Film Title: A Date With Judy
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Silent or Talkie: Talkie
- Wallace Beery
- Jane Powell
- Elizabeth Taylor
- Carmen Miranda
My name is Stephen I. Andrews. I weigh 175 pounds and my health is excellent. I spent two years in college, three years in the Navy, and right now I’m working my way through school with hope of becoming a doctor. I believe in God. I believe in my country. And I don’t think the younger generation is going to the dogs. I play a fairly good game of tennis, my swimming gets by, and I like boxing. My parents were born in Missouri and have lived there for the last 46 years. Now unless they’ve done something in the last two weeks to disgrace the name of Andrews, you’ll find them respectable people who have an active interest in what their sons and daughters are doing. And you’ll excuse my saying so sir, if you’d do the same thing you wouldn’t have to send your butler out sir, asking silly questions. Because you’d know yourself what was going on. Now, any further questions Mr. Pringle?
Thus goes a speech delivered by Stephen Andrews (Robert Stack), a soda-jerker working in his uncle’s drug store for the summer, to Mr. Pringle (Leon Ames), a business man who has been neglecting his children after his wife’s death, when Pringle sends his butler out to investigate his daughter’s newest romantic interest. And the speech seems to me to represent the American values that A Date With Judy epitomizes.
A Date With Judy was based on a radio series of the same name that began airing in 1941, and that would also become a popular comic book, and later an early 1950s television series. MGM producer Joe Pasternak obviously acquired the rights in order to fashion a vehicle for the studio’s reigning teen queen, Jane Powell. Miss Powell plays Judy Foster, an energetic and musically gifted “typical” American teenager. She lives with her parents Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Foster (Wallace Berry and Selena Royle), and suffers the indignities of having a younger brother Randolph (Jerry Hunter). Also a part of the household are Gramps (George Cleveland) and their housekeeper/cook, now wait for it, Nightingale (Lillian Yarbo). Judy’s best friend and sometimes rival is rich girl Carol Pringle (Elizabeth Taylor), and her on-again-off-again boyfriend is Carol’s brother Oogie Pringle (Scotty Beckett). The plot revolves around the big high school dance. Somehow Carol has convinced Xavier Cugat to attend and perform! In a pique with Judy, Carol convinces Oogie to play it cool, which, of course, infuriates Judy, who then breaks off her date with him. She spies handsome Stephen Andrews working at his uncle Pop Scully’s Drug Store. As a favor to Judy, Pop convinces Stephen to step in as Judy’s date to the dance after she has jettisoned Oogie from her life. Dad: “Whatever happened to Oogie” Judy: “Oh, I just gave him up forever for a little while.” Secretly Mr. Foster is taking rumba lessons from Rosita Cochellas (Carmen Miranda) to surprise his wife at their big twentieth wedding anniversary bash. He’s having a little trouble, but Rosita assures him, “Mr. Foster, I put you in my hands . . . You see it is just a matter of a little wiggle here and a little wiggle there. All you have to do is get the right wiggle at the right place at the right time!” Unfortunately Judy discovers the secret, comes to the wrong conclusion, and suspects the worst. Will all the misunderstandings ever be untangled? I’ll give you a hint: 1949 MGM musical.
A Date With Judy is undeniably fluff, but what well produced fluff it is. The Technicolor photography is opulent, the script snappy and well-paced. Director Richard Thorpe directed 184 films in his career starting in 1923 and going until 1967, and he worked with other teen stars such as Elvis Presley, Ann-Margret, and Connie Francis. His expertise in the genre is evident in this one. Producer Joe Pasternak had already produced a string of hit musicals over at Universal staring Deanna Durbin. He too knew what he was doing. Jane Powell was a lovely screen presence. This was only her fourth feature film appearance, but already she was at the top of her form. In this film she sings: “Judaline”, “It’s a Most Unusual Day”, “I’m Strictly on the Corny Side”, “Love Is Where You Find It”, “Smiling Through The Years”, and “Home Sweet Home”. The seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Taylor was unbelievably beautiful. MGM was obviously grooming her for more adult roles. Two years later she’d appear as Spencer Tracy’s daughter in Father of the Bride, and the year after that opposite Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun. From then on she’d be one of the most famous women in the world and a top movie star for the next twenty years. Carmen Miranda, such an iconic performer who surprisingly made only 12 American films, is shown to good advantage. Her comic scenes with Wallace Berry are nicely played, and this film would reward her with the most popular recording of her career, “Cuanto la Gusta”, which spent 14 weeks on the Billboard charts. Scotty Beckett was a familiar face to movie audiences of the day. He made his screen debut in 1933 at age four, and appeared with Spanky McFarland in the Our Gang comedy shorts from 1934 through 1936. A Date With Judy was his 79th feature film appearance. Robert Stack kicked around MGM in a number of films. He’d finally achieve stardom in the 1950s with such films as Written on the Wind and The Tarnished Angels. He achieved small screen immortality as Elliott Ness in The Untouchables (1959-1963).
Warner Home Video presents A Date With Judy on DVD in its usual excellent manner. Both the Technicolor picture and sound are top notch. Special features include the original trailer and two shorts, Martin Block’s Musical Merry-Go-Round #3 with Ray Noble and Buddy Clark and Tom and Jerry’s Professor Tom.
This is some of the best fluff produced by the studio which gave us the Andy Hardy series and such family musicals as Meet Me in St. Louis (to which A Date with Judy is indebted in many ways). The musical numbers are enjoyable, the players do a great job, and the production is gorgeously filmed in Technicolor. It’s worth at least a rental if you, like me, are susceptible to this kind of entertainment.
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