The movie was notable as marking the first movie appearance by thirty year old Gene Kelly. He was already the acclaimed star of the stage musical Pal Joey and had just choreographed 'Best Foot Forward' but had yet to appear on the big screen. He was helped to adjust to movie acting from stage acting by nineteen year old Judy Garland who was already an experienced movie performer but who was appearing in her first non-juvenile role and for whom, dramatically, this was an ambitious step up. As with the majority of MGM's top musicals, 'For Me and My Gal' was made by Arthur Freed's production unit. It was Freed who persuaded MGM to cast Kelly in the leading man role, over the objections of studio executives who didn't want to take a chance on an unproven stage actor.
'For Me and My Gal' was an outstanding commercial success and was one of the biggest hits of 1942. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture for Roger Edens and Georgie Stoll. It clearly established Gene Kelly as a top Hollywood star and paved the way for more ambitious roles for Judy Garland.
Produced as America was entering WWII, the action of the movie actually takes place during WWI and it is really a piece of propaganda designed to raise patriotic fervour. Judy Garland plays Jo Hayden, a member of a vaudeville troupe, who throws in her lot with Gene Kelly's character, Harry Palmer who has promised to make her a star. When Palmer deliberately injures his hand to avoid the WWI draft, Jo leaves him. He eventually redeems himself after joining an overseas entertainment troupe, and he and Jo are finally reunited in Paris to provide an appropriate happy and romantic ending.
Today the movie stands out mainly because of its stunning musical quality. The production numbers are staged by Busby Berkeley with his customary quality, although they not the larger than life extravaganzas he created in previous musicals. All the songs are performed as they might have been on the vaudeville stage.
Judy Garland gets to entertain the troops with some genuine hits from WWI like "Pack Up Your Troubles," and "Till We Meet Again," and we see some fine dancing routines from both her and Gene Kelly. The movie also gave Garland two numbers which would later become staples of her concert singing career, the title song and "After You've Gone." There are many other fine songs including "How You Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm," "I Wore a Big Red Rose," and "Ballin' the Jack."
There is a freshness and a vitality in the performances of Garland and Kelly and great chemistry between them. 'For Me and My Gal' is more than just a nostalgic look at vaudeville. The movie is still great entertainment and stands as a tribute to its great stars.
Main CastJudy Garland ... Jo Hayden
Gene Kelly ... Harry Palmer
George Murphy ... Jimmy K. Metcalf
Martha Eggerth ... Eve Minard, singer
Ben Blue ... Sid Simms
Stephen McNally ... Mr. Waring, theatre manager
Richard Quine ... Danny Hayden, Jo's brother (uncredited)
Keenan Wynn ... Eddie Milton, theatrical agent (uncredited)
Lucille Norman ... Lily Duncan (uncredited)
CreditsDirector ... Busby Berkeley
Producer ... Arthur Freed
Screenplay ... Richard Sherman, Fred F. Finklehoffe, Sid Silvers
Original Story ... "The Big Time" by Howard Emmett Rogers
Music ... Roger Edens
Cinematography ... William H. Daniels
Format ... B & W
Distribution Company ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date ... October 21, 1942
Running time ... 104 minutes
Academy AwardsNo Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Scoring of a Musical Picture ...Roger Edens, Georgie Stoll