Girl Crazy: Review
There’s just nothing like a young Judy Garland paired with a young Mickey Rooney to put a spring in your step and brighten your day. In Girl Crazy the two are as appealing as they’ve ever been as a couple of young college-age kids doing their best to save a small town university. And if you know anything about the duo’s impressive filmographies, then you know that’s saying a lot.
With more than 325 credits to his name, Rooney is one of the most prolific actors who have ever lived (even Ernest Borgnine’s roles only reach into the low 200s). What’s even more impressive is that at the ripe old age of 94, the man still works, and at the time of this article he was listed among four films currently in production. Granted, he may no longer be the lead, but he’s still a star - always has been and always will be. In fact, there was a time when Rooney was the biggest star in the world. He first earned that title when he was just a teen in the late 1930s, and held on to that moniker well into the early 1940s when one of his frequent co-stars was a very young Judy Garland.
Garland started her career very much like Rooney, as a sort of child prodigy. Years before the two worked together for the first time in Love Finds Andy Hardy, Rooney appeared in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and nearly stole the show as the mischievous Puck. Although he had appeared in dozens of shorts and a few features before this time, MGM’s 1935 production of the Shakespeare classic was one of his first major films. Garland’s adolescent work is not as plentiful, but she likewise had experience on screen at a pre-pubescent age as the youngest in a singing sister trio, The Gumm Sisters. Judy’s outrageous singing talent and likable persona singled her out as a star in the making. And it was her natural chemistry with Rooney that brought the two together for the seventh time in five years for Girl Crazy.
I was fortunate to see Girl Crazy for the first time on the big screen at a grand old movie palace. It was playing at last year’s TCM Classic Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood (which way back in the silent era was the sight of the very first red carpet premier). It was a tough decision, but given the opportunity I just had to forego a live discussion with Peter O’Toole and an autograph opportunity with Leslie Caron to see Girl Crazy on the silver screen. Of course, the fact that Rooney was going to be there in person made the choice a little easier to make. His post-screening discussion with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz was so full of passion and warmth for those days long gone by, it gave the attending audience the impression that at heart Mickey was still a young man of 22.
Presented in the format in which the film was originally intended, it’s much easier to understand the impact such stars had on moviegoers of the day. The result is an absolute thrill to see, because as performers Rooney and Garland were bigger than life. Rooney was wild and madcap and possessed all the energy an embittered and impoverished nation needed to get them through difficult times. Garland possessed a voice that was amazingly powerful, full of strength that expressed a soulful tenderness; two other things the depression and war era country needed. To watch such screen performers outside of a movie theater just doesn’t do them justice. Fortunately, with the TCM Classic Film Festival and other similar venues, you don’t have to.