Usually something lesser-known is lesser-known for a reason. Orson Welles movies aside from Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil? Yeah, not the best. However, I know there are those films we each have that mean something significant to us that may or may not appeal to others. I like The Shop Around the Corner, I’ll watch You’ve Got Mail, but I love In the Good Old Summertime (1949). Most people recognize You’ve Got Mail as the quintessential remake of the original, but I think In the Good Old Summertime is better.
Why? It’s a musical.
I am incredibly picky about musicals .. in fact, you have to twist my arm completely to get me to watch a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical outside of The Sound of Music – they’re too much for my taste. But, if you’ve read my blogs you know… I love Judy Garland in all of her films. Judy Garland singing Christmas music is only one of the best things in this world. Who remembers this gem from Meet Me in St. Louis? You probably hear an altered version of it yearly, but Judy sang it first and best.
She sings another Christmas song in In the Good Old Summertime (contrary to its title, the film takes place primarily at Christmas… so if it’s on television in the winter, your TV guide is not deceiving you.. it’s just a stupid title). I think “Merry Christmas” displays the heartfelt feelings Judy conveys in a piece of music. No matter how simple, short, happy, or somber… Judy makes you feel what her character, in this case Veronica Fisher, feels at the moment toward her love letter romance and mixed feelings toward Andrew Larkin (Van Johnson). Christmas can certainly be slightly depressing. Take a listen:
While I’m not a huge fan of Van Johnson, he and Judy paired together are refreshingly comedic. In fact, I would say this version of the film is the most light and airy based on their comedic pairing. She was not remembered for her humour, but when she had the opportunity to display it for audiences, Judy shined brightly. I believe their characters despise one another more than the other versions and the scene when they succumb to one another is steamy and wonderful — better than anything Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan could have schemed up.
Overall, there is something more Christmasy about a musical. The snow, the decorations, and the music are a perfect combination to get me in the Christmas spirit. If you’ve never uncovered this gem and you’ve seen the other versions of the film, I encourage you to view it! Plus, Liza Minnelli at age three? Well, it can’t get much better than that.