The Harvey Girls

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Susan Bradley (Judy Garland) is supposed to become a mail order bride and since she is simply gorgeous, she’d make an excellent selection. As she travels by train to her destination, she meets some chipper young women on their way to start a diner, one with good food and a wholesome environment. The diner will be known as a Harvey House establishment, one that is a fun place with great eats, but also a classy, family oriented place. After some time passes and some romantic sputters, Susan decides to skip out on her marital bliss and join up with the girls, to be a part of the Harvey House diner. Of course, everyone likes good food and rail travelers need to eat somewhere, but this time, the diner will have some competition, as the diner across the street has some beautiful, but more open female workers. Which of the two places will come out ahead and will the competition drive each one to become even better, making it a winner take all battle of the female social groups?

Although this film was made in a time when musicals, and I mean damn good musicals were common, it still managed to stand up and make audiences take notice. I don’t think it is one of the best musicals of the era, but The Harvey Girls is a fun movie and has some splendid moments, including some wonderful musical numbers, of course. I’m not the musical type by any means, but I do like some of the genre’s offerings and while The Harvey Girls is no masterpiece, it more than warrants attention from those interested. Judy Garland is magical at times, while the rest of the gifted cast includes Angela Lansbury, John Hodiak, Ray Bolger, Virginia O’Brien, and Cyd Charisse. As you’d expect from a lavish MGM musical, we’re shown plenty of beautiful costumes, grandiose set pieces, and massive musical numbers, complete with lots of extras to make sure our eyes & ears remain entertained throughout. I give this film a solid recommendation to those interested, as the movie is good and the disc is well worth the cost involved.

I know she’s got the top billing and is a legendary star worldwide, but if you ask me, Judy Garland has a little too much of the spotlight here. Yes, her work here is inspired and never ceases to be fun to watch, but with so many talented costars, I wish the camera would have allowed more substantial scenes for the supporting players. But Garland does earn her screen time and makes full use of it, giving us a terrific, enjoyable performance. Although she does give a commanding turn, Garland is offered immense security from her supporting cast members, as they ensure she looks even better than she would have, which is a true compliment to their work here. Other films with Garland include The Wizard of Oz, A Star is Born, Easter Parade, and Meet Me in St. Louis. The cast also includes Angela Lansbury (Bedknobs & Broomsticks, The Manchurian Candidate), John Hodiak (Lifeboat, The Miniver Story), Ray Bolger (Babes in Toyland, The Wizard of Oz), and Virginia O’Brien (Francis in the Navy, Panama Hattie).

Video: How does it look?

The Harvey Girls is presented in a full frame transfer, as intended. The image here looks tremendous, with a super clean source print and of course, amazing colors thanks to the Technicolor process. I was stunned by the depth of the image here, as it so clean and sharp, its almost like looking through a window, instead of a television screen. The colors are so rich and vibrant, they bound right off the screen, but don’t become overly so, just to the point of maximum richness, never past that. No issues with black levels either, a terrific overall visual effort from Warner on this one, very impressive indeed.

Audio: How does it sound?

The included mono option is cleaner and more effective than I expected, but it is still mono, so don’t expect a miracle here. It seems as though some restoration work has been done, as hiss is minimal and few age related flaws can be heard. This is good, since this movie uses a lot of musical numbers and those have to sound as good as possible. The normal dialogue scenes come across in crisp fashion, while the musical portions also sound terrific, Warner has done some top notch work on this track, without question. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This area kicks off with an audio commentary from director George Sidney, who has a boatload of information to pass on, to be sure. He talks about the evolution of the project, various stars signed on and then cut loose, and overall, gives us an in depth look at how The Harvey Girls was produced. The Singsong Express audio option is like a bonus CD of sorts, as it has twenty-seven rare tracks of scoring session music cues, quite impressive indeed. You can also listen to On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe as a standalone track, complete with a remixed stereo soundtrack, to boost the experience. This disc also includes three deleted musical numbers, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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