Songs Of The Wild West: “The Harvey Girls”

In the George Sidney film musical, The Harvey Girls (1946), Judy Garland still has her looks, her good singing voice, her good speaking voice, her serviceable acting; but does not dominate the whole of the movie.  There is stark ensemble work, with numerous bits of singing during the spectacular “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” number (the catchiest piece) and in the segment where the female trio, Garland included, sing the pretty song, “It’s a Great Big World.”

Cyd Charisse is in this trio but doesn’t make a splash.  A dancer not a singer, her crooning is dubbed and—well, she dances very little in the entire movie.  But Ray Bolger, as a quasi-blacksmith in this Old West musical, tap dances extensively and deliciously.  The Harvey Girls could use more charm and grace in a couple of its routines; this includes “Swing Your Partner Round and Round.”  The pic is no masterpiece, but it’s not exactly minor either.  My hat is off to songwriters Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer.  Also, not only Garland but Virginia O’Brien (Alma), too, offers some solid solo vocals.

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