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For Me and My Gal

Though best known for his dance numbers (that become exercises in human geography) in such films as Ziegfeld Girl and the Gold Digger series, Busby Berekley could be an honest-to-goodness great director. For evidence, watch his 1942 film For Me and My Gal. A story of the vaudeville circuit on the eve of World War I, it follows plucky Jo Hayden (Judy Garland), who's partnered with Jimmy Metcalf (George Murphy) until she meets the egotistical Harry Palmer (Gene Kelly). At first she's turned of by Harry because he's a self-involved cad, but when the Harry tricks her into singing "For Me and My Gal" with him, their chemistry becomes evident. Jo leaves Jimmy for Harry — partly because she's secretly in love with him — but Harry still holds out hope for something bigger and would sacrifice Jo's career in the process. And it seems that he might be willing to do so when popular opera singer Eve Minard (Marta Eggerth) tries to prove a point to Jo by offering Harry a place besides her. It's in this moment that he realizes he loves Jo, but trouble looms as the war starts and Jo's brother Danny (future director Richard Quinne in a role that screams "dead meat") enlists. The two seem on the verge of realizing their dream of playing the Palace in New York (after which they said they'd get married) when Harry gets his draft notice. Too in love with both The Palace and Jo to go as he was called, Harry decides to injure himself to get a brief respite from the war. But when Jo finds out what he's done, a telegram arrives explains that her brother was KIA, leaving her bitter at Harry's cowardice. Now with a permanently injured hand, Harry must find a way to redeem himself and joins the Red Cross as an entertainer. A corn-fed melodrama that pauses long enough for some fine musical numbers, the two main reasons to watch For Me and My Gal are Kelly's against-type performance and Berekley's great hand behind the camera. Gene Kelly is best known for his oddly perfect good looks, and films like Singin' in the Rain and An American in Paris where his characters are always good-natured, good-humored "nice" people. His face has always betrayed deeper undercurrents, and this is one of his best roles because he gets to explore that dark side; he's a very convincing self-involved jerk. That doesn't detract from his graceful, lyrical dancing style, in which he is well partnered with Garland — though he totally outmatches her as a dancer, she more than makes up for it through the power of her voice. But the real star here is Berkeley, who manages to keep this ship of corn afloat: The sequence in which Kelly decides to damage himself to play the Palace is one of the strongest moments in the picture, and it's a stunning example of how to use cinema to convey emotion and intensity. When the film comes to its resolution, even though it may be the most obvious thing to have happen in the world (the lovers reuniting), it is powerfully effective nonetheless. Warner presents For Me and My Gal in its original aspect ratio (1.33:1) and in monaural audio. Extras include the short films "La Fiesta De Santa Barbara" and "Every Sunday," the first a collection of stars and would-be stars (including Ida Lupino, Harpo Marx, and Buster Keaton) having a fun at an MGM-hosted party, the second a musical piece starring Garland and Deanna Durbin. There's also a commentary by Garland biographer John Fricke, audio-only versions of the cut musical number "Three Cheers for the Yanks" and an extended version of the finale, the 1943 Screen Guild Theater radio show, a radio promo, and the theatrical trailer. Snap-case.
—DSH



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