Given how Judy Garland scored so well in another period piece, Meet Me In St. Louis, it was a natural that she be cast in In The Good Old Summertime even if she was a replacement for June Allyson. It's called serendipity.
The film is a musical adaption of MGM's The Shop Around The Corner in which James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan played the anonymous correspondents who love what each other write, but can't stand each other in person. It doesn't help that the two of them are co-workers in a department store.
Van Johnson takes the Stewart part in In The Good Old Summertime and early 20th century Budapest is transferred to early 20th century Chicago. Johnson and Garland work in a music store with Spring Byington, Clinton Sundberg, and Buster Keaton and that's owned by S.Z. Sakall. Sakall is far more lovable as he always is than Frank Morgan in the same part in The Shop Around The Corner. A bit thick, but lovable. He does think he has talent on the violin, the same way Jack Benny did on his radio program. He plays it as well as Benny did and even playing it on a Stradivarius doesn't help.
Except for one new song, Merry Christmas, the rest of the score is interpolated period favorites like Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland, I Never Knew, I Don't Care and of course the title song. Judy is really in her element doing these numbers. In fact two of the early century's great musical performers, Blanche Ring who introduced In The Good Old Summertime, and Eva Tanguay whose specialty song was I Don't Care, were still alive to see Judy do both of their numbers for the current audience. I've often wondered what they must have thought.
Buster Keaton is strangely subdued in this film. He only gets one real comic moment doing a pratfall on a dance floor and breaking a violin in the process. I'm betting some of his material wound up on the cutting room floor.
At the very end of the film, little Liza Minnelli all of three at the time made her screen debut. If you like period pieces as I do and the music of the era as I do or if you liked The Shop Around The Corner or the most current adaption of the piece, You've Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, than you will appreciate and enjoy In The Good Old Summertime...
BRUCE'S RATING: 7 OUT OF 10
MY RATING: 8 OUT OF 10