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Warner Home Video presents
In the Good Old Summertime (1949)

Andy Larkin: I see you're reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Veronica Fisher: Yes. Any objections?

- Van Johnson, Judy Garland

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 05, 2004

Stars: Judy Garland, Van Johnson
Other Stars: S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, Spring Byington, Buster Keaton, Clinton Sundberg, Marcia Van Dyke, Liza Minelli
Director: Robert Z. Leonard

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:42m:40s
Release Date: April 06, 2004
UPC: 012569590526
Genre: musical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BC-C- C-

DVD Review

During the 1930s and 1940s it was fairly common for studios to slap random titles onto their films, using a catchphrase or a miscellaneous remark as the nonsensical name. While many of these were simply headscratchers, seldom were they completely at odds with the film itself. But that apparently didn't bother the geniuses at MGM, when they used the title In the Good Old Summertime on a movie that takes place almost entirely at Christmastime.

Andy Larkin (Van Johnson) is head clerk at the music shop of Otto Oberkungen (S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall) in circa-1900 Chicago. Veronica Fisher (Judy Garland) is hired as a clerk and she and Larkin quickly get on each others' nerves. But each of them has a romantic penpal that gives a bit of spark and hope in their lives. Unfortunately for them, their penpals are (unbeknownst to them) actually each other. Andy learns the truth and uses the knowledge to torment Miss Fisher.

This is a familiar plot, having been borrowed from The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and remade several times afterwards, most recently with the dismal Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan vehicle You've Got Mail. This time around, however, songs are added to the mix, necessitating the shift of scene to the music shop. The songs are all plenty forgettable, other than the old chestnut of the title song, but Garland puts everything into them and they're worth watching just for her gusto, especially in a barbershop number.

Garland and Johnson have an excellent chemistry together, although their antagonism is much more entertaining than their romance. There's also a weak effort at a triangle as Larkin encourages a young violinist (Marcia Van Dyke) by loaning her Oberkungen's Stradivarius. There's a sweet unconsummated romance between Oberkungen and his secretary, Nellie (Spring Byington), made more poignant by the frequent use of soulful violin music in the background. Also in the cast is silent genius Buster Keaton, rehabilitated and finally back in 'A' pictures after his disastrous descent into alcoholism in the 1930s. He provides a few excellent slapstick moments, especially in putting violins at risk, that are reminiscent of some of his classic silent work.

The staging is pretty straightforward, although the costumes and scenery are decently convincing of the period. The result is moderately entertaining and wholesome romantic fun.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame picture has one serious issue: certain portions have a heavy greenish cast that makes the film look like a prequel to The Matrix much of the time. Other than that not inconsiderable problem, the transfer is quite good, with decent detail and little in the way of artifacting. However, shadow detail tends to be rather plugged up. Filters are used to make Garland look younger, so her shots are intentionally softer and that's not a problem with the transfer. Little artifacting is evident.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: There's a fair amount of hiss and noise on the 1.0 mono track. The musical segments are a bit quieter and very acceptable for the period. There's obviously little in the way of low bass on the track, but the dialogue at least sounds natural and clear.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Shop Around the Corner, You've Got Mail
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: John Fricke provides a brief (4m:19s) introduction to the film, noting several points of interest. The trailer collection is the somewhat obvious (but nonetheless welcome) accumulation of ads for the feature as well as its precursor and the 1998 remake. They're accompanied by two 1948 shorts by James A. Fitzpatrick giving travelogue scenes of Chicago (in full Technicolor). These are mildly interesting, especially if you're familiar with modern day Chicago as a point of comparison. They're thematic, due to the Chicago connection, and date from about the same time as the feature, but this feels nonetheless like a bit of a stretch. Still, such ephemera is seldom seen today and they're worth including for their historical interest in any event.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Summertime or Christmas, it's always good to have more Judy Garland on DVD. A greenish tint is the main drawback to the feature, and the extras are nothing to excite one.


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