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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 1:28 am 
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Just wondering if anyone would care to provide a recommendation for this film. I've been listening to the wonderful "Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe" on my ipod for weeks, and based on that, Garland really seems at the height of her powers. Am I right?


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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 1:37 am 
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Absolutely I can, as it's probably my favorite Judy Garland musical. It's particularly interesting in how it effectively moves between the worlds of the Western and the Musical, and the impending danger of just what the new frontier entails seeps into picture's musical numbers. The hopeful naivete of the passengers in the "On the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe" number is later grounded in the chill-inducing lament for expectations found in "It's a Great Big World," the latter punctuated with violence that the film will revisit in its rather surprisingly aggressive finale. It would make a good double-feature with another brilliant Western-themed musical, Calamity Jane.


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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 2:10 am 
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Thanks so much. It definitely sounds like something up my alley, especially since I'm a big fan of Cyd Charisse and Virginia O'Brien. Do you think the fact that this film is often glossed-over in discussions of The Great American Musicals, has to do with people being turned off by the darkness you mention?


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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 3:26 am 
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Well, I think it's a slightly deeper cut than casual fans of musicals might dig, but it was/is considered to be one of the upper-tier musicals (and the song you've been digging won the Best Song Oscar). And for what it's worth, it rightly showed up on more than one forum member's list of Best American Film Musicals. But of the three big Western musicals of the era (Annie Get Your Gun, Calamity Jane, and the Harvey Girls), it's the only one that could really pass for a western were the musical numbers removed. While Calamity Jane works the best as a musical (and is not coincidentally the best film of the three) and Annie Get Your Gun is an amusing trifle, the Harvey Girls has a way of getting in your brain. Then again, the film's also a bit of a mess that was rewritten during filming and the tonal shifts aren't entirely smooth. It's a good DVD to explore, as there are several deleted musical numbers, including the massive "Doggies" number that must've cost a fortune to completely discard.


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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 9:12 am 
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I also recommend the film highly. Despite the labored acting of John Hodiak and what is, apparently, a muskrat that died on his upper lip, it's a completely charming film. Garland and O'Brien do some of their best performing, and Ray Bolger has a great song and dance number. And "It's a Great Big World" is probably one of the most touching musical numbers that's not in Meet Me in St. Louis.


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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 10:35 am 
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An absolute recommendation. It's not in my tier of Garland favorites but it's really a lovely movie. Garland, Charisse, O'Brien and Bolger - all sublime. Beautifully photographed and detailed, very much inspired by Minnelli.


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PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 7:29 am 
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One of the real brains behind Harvey Girls - unheralded again - is Kay Thompson who mentored and coached then neophyte performers like Cyd, and who was largely responsible for suggesting to Sidney that he shoot the Atcheson Topeka and the Santa Fe number outdoors.

I love Sidney' musicals, even when the casting or some other element might be off key, like the substitution of the garrulously unappealing Betty Hutton for Garland in Annie. Indeed Sidney's sheer exuberance which in a sense takes over the book of Showboat is one of the things I most love about it, and probably the reason I prefer it to the Whale.


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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 8:57 pm 
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Best story, from Sidney, about the film:

For her solo in "Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," Judy watched the dance double do the number once (performing to Garland's pre-recording) and said, "Let's shoot it." They did, and that single first take is the one you see in the film! What a pro.

Also love the way that number introduces everyone else first, building to Garland's entrance.

Funny that this should come up on the board - I just finished making a DVD of this with all the cut numbers reinserted, and with the mono tracks replaced with stereo versions when available.

Had to dig to find a suitable train track sound effect to put under the opening number, but I finally did.

Everything is better in stereo! =)


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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 8:33 am 
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Yes, Sidney's commentary track on the DVD is a real treasure, and he sounds like he was just tickled pink to be asked to do it. Feltenstein was very canny (and lucky) to get him at such an advanced age, and not long before he died.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:27 pm 
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I just wanted to pop back in here and thank everyone for their thoughts and recommendations. I've now seen both the theatrical cut, and the Marknyc5 cut (thanks and great work!) with the excised musical numbers re-inserted, and I have to say that it's in the upper echelon of Garland musicals.

Unfortunately, John Hodiak and the whole love story subplot was pretty disappointing. Naturally Sidney had to jettison the March of the Doagies number because in it Garland becomes the de-facto leader of the Harvey Girls in the effort to win the hearts & minds of the townsfolk. You can't have her up there singing in front of some giant bonfire like a wild west waitress version of Yma Sumac, extolling the virtues of communal effort in combatting lawlessness, and then have her get on a train with some half-baked plan to be a dancer in Hodiak's floozie revue.

The things that work in this film, work tremendously well and more than make up for the deficiencies. I only wish that I could create my own cut where Judy decides she's a lesbian and stays a Harvey Girl forever...


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 6:36 am 
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In case someone else is still debating whether or not to watch/buy this, I strongly suggest they do. Not only is Garland utterly charming in this, but it looks fantastic. The colors, the settings, the songs, the supporting cast (there's even Angela Lansbury) make this a really enjoyable movie, and on dvd it looks vibrant as the day it was released. I still haven't watched the extras but I will certainly do the next time I'm gonna watch it.

I also have a question about the commentary. I have never watched one to be honest, because it counts for me as wasting a viewing of the movie (and risking wearing it out, like, being bored by it and needing to wait longer to watch it once more without being bored by it), so what kind of commentary is it, is it well presented, is it continuous, and other adjectives I can't think of right now? Thanks


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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 2:50 pm 
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Starting to explore musicals lately has tended to reinforce my initial prejudices. I'd change channel if the songs came on the radio, and the silliness or vulgarity of most big dance numbers has me itching to press the fast forward button. The Harvey Girls stands apart for having lovely music throughout, with good lyrics, and numbers I want to watch over and over.

The Harvey organization strikes me as a shade proto-fascistic in its obsession with uniforms, rectitude, and good hygiene. (The scene where passengers are hustled off the train and herded into the restaurant reminded me uncannily of a scene from Schindler's List of the trains arriving at the camps). My sympathies lie more with the drunkards and fornicators on the other side of the street. Which makes the movie all the more interesting.


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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 3:11 pm 
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I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but the Fred Harvey House was a real thing and provided a much needed sense of consistency that anticipated chain restaurants. Patrons knew what to expect and were rewarded with what they paid for in an era where such things weren't even remotely guaranteed. Comparing it to Nazism is absurd.


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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 3:45 pm 
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The way a perfectly innocent scene of passengers disembarking reminded me of something more sinister was a purely accidental association, which I read nothing into. That's why I made the observation parenthetically. I didn't intend to be inflammatory.

Whatever the organization was like in real life, in the movie it had an overt missionary/colonizing mentality that I found unappealing. I'm referring to the organization, not the protagonists themselves.


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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 3:52 pm 
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I don't take their actions any differently than those found in any other Western focused on bringing culture and "civilization" to the new frontier (from the aforementioned Calamity Jane to the Westerner or even something tangentially related like River of No Return or A Ticket for Tomahawk, to name just a few). This is such a common trope that I have trouble seeing it negatively here, especially since it serves a welcomed function in the existing town structure of the film


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