic and overly patriotic, but one has to consider the time period in which it was made. Sure, the plot revolves around World War I, but the topics of honor and duty were clearly on people's minds considering what was going on with the US involvement in the current war. One has to give Kelly credit for taking on a role where he often acts dishonest and dishonorable. Especially since this film was his introduction to most of America and could have tainted his persona if he didn't pull it off. Fortunately, he plays the cad well, with just the right amount of smarm and charm covering his heart of gold. If Garland wasn't such a strong presence herself – in one of my favorite performances – he would have totally stolen the show.

While her vocal prowess was well-known by this point, I was surprised throughout this picture by her maturity, grace and sex appeal. No longer the longing wallflower, Garland gives Jo real spunk and intelligence. She knows what she wants and is willing to fight to get it. She's right not to trust Harry in the beginning, a man so blinded by his own ambition to make it to Broadway that he'd sell own mother for a shot on the big stage. It takes him awhile to notice how in love with her he is, but once he does there's no stopping him from making their dream of getting married after playing the Palace in New York come true. Even if it means harming himself temporarily to delay being sent to the front. His moment of weakness horrifies everyone around him, especially Jo, whose younger brother is already engaged in the fight. His obsession for fame destroys his relationship with Jo and forces him to make it up to her and his brothers in arms in other ways. It's a hard road to regaining her love and respect, but their dreams eventually do come true.

"Why didn't you tell me I was in love with you?"

Never has a film filled with such obvious propaganda been so enjoyable. Even though I knew they were tugging my heartstrings and playing with my sense of patriotism I really didn't mind. I can only imagine the effect this story had on the audience at the time. (I would have bought war bonds after watching this.) Thankfully, Kelly is so likable it makes it hard to hate him, even though his actions are almost always self-serving. No one wants to go to war, so one can hardly blame him for trying to get out of it, no matter how cowardly the film/government makes it seem. His dilemma – to fulfill his patriotic duty or accomplish his personal ambitions – is not an easy one to solve and an issue the film handles quite well. The sequence where Jo and Harry run into each other again in Paris while entertaining the troops is filled with poignancy as they're forced to face a future apart despite deeply loving each other. The film handles Harry's cowardice by giving him a chance to redeem himself in an active war zone, as ridiculous as that may seem...and it does. He's a vaudeville song and dance man for God's sake, not a hardened soldier. Yet without this sequence there's no way Jo, or the audience, could forgive him. In the end the film delivers it's message – fighting for your country is a duty to be proud of – in an entertaining package of heartfelt romance and uplifting musical numbers that almost make you forget there was a war going on.

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