Merman’s debut alone was enough to make Girl Crazy‘s opening a Broadway landmark, but there was more. Others present that night wouldn’t make it big until later, but the fact that they were there at all is enough to make you pray for time travel. For starters, there was the man who put together the pit orchestra: Ernest Loring “Red” Nichols, age 25, one of the busiest musicians in town. He was an accomplished cornetist who could play equally well “hot” and “straight”, and he had already made hundreds of Dixieland recordings for Brunswick Records, usually with an ad hoc band billed as Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.
Record producer Warran Scholl attended Girl Crazy several times, not only to see the show, but to hear the orchestra jam between acts. “During the intermissions,” he recalled, “they’d really turn the band loose, and you should have heard the hot stuff they played. It wasn’t like a regular pit band — more like an act within an act.”
Rounding out the principal cast of Girl Crazy were its two nominal stars, comedians Willie Howard and William Kent, and juvenile lead Allen Kearns. (Understand, “juvenile” was a relative term in the theater of the day, denoting a romantic character type rather than age; think Dick Powell with Ruby Keeler. In fact, Kearns was 37).
I have this fantasy in which I imagine that a scout from RKO Radio Pictures early in 1931 is told to go see Girl Crazy on Broadway and to report back about its potential as a movie. In his report, does he say, “The score is amazing; George and Ira Gershwin have written some songs that will be sung as long as singers sing”? Or “This Ethel Merman is dynamite; she electrifies an audience and she can put a song over like an artillery barrage”? Or “Ginger Rogers is a real charmer who has already shown that she photographs well; with care she could be groomed into a major star”? Does he say any of this? He does not. Instead, this brilliant showbiz oracle tells the front office, “This might make a good vehicle for Wheeler and Woolsey.”
Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey — unlike, say, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, or the Marx Brothers — are largely forgotten today, but they still have their fans among film buffs even now. So perhaps I should let you know right up front that Wheeler and Woolsey are my personal nominees for the worst comedy team in movie history. But no matter what I think, they were hugely popular in the 1930s. Their output alone shows that audiences could hardly get enough. The Marx Brothers, for example, made 13 pictures in their entire career, from 1929 to ’49. Wheeler and Woolsey made 22 features — plus one short of their own and guest appearances in five others — just between 1929 and ’37. And they only stopped then because of Woolsey’s failing health (he died of kidney failure at 50 in 1938).
Wheeler and Woolsey were never a team in the standard showbiz sense of the day, as Woolsey was careful to point out when the two split up (briefly) after the release of Girl Crazy: “I wish it understood that Wheeler and I never really formed a team at any time. He had his manager and attorney and I had mine.” Wheeler had started in vaudeville with an act that, in retrospect, sounds like a forerunner of Andy Kaufman’s schtick: he would come out on stage with a joke book and announce that he was going to read some jokes from it, then proceed to read one corny joke after another, in such a manner that the audience would wind up roaring with laughter. Woolsey, who stood just under five foot six, had started out as a jockey and exercise boy, but when he broke his leg in a fall from a horse his racing career was over. The horse, Pink Star, went on to win the Kentucky Derby in 1907; Woolsey went into show business.
Bringing the two together was Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.’s idea; he cast them as comic supports to Ethelind Terry and J. Harold Murray in his 1927 musical extravaganza Rio Rita. When RKO bought the movie rights to Rita, they replaced the stars with John Boles and Bebe Daniels, but they brought Wheeler and Woolsey west to recreate their stage roles. Already the team dynamic was in place, and it would vary little in their following match-ups: wide-eyed naif Wheeler is bamboozled and manipulated by the fast-talking, cigar-chomping Woolsey. The two made such a hit in Rita that RKO teamed them up again (The Cuckoos) and again (Dixiana), over and over — a new picture, on average, every three months. (“They were pretty bad,” Wheeler later recalled, “but they all made money.”) Girl Crazy was their tenth, in two-and-a-half years.
As it happened, the final cut wasn’t final after all. Girl Crazy had begun under the regime of RKO studio chief William LeBaron; by the time it finished shooting, LeBaron was gone (though he retained screen credit), replaced by David O. Selznick. The picture’s first preview in Glendale was not well received, and Selznick ordered retakes — enough to add another $200,000 to the $300,000 already spent. Exactly what was reshot isn’t clear, but the figures alone suggest a full two-thirds of the picture as it stood. In any case, director William A. Seiter wasn’t available, so the retakes were directed (without credit) by Norman Taurog.
And this is where we run into the mystery of the “I Got Rhythm” number. Selznick may have ordered the reshooting of the song, in whole or in part (the paper trail isn’t clear), and the sequence may have been staged and directed by Busby Berkeley, who was already at RKO to stage the native dances for Bird of Paradise. Berkeley himself never said anything about it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything — after all, Dorothy Lee didn’t like to talk about Girl Crazy either, and she’s on screen. On the strength of what we can see, my own opinion is that “I Got Rhythm” is Busby Berkeley’s work lock, stock and barrel. Later, after Berkeley had made his name over at Warner Bros., dance directors at other studios would prove that Berkeley’s style was easier to recognize than to imitate, and “I Got Rhythm” is his style to a “T”; there are images and motifs that would reappear in some of his most famous routines at Warners. Besides, this number is by far the most elaborate and complex sequence in the entire picture, and could easily account for much of that extra 200 grand. Until someone shows me conclusive evidence to the contrary, I’ll continue to believe that “I Got Rhythm” is Busby Berkeley at work. Whatever the case, Berkeley, like Taurog, got no screen credit for the retakes Selznick had ordered.
The retakes didn’t help, and may have hurt; Girl Crazy failed to turn a profit. After Selznick’s tinkering, it had cost nearly twice as much as the typical Wheeler and Woolsey picture (and almost as much as King Kong); it never had a chance. It probably never had an artistic chance either; coming at exactly the moment when even mentioning a musical around Hollywood was in bad taste, Girl Crazy was a movie that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. It waffled a little, then came down on what looked like the safe side as a straight cornball comedy. RKO decided to play up the one feature of the show (the book) that Broadway audiences had tolerated only for the sake of what came with it, leaving just a skeleton crew of songs that were either inconsequential, mishandled, or too little too late.
The following year would come the game-changer: Warner Bros. (and Busby Berkeley) with the spectacular hat trick of 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933 and Footlight Parade to put musicals back in vogue again, where they would remain for decades — even Poverty Row studios like Republic, Monogram and PRC would regularly try their hands at them. But all that came too late to help RKO’s Girl Crazy. It was born before its time; the studio didn’t appreciate the property it had, and didn’t have the wit, confidence or foresight to do what should have been done with it.
All was not lost, however. Better times were coming for Girl Crazy, though it would take another 11 years. Oddly enough, Norman Taurog and Busby Berkeley would be back. And this time they’d get screen credit.
By the time Girl Crazy came to the screen again, Hollywood’s attitude toward musicals had changed diametrically, and with a will. A look at Clive Hirschhorn’s comprehensive coffee-table book The Hollywood Musical tells the tale: 10 musicals in 1932, when the first woebegone movie of Girl Crazy came out, versus 50 of them in 1942, the year MGM decided to do it again, and 75 in 1943, when MGM’s Girl Crazy was released. By now, musicals had become the jewels in Hollywood’s crown. Even Universal’s remake of The Phantom of the Opera had more opera and less phantom than the original silent version with Lon Chaney (sound gave Universal some wiggle room, and they decided to fill it with singing).
MGM bought the rights to Girl Crazy from RKO in 1939 at the behest of producer Jack Cummings. Cummings’s original idea was to remake the movie as a vehicle for Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell, which presumably would have shifted the emphasis back to the songs and been more in keeping with the original show. Anyhow, nothing ever came of that, but Cummings held onto the property for several years. In the meantime, his MGM colleague Arthur Freed had produced a number of successful musicals, including three teaming Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland: Babes in Arms (’39), Strike Up the Band (’40) and Babes on Broadway (’41).
In mid-1942, Freed had designer-director John Murray Anderson, musical director Johnny Green, costumer Irene Sharaff and swimming starlet Esther Williams all under contract to develop a vehicle for Williams, but a workable script had never materialized and the project remained on a back burner. So Freed went to Cummings and proposed a swap: the whole Esther Williams package for the rights to Girl Crazy as a vehicle for Mickey and Judy. Cummings liked the idea, so did Louis B. Mayer, and the thing was done. (Cummings later produced Bathing Beauty, Esther Williams’s first starring picture.) Girl Crazy went into production in January 1943 with Busby Berkeley (who had directed the three previous Mickey-and-Judy musicals) directing.
Today, Arthur Freed is considered synonymous with “MGM musicals”, as if he were the only musical producer on the lot. Not so; there were also Cummings and Joe Pasternak (who had moved over from Universal, where he built his name on Deanna Durbin’s pictures), and both got their share of the glory at the time. Still, Freed’s unit was an awfully well-oiled machine, and Freed had a knack for attracting the best talent and getting the best out of it. His production of Girl Crazy reunited two men with a nostalgic stake in doing the thing right: Roger Edens and Georgie Stoll, both of whom had come far since their days in the orchestra pit of Girl Crazy on Broadway. Stoll is credited as musical director on the picture; Edens’s credit reads “Musical Adaptation”, but that hardly scratches the surface of what Edens really did. As I said before, he was Freed’s right-hand man, much more than a “musical adaptor”, and on Girl Crazy he was virtually what would later be called a line producer — the guy actually on the set keeping an eye on things for the man in charge (i.e., Freed). And there was trouble almost immediately.
The first sequence Berkeley shot was the “I Got Rhythm” production number, which was originally planned to come about three-fourths of the way through the picture, and Edens didn’t like what he saw. “I’d written an arrangement of ‘I Got Rhythm’ for Judy,” Edens recalled, “and we disagreed basically about its presentation. I wanted it rhythmic and simply staged, but Berkeley got his big ensembles and trick cameras into it again, plus a lot of girls in Western outfits with fringed skirts and people cracking whips and firing guns all over my arrangement and Judy’s voice. Well, we shouted at each other and I said there wasn’t enough room on the lot for both of us.” (Edens exaggerated somewhat; there were no gunshots going off over Garland’s vocals. Otherwise, he has a point; the number begins to sound like the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.)
Berkeley’s working relationship with Judy Garland was unraveling as well. This was the fifth movie he directed her in — there had been For Me and My Gal (’42) in addition to the three with Rooney — and under his martinet bullying her attitude had gone from “I don’t know what I’d do without him” (on For Me and My Gal) to “I used to feel he had a big black bullwhip and was lashing me with it” (in conversation with Hedda Hopper, reported in Hopper’s autobiography). Judy was close to hysterics on the set of “I Got Rhythm”, her nervousness heightened by a stunt Berkeley designed in which she and Mickey were hoisted aloft by the ankles. The bit terrified Judy, just as a similar hoisting had when Berkeley put her through it in the “Minnie from Trinidad” number in Ziegfeld Girl (’40) — this time, making things worse for her, the bit was accompanied by dozens of pistols firing over and over again around her. After “I Got Rhythm” was in the can, Judy’s personal physician ordered her not to dance for three weeks.
To put the icing on the cake, Berkeley took nine days to shoot the number instead of the scheduled five, and he ran $60,000 over its budget.
The movie dispensed with all that nonsense about the $742.30 cab ride, but it still had playboy Danny Churchill (Rooney) making a spectacle of himself in New York. “Treat Me Rough” was the song used, performed by Tommy Dorsey’s band and sung by June Allyson. (Allyson was an MGM newcomer, simultaneously filming this one-shot while recreating her Broadway role in the studio’s movie of Best Foot Forward. By the time Girl Crazy was released, she had already made her splash in Best Foot Forward and was on her way to major stardom.)
This time, Danny’s a college student as well as a tycoon’s playboy son, and Dad (Henry O’Neill) cancels his return to Yale and sends him to his own alma mater “out west” (Cody College, the state unspecified). There, under the eye of Cody’s dean (Guy Kibbee), he is the usual fish out of water, smitten with the dean’s grandaughter, postmistress Ginger Gray (Judy). (I wonder: was the changing of the heroine’s first name a wink to Broadway’s original Molly, Ginger Rogers? How could it not be?)
From there Girl Crazy becomes a variation on the hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show formula that framed all the Mickey-and-Judy musicals, the variation this time being hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-rodeo-and-save-the-school-from-closing. The plot is within hailing distance (just barely) of Bolton and McGowan’s original book, but it’s beside the point anyway, as it was on Broadway. In 1943, with Hollywood in general, and the Freed Unit at MGM in particular, operating at an all-time peak of efficiency and self-confidence, Girl Crazy was then what it remains today: an exhilarating series of musical highlights, one after another, bathing the screen in an embarrassment of riches. Clive Hirschhorn’s succinct appraisal is oft-quoted because it’s the plain truth: “Gershwin never had it so good.”
At the risk of becoming monotonous, let us count the ways. First, of course, is that rambunctious version of “Treat Me Rough”, which June Allyson invests with an innocent tomboy eroticism (she’s like a less obnoxious Betty Hutton) that must have had the Hays Office wondering if this sort of thing was really okay, then shrugging and deciding it was all just good clean fun after all.
The 1960s were, in a literal if not a figurative sense, a golden age for movie musicals; they made more money (a total of over $250 million, real money back then) and won more awards (four best picture Oscars, plus a more-than-respectable smattering of acting awards) than they ever had before or would again. There were West Side Story, Gypsy, The Music Man, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, Funny Girl, Oliver!…
But there were also Star!; Doctor Dolittle; Camelot; Hello, Dolly!; Paint Your Wagon…huge (even bloated), expensive productions that contributed to that quarter-billion box office, but not enough to turn a profit for themselves.
There were other signs that, literal golden age or not, the figurative Golden Age (the real one) had passed. The industry had spent the entire 1950s staggering from the double blows of the advent of television and the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust suit that broke up Hollywood’s efficient production/distribution/exhibition system. Desperate to balance the books, studios sharply curtailed or even eliminated the infrastructure that made musicals (always an expensive proposition) at least viable on a regular basis: music departments, rosters of contract players, in-house writers, orchestrators and dance directors. At MGM, for example, the Arthur Freed, Jack Cummings and Joe Pasternak units all withered on the vine. Freed produced his last musical, Bells Are Ringing, in 1960, and it barely broke even; after two more pictures (The Subterraneans and Light in the Piazza) he had pretty much retired. (He nursed a forlorn hope through the late ’40s, ’50s and early ’60s of producing Say It With Music, an epic biopic of Irving Berlin’s life and songs, to no avail.)
Tastes in popular music had also changed, and Hollywood’s old guard, though game to try, was ill-equipped to cope. In a metaphorical but very real sense, Hollywood was torn between West Side Story and The Sound of Music on one hand, and Jailhouse Rock and A Hard Day’s Night on the other.
First of all, there was what we shall charitably call the movie’s “creative team”. They were, almost to a man, a gaggle of second-rate hacks — from producer Sam Katzman through director Alvin Ganzer and writer Robert E. Kent to musical director Fred Karger. Katzman has a handful of memorable “B” titles (It Came from Beneath the Sea, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers), some low-camp legends (Rock Around the Clock, Cha-Cha-Cha Boom!) and a couple of lesser Elvis Presley vehicles on his shoddy resume, but by and large, we’re slumming even to mention his name. Ganzer directed only two features besides this one — The Girls of Pleasure Island (’53) and Three Bites of the Apple (’67) — in a career devoted almost exclusively to undistinguished piecework on this or that TV series.
In addition to the mediocrity of the men in charge — and perhaps because of it — When the Boys Meet the Girls has the air of a movie that simply doesn’t know why it is being made, who its target audience is, or even what it is selling. For example, compare the three posters with which I began my post on each Girl Crazy picture:
The poster for Girl Crazy (1932)
knows exactly what it’s selling:
For better or for worse (and it
seemed like a good idea at the
time) the big draw is Wheeler
and Woolsey; their faces and
names dominate the graphics
It’s the same with Girl Crazy
(1943): Mickey Rooney, Judy
Garland, and a bonus plug for
Tommy Dorsey and his band,
with a cartoon bucking cow
(a cow??) offering the
promise of a barrel of
Now When the Boys Meet
the Girls. I’ve reproduced
each poster small, deliberately,
to show that for the ’32 and
’43 posters the main idea still
comes through. But with this
one you can barely even make
out the title.
Now give your eyes a break and scroll back up to the larger version of the When the Boys poster. Can you even guess what that poster is selling? Herman’s Hermits? Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs? Or what? Connie and Harve get top billing under the title, and two figures meant to represent them dominate the poster, more or less, but only in closed-off profiles that barely resemble them; Presnell’s image doesn’t look like him at all.
And say, how about that lineup of featured acts? Did you ever imagine you’d see them all together in one place? Besides Connie and Harve to carry the boy-meets-wins-loses-and-wins-girl-back plot, you have…
…Herman’s Hermits, with special “Also Starring” billing, no less. Here they’re singing “Listen, People”, which was one of their hits, and the only hit to come out of the movie that wasn’t already a Gershwin standard. Peter Noone (“Herman”) even had a few lines of dialogue, and the Hermits also delivered “Bidin’ My Time”. But more on that later; for now, back to the lineup…
Seriously, can’t you just smell the sweaty desperation behind this kind of programming? This isn’t a vaudeville or a variety show, it’s Sam Katzman and his henchmen throwing everything they can think of at the screen, all the while hoping to God someting will stick.
Does any of it stick? Well, Liberace is a hoot, for starters. But there are other rewards on hand. Both Harve Presnell and Connie Francis have a quite creditable go at “Embraceable You” — starting with Harve, on the occasion of Danny Churchill first setting eyes on the winsome Ginger…
Later still, after the inevitable misunderstanding — prompted this time by the arrival of Danny’s gold-digging ex-girlfriend Tess Raleigh (Sue Ane Langdon) — Harve and Connie do very nicely indeed on “But Not for Me”. It’s a sort of separate duet with each taking a verse, first Ginger in her bedroom, then Danny in his, then the two together, joined by a split screen — the movie’s one creative use of the Panavision frame. True, Connie Francis and Harve Presnell don’t measure up to Judy Garland on either of these songs, but there’s no shame in that — nobody could. On both numbers, Connie and Harve are in their element and entirely at ease; as a result, their performances of the songs are simple, heartfelt and effective. Liberace’s number may be the most fun in When the Boys Meet the Girls, but “Embraceable You” and “But Not for Me” are the most Gershwin. If you saw only the clips of these two songs, you would come away with the impression that When the Boys Meet the Girls is a lot better than it really is.
Things are a little rockier on “I Got Rhythm”, here as in 1932, the movie’s one major production number. Once again, they sing “I’ve Got Rhythm” — an annoyance, but a recurring one where this song is concerned. More troublesome this time is the pace and style of the number, a laid-back, casual approach that tries for a kind of ring-a-ding hipster cool, like Frank Sinatra in his finger-snapping-loose-collar-narrow-tie-sportcoat-slung-over-the-shoulder phase. No disrespect to Old Blue Eyes, but it doesn’t exactly make for an energetic musical delivery:
“I’ve [beat! beat!] got rhy-(beat!)-thm (beat! beat!)…”
So naturally the boys…
This lackadaisical rendition of “I Got Rhythm” brings us to the man who was probably the most resolutely second-rate personage involved with When the Boys Meet the Girls. His name was Fred Karger, and his on-screen credit is “Music Scored and Conducted By”. Karger had spent years in the music department at Columbia Pictures making hardly a ripple; his biggest coup to date had been writing the tune for “Gidget”. On When the Boys Meet the Girls, besides scoring and conducting, he wrote the song “Mail Call” (with Ben Weisman and Sid Wayne), which did not add to Connie Francis’s string of hits.
It’s safe to assume that Sam the Sham, Louis Armstrong and Liberace all handled their own music without any interference, so Karger’s work here probably boils down to the treatment of the five Gershwin songs. He neither helped nor hindered Connie and Harve with his arrangements of “Embraceable You” and “But Not for Me”, and his pointless rewriting of “Treat Me Rough” didn’t keep Sue Ane Langdon from squeezing a little fun out of it with her kitten-with-a-whip delivery. Otherwise, Karger was careless, even downright sloppy.
I’ve already mentioned Karger’s mushy, low-watt arrangement of “I Got Rhythm”, which offered scant inspiration to choreographer Earl Barton and his dancers. Karger was also careless with Ira Gershwin’s lyrics, beyond the addition of that “ve” to the title of “I Got Rhythm”; he fiddled with almost every line Ira wrote, either killing the rhyme (“There’s no regrettin’/When I’m set-ting“) or killing the sense (changing “Although I can’t dismiss” to “And yet I can’t dismiss” in “But Not for Me”) time and time again — then repeating the mistake, as if to prove he did it on purpose.
But one of Karger’s bright ideas really goes beyond the pale, and that’s in his treatment of “Bidin’ My Time”. The number is given to Herman’s Hermits, sitting on and around a flatbed truck while the rest of the young cast gets busy building Ginger’s dude ranch. At first things seem to go well with the song: it’s an almost witty idea, handing this lazy cowboy lullaby to these slightly nerdy lads from Manchester. Peter Noone’s wispy tenor voice slides nicely into the verse, then the refrain moves into a ricky-ticky soft-samba rhythm similar to the Beatles’ version of “Till There Was You”. Then, trouble. Now as just about everybody but Fred Karger and Peter Noone knew by 1965, the song is supposed to go like this:
“I’m bidin’ my ti–ime
‘Cause that’s the kinda guy I–I’m…”
But no. Instead we get:
“I’m biding my ti–ime
‘Cause that’s the kind of guy I…am…”
If there is such a thing as lyrical tone-deafness, this is surely it. It not only kills the rhyme, it kills the whole joke of the song. It’s like that old comedy routine of the clueless singer tackling the Gershwins’ “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” for the first time: “You say ee-ther, and I say ee-ther / You say nee-ther, and I say nee-ther…” Only here it is, so to speak, with a straight face. After that clunker, nothing Herman or the Hermits can do will save the song; we just have to cringe our way through to the end. Fred Karger was about as far from Roger Edens and Georgie Stoll as anyone could get and still be able to read music; this proves it.
On that sour note I’ll close this look at When the Boys Meet the Girls. As I said, the picture’s not a total loss, thanks to the talents of Connie Francis and Harve Presnell, plus a certain amount of blind monkeys-and-typewriters luck. Twenty years earlier, both Connie and Harve might have left a stronger legacy. Especially Connie; with the guidance of a Roger Edens, and with more directors like Henry Levin and Richard Thorpe (on her first two pictures) and fewer like Alvin Ganzer (on this one), she might have had the nurturing that Doris Day got over at Warner Bros., and might have made more than the four movies she did (When the Boys Meet the Girls was her last). Harve would still have had to contend with Howard Keel, but there was room for a deep talent pool at MGM in the ’40s and early ’50s. By the time Harve showed up in 1964, or even Connie in 1960, the support system just wasn’t there.
* * *
Well, friends, there you have it, just as I promised at the beginning of this series — the full arc of the Golden Age of the Hollywood Musical, encapsulated in the fortunes of one legendary Broadway show:
Girl Crazy (1932) was the product of a time when musicals looked passe, so the deathless Gershwin score was shouldered aside to make room for a brand of verbal comedy that looked like the coming thing. But the musical was poised on the cusp of a Great Revival; the talent was present and in good working order, though it hadn’t found its footing yet, and the techniques that would make the Hollywood musical something distinctly different from its Broadway cousin were still being discovered and developed.
A scant third-of-a-century later came When the Boys Meet the Girls — a movie not without talent, but with a vacuum at the top occupied by humdrum nonentities who simply didn’t know what they were doing — and at mighty MGM, no less. It was as if Arthur Freed, Roger Edens, Jack Cummings and Joe Pasternak had cleaned out their offices, tucking the studio’s only copies of How to Make a Movie Musical into their briefcases before turning out the lights.
But in between those two — that was a whole other story. The stars (in every sense of the word) were perfectly aligned, and the final product could hardly miss because it was designed not to miss. Designed by producer Arthur Freed, who had come to movies with sound and stretched his producer’s muscles first on The Wizard of Oz; designed by Roger Edens and Georgie Stoll, who had been with the show on Broadway and knew in their bones and fingertips the vitality of the Gershwin score; designed by Busby Berkeley, who had jump-started the Golden Age and still knew a trick or two, whether Roger Edens liked it or not. And it was designed for Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, just about the most talented individuals who ever faced a camera. Girl Crazy (1943) was what happened when the factory’s mechanisms were all in place and well-tended: the vehicle came off the line humming like a top, and if it had to fly, it soared.