Girl Crazy (1943)

10 Jun

Songs by George and Ira Gershwin, a dance choreographed by Busby Berkeley, an appearance by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, an early appearance from June Allyson, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland doing what they do best? Who could ask for anything more!

George and Ira Gershwin’s 1931 musical “Girl Crazy” is transformed plot-wise, but many of the songs are kept, most notably “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You,” Fascinating Rhythm,” and “But Not For Me,” all songs that have become standards.

Danny Churchill (Mickey Rooney) is the playboy son of a wealthy publisher who is sent out west to an all boys agricultural and mining school (not that we see much agriculture, mining, or school…just horse-riding and singing). There is, however, one girl present. The granddaughter of the dean (Guy Kibbee). She is Ginger Gray (Judy Garland), who is in charge of the school’s mail and drives the rickety car.

She is not, however, impressed by the east coast playboy, though he is more than impressed with her. He has to prove his love and prove that he’s not a quitter at the school and save the school from closing down by attracting applicants…by staging a musical rodeo. They thus manage to get the “let’s-put-on-a-show” plot line into the story.

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland were amazing and seem to be able to do pretty much anything. Mickey Rooney sings and dances and plays the piano with Tommy Dorsey and does physical comedy and is a wonder to behold. He also has a sweet chemistry with Judy Garland. It seems like in so many of Judy Garland’s movies, she is pining away for her wayward man, it is nice to see things reversed with Rooney trying to win her.

Judy Garland was twenty-one in Girl Crazy and she looks fresh, alive and lovely. She had a hard life and in many of her later movies you can see it on her face, but in Girl Crazy she still looks as if she has the whole world before her as she enters womanhood. She just about glows.

She also could seemingly do anything: comedy, drama, sing, dance, etc. She always had a good sense of comedic timing, but could then turn around and rip your heart out with a song. In Girl Crazy, the song is “But Not For Me.”

The musical “Girl Crazy” in 1931 is the musical that made Ethel Merman a Broadway star. Judy Garland’s role was played by Ginger Rogers, but Ethel Merman introduced “I Got Rhythm”and blew everyone away. In the movie, the song becomes a Busby Berkeley choreographed western extravaganza with Garland, Rooney, Tommy Dorsey and many others. It’s a rousing way to end a film.

I’m always rather in awe of Judy Garland’s dancing. It’s not that she’s Cyd Charisse or even Eleanor Powell, but she always gives the appearance of total ease and rightness. It’s a joy to watch her dance and she always makes it look good. So often, now, I feel like singing and dancing is all about making it look like the performer is working hard, but Judy Garland looked as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

My sister and I have often talked about how comedians and people with good physical comedic timing often seem to be able to dance. It’s not that they are the most technically proficient, but that they have a physical lightness and adroitness that translates well to dance. Judy Garland has that same ability. For me, not only could she never sing too many songs, but she could never dance to much.

This is my contribution to “The Judy Garland Blogathon,” hosted by In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. To see all the posts for this blogathon, click here.

Judy Garland breaks one’s heart.

Mickey Rooney fails to make an impression on Judy Garland.


Posted by on June 10, 2017 in Movies


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21 responses to “Girl Crazy (1943)

  1. Patricia Nolan-Hall (@CaftanWoman)

    June 10, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Busby Berkeley was a hard taskmaster, but with talent like Mickey and Judy’s there must have been a sense that you could push them beyond their limit.

    Your correlation between comic timing and physical ease has a lot of merit. I so adore the old-fashioned entertainers who showed you the joy, and not the work that went into the performance. You are right in that there is a sense today that we are to applaud the rehearsals instead of the finished product.

    Liked by 2 people

    • christinawehner

      June 10, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      “Applaud the rehearsals”…yes, that’s a great way to describe it! I wonder why that is.

      It does seem like those vaudevillians could do nearly anything. Somehow, they give us the feeling that we could do what they are doing, too…even though we know we couldn’t.

      That’s a great point about being able to push Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland even farther. It must have been pretty heady to be able to choreograph for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sweet girl

    June 11, 2017 at 3:01 am

    nice …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Michaela

    June 11, 2017 at 8:42 am

    This is my favorite of Mickey and Judy’s films together. I just love it to pieces. All of the songs are incredible and executed extremely well. There are just so many things that make this feel like it was made for me: June Allyson at the beginning, Charles Walters dancing with Judy during “Embraceable You,” Judy being chased by Mickey rather than the other way around… I could very easily go on. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • christinawehner

      June 11, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      Oh, I didn’t realize that was Charles Walters dancing with Judy Garland – awesome! It was awfully fun to see June Allyson, too. I’ve only seen this one and Babes on Broadway with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland together, but want to see some of their others. They are such an amazing duo! I can see why you love this and wonder why I never saw it earlier…especially since I love musicals. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. stephencwinter

    June 14, 2017 at 1:54 am

    I heard the overture to Girl Crazy on the radio this morning. Like all Gershwin’s music it looks like it is going to last. I think that we now know that he is up there with the great composers, in any genre, of the 20th century. My mother loved those Judy Garland musicals and some years back I had the chance to see them when they were shown in the afternoons on UK TV over the period of a week or so. You make the point about her natural style of dancing beautifully as did Patricia Nolan-Hall. I think that there is a spiritual quality about it as with certain musicians and athletes. It is an embodiment of the call to “strive to enter that rest” and few people are prepared to do the hours and hours of striving that are required to become “natural”. Judy Garland achieved it and I hope that she is now enjoying the heavenly dance. I hope that I can join in one day!

    Liked by 2 people

    • christinawehner

      June 14, 2017 at 10:52 am

      Yes, I’ve always hoped that if I can’t dance especially well on earth, that one day in heaven I could dance beautifully with everyone else!

      That’s an interesting point about how many hours it takes of striving to become natural. We always assume that naturalness comes from…well, doing nothing and being ourselves, and yet it doesn’t always work that way.

      I do hope Gershwin’s music lasts! I’ve been a little disappointed in some music history books that seem to treat Gershwin and jazz a little bit gingerly, unwilling to grant it full “serious music” status, and yet I agree with you – I think there will come a time when he is taken as seriously! If not perhaps already.


    • Jay Taylor

      February 23, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      What nice comments about Garland and what a nice observation about the “spiritual quality” there can be to certain musicians and athletes. Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Joe Thompson

    June 16, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Good essay. “My sister and I have often talked about how comedians and people with good physical comedic timing often seem to be able to dance.” You are right about that. Roscoe Arbuckle and Curly Howard were brilliant ballroom dancers, as were Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton. And you can’t go wrong with Gershwiin.

    Liked by 2 people

    • christinawehner

      June 16, 2017 at 9:48 pm

      So true – Gershwin is wonderful (or S’Wonderful)! I like your examples of the comedians! I didn’t realize that Roscoe Arbuckle could dance, but that makes a lot of sense. He’s a wonder to watch, so light on his feet.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joe Thompson

        June 16, 2017 at 11:08 pm

        I remember reading an interview with a silent actress who said that dancing with Roscoe was like moving around the dance floor on a cloud.

        Liked by 2 people

        • christinawehner

          June 17, 2017 at 10:15 am

          Oh, that’s a very lovely description! Sounds like a joy to dance with.


  6. In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood

    June 24, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Thanks so much for participating in the blogathon and sorry for the late reply. I’ve been away sick. “Girl Crazy” is my favorite of the Judy and Mickey collaborations. There is so much going for this movie, and there is many memorable scenes. Thanks again.

    I would also like to invite you to participate in my next two blogathons. The links are below with more details. They have been announced for a while, but I haven’t had a chance to promote them as much due to illness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      June 24, 2017 at 9:38 am

      Thanks you! It was such a pleasure to be introduced to this film.

      I hope you are feeling much better now!!!

      Thanks for the invitations! I need a little time to ponder choices, but am pretty sure I will be able to participate. 🙂


  7. Jay Taylor

    February 23, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    Enjoyed your observations about “Girl Crazy.” While I have problems with a lot of it…the silliness of some of the humor, the almost sadistic way Mickey R’s character is treated by just about eveyone, the protracted laughter Judy G. is directed to do at Mickey, and even, I’m afraid, the choreography given to Judy and Mickey in “I Got Rhythm,” the Garland musical numbers make up for it, as does the Tommy Dorsey orchestra at the party. Thanks for your essay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 27, 2019 at 2:22 pm

      Yes, Judy Garland and her musical numbers often do seem to be greater than any movie she ever made. Perhaps she was almost too great for most movies in general.


      • Jay Taylor

        May 11, 2021 at 5:09 pm

        Just now seeing your comment, Christina. What an interesting thought; that she was almost too great for most movies in general. Indeed, I remember reading someone’s opinion that only “Wizard of Oz,” “Meet Me In St. Louis,” “The Clock,” and “A Star is Born,” were worthy of her, because she got to play real characters in those. Thanks for your comments.



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