Harvey Girls (SE)/ B+, B+
Warner/1945/101/FS 1.33

    Falling into the sub-genre of musical westerns, The Harvey Girls is a glorious salute to the unsung masses who ventured west to help civilize our lawless bawdy country. As railroads pressed toward the coast, Fred Harvey's company established restaurants at many  stops helping to make the expansion more commodious. This musical treat is about one stop along the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe , Flat Rock, where clean living aided and abetted by Harvey's lovely  ladies butts heads against the gartered girls of the Alhambra saloon and the men who run the town their way.
     Susan Bradley leaves her native Ohio for a western love letter marriage from an ad placed by a man she's never met. On the same train, The Harvey Girls are headed to the same destination, Flat Rock, New Mexico.
    In Flat Rock, Susan faces disappointment, new romance, and the challenge of the establishment. Ned Trent runs the Alhambra Saloon with a cavalier charm while associate Judge Purvis is determined to preserve the status-quo by any means necessary. And Alhambra's leading lady Em is ready to fight for her man. Between the bullets, booze and a snake or two, Susan's solid down home Ohio values and determination give her the strength to prevail. Happily, The Harvey Girls is a musical, embellishing Susan's experiences with a grand dressing of music and song and bringing the west to life through the ebullient production.     

Trent's last Harvey Girl. ©Warner

     Thirty-year-old George Sidney had already established himself as a strong musical comedy director Bathing Beauty and Anchor's Aweigh when he was assigned to help create a musical of a western script MGM had hanging around. His direction of The Harvey Girls is outstanding, consistently finding the right camera point of view and winning outstanding performances from his players. Sidney directed  later directed musicals from Annie Get Your Gun to Showboat and Kiss Me Kate and action flicks with verve and charm such as The Three Musketeers and Scaramouche
    There are many terrific musical moments, but the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe production number stands out as simply enthralling. Ray Bolger's specialty dance numbers are delightful, and Virginia O'Brien is wonderful with the droll comic delivery on The Wild, Wild, West. Judy Garland's solos are perhaps somewhat less memorable, but she is absolutely wonderful in all the ensemble numbers.
    Garland oozes winsome charm with innocent grace and delicious spunk. I can't imagine anyone asking the Harvey Girls to listen to her letter with such sweetness.  Her centerpiece performance with a talented musical supporting cast is amongst her best. John Hodiak may be a pretty stiff specimen of a leading man, but the musical talents of Ray Bolger, Virginia O'Brien, Kenny Baker. Even Angela Lansbury delivers the good in her first musical work as dance hall queen Em.
    Judy's opening number exhibits slight vocal distortion, but it's the only time I noted the problem in the DVD production. The transfer is very bright and consistently sharp. Black level is quite deep with dark fabric details easily discernible. The color on Judy's lips is so rich and vital it almost looks like a latex application that you could peel right off your screen. Em's glittering gold lame outfit appointed with ruby and emerald trim is a color showcase. The flesh tones have a slight touch of too much yellow, like one of the Technicolor strips has slightly faded. Aside from the opening, the mono sound is clear with nice range.
     Warner has packaged The Harvey Girls as a wonderful special edition. Director George Sidney's audio commentary is lively and warm sharing reminiscences about the production history and the experience of making the film. The commentary is not always scene specific, but the stories are thoroughly entertaining. There are three deleted musical numbers including Judy singing My Intuition. These are in beautiful condition. The original scoring session music cues are accessible.  The theatrical trailer for The Harvey Girls completes the package.


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