ABOUT THE FILM:
As with many of Judy's films for MGM, For Me And My Gal started out as a very different film than what it eventually became. The origins of For Me And My Gal date back to 1940, when MGM producer Arthur Freed decided to build a film around Judy and her early stage background, and the patriotic mood of the nation at the time. He chose a World War I/Vaudeville story by Howard Emmet Rogers titled "The Big Time". The title of the project was then switched to "Applause". In his book "The World of Entertainment! Hollywood's Greatest Musicals" Hugh Fordin quotes producer Arthur Freed: "I was trying to find a title from a song and I could have picked half a dozen songs as titles, but Edgar Leslie and George Mayer [co-writers of the title song with E. Ray Goetz] were friends of mine and I liked what they wrote, so I bought the rights to For Me and My Gal from Mills Music Publishing Company for use of the title and song, and it became a standard."
It was planned that the film would have two female leads alongside the two male leads, one a singer and the other a dancer, but MGM assistant producer (and former Broadway actress) Stella Adler read the script and suggested that in light of Judy's all encompassing talents, that the two female roles be combined into one (thereby making a convenient love triangle). Eleanor Powell supposedly tested for the role of the dancer (although that's subject to debate because at this point in her career, Powell wouldn't have needed to test or audition for any role as a dancer), and Dan Dailey was slated to play opposite her (Dailey later said that he did test with Powell, but that he lost out on the role when he was drafted into the Army). George Murphy was then cast in the male lead of "Harry Palmer". Prior to the start of the production Gene Kelly was brought in to play the lead and Murphy was relegated to, in his words, "the schnook who never gets the gal."
Kelly had become a star on Broadway in the title role of "Pal Joey", a role very similar to "Harry" in For Me And My Gal, and he came to Hollywood under contract to David O. Selznick. Selznick had planned to use Kelly as a dramatic actor (go figure!) but hadn't cast him yet when Gal screenwriter Fred Finklehoffe suggested to Freed that Kelly would be perfect for the role. Kelly had previously (and famously) told off MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer after the studio reneged on their promise to give him a proper screen test in Los Angeles, and instead gave him an inferior test in New York City. In spite of this, and on the strength of the urgings of Freed, Finklehoffe, Adler, and Judy herself, Kelly got the role and a long term contract with MGM.
Judy and Gene are perfectly matched in For Me And My Gal, and filming went along smoothly after an initial tension filled start with Murphy unhappy about being "the schnook" and director Busby Berkeley unhappy with Kelly in the lead. Judy helped bring everyone together, and was especially helpful to Kelly.Kelly has been quoted many times in his appraisal of Judy's help and talents: "Without her, my first few weeks would have been even more miserable than they were.She pulled me through. She was very kind and helpful, more than she even realized, because I watched her to find out what I had to do. I was amazed at her skill; she knew every mark and every move.All I could do for her was help with the dancing. She wasn't a dancer, but she could pick up a step instantly, and as a singer she was incredible - she had only to hear a melody once, and it was locked in her mind; we used to call her 'Ol' Tin Ear.' I learned a great deal about making movies doing this first one, and much of it was due to Judy. She was a very relaxed, marvelous person...the most talented performer we've ever had."
The film was a huge success, effectively launching Gene Kelly's screen career while nudging Judy to more adult roles, not the easiest of transitions for most child actors. Busby Berkeley later stated that of all of the films he directed, For Me And My Gal was his #1 favorite, which is notable considering that the film isn't filled with his trademark kaleidoscopic production numbers but is instead a more intimate and accurate representation of life "on the circuit" in the Vaudeville era.
Judy would live out the dream of Jo Hayden in For Me And My Gal on the night of October 16, 1951 when she successfully brought back the "two-a-day" (vaudeville) to The Palace Theater, broke all the theater's box office records, and stepped into ever lasting legend as "The World's Greatest Entertainer". Judy also won a special Tony Award in 1952 for this concert run.
For Me And My Gal was Judy's first solo billing above the title. It was also her first real adult role.
"After You've Gone", with the same basic arrangement as in For Me And My Gal, became a popular standard in Judy's concerts during her later legendary "Concert Years".
In hindsight, Judy's "Concert Years" are eerily foreshadowed in the "Y.M.C.A." sequence when Judy is performing for the on-screen audience. Some of her stage mannerisms and obvious connection to that audience of extras is very apparent.
The original finale featured Judy, Gene, and George Murphy reprising the title song - but it was replaced after the first previews necessitated the shifting of the focus onto the Garland & Kelly characters only. The pre-recording survives, and was first presented on the 1977 LP "Cut! Outtakes from Hollywood's Greatest Musicals, Vol. 3".
Although filming only took eight weeks, there were 21 days of retakes due to the June preview audiences saying that George Murphy should have gotten "the gal". The retakes famously included the scenes making Kelly's Harry Palmer a hero (by saving an ambulance convoy single handedly) and also re-shooting the finale (as noted above).
The film first opened in New York on October 19th as a special benefit for the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. The night of the actual premier, October 20th, MGM staged a midnight Times Square sing-a-long of World War I tunes, and a special screening of the film for vaudevillians and Broadway celebrities.
Marta Eggerth, who played Eve Minard, was a star of Budapest and then Broadway. She made many European films, but her only two Hollywood films both starred Judy: For Me And My Gal and Presenting Lily Mars (1943). Eggerth is still very much alive and performing, her most recent appearance was in New York in 2008 (still going strong at age 96!!).
George Murphy had previously co-starred with Judy in 1940's Little Nellie Kelly, and was one of the main stars in Judy's first feature film for MGM, 1937's Broadway Melody Of 1938. He retired from films in the early 1950's to pursue a career in politics, eventually becoming a U.S. Senator for California. He died on May 3, 1992.
Richard Quine had previously appeared with Judy in 1941's Babes On Broadway. He later moved into directing and producing, including 1958's Bell, Book and Candle (director) and 1964's Paris When It Sizzles (producer). He died on June 10, 1989 (which was coincidentally the 67th anniversary of Judy's birth).
Keenan Wynn was a very popular and versatile character actor, who's career spanned over 50 years. He had a small but effective part in 1945's The Clock and would have also appeared with Judy in 1950's Annie Get Your Gun and 1951's Royal Wedding if she had been able to complete those films. Some of his other films include: Kiss Me Kate (1953), The Absent Minded Professor (1961), and Finian's Rainbow (1968). He was performing in films and television up until his death on October 10, 1986.
Kelly's starting salary was $750 per week.
For Me And My Gal was nominated for one Academy Award: "Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture" for Roger Edens & Georgie Stoll. The winners were Ray Heindorf and Heinz Roemheld for Warner Bros.' Yankee Doodle Dandy.
Judy & Gene recorded "For Me And My Gal" and "When You Wore A Tulip" for Decca Records on July 26, 1942. These are the only studio recordings the pair made outside of the MGM recording studios.
The surviving pre-recording sessions were featured on the 1994 laser disc boxed set "Judy Garland: The Golden Years At M-G-M".
The complete soundtrack was issued on CD by Rhino Records in 1996. Technically out of print, it can easily be found on auction sites like eBay.
Vaudeville Routine (includes "Grotesque Comedy"; "Oh Johnny!"; & "They Go Wild, Simply Wild Over Me")
Jimmy K. Metcalfe & Company:
For Me And My Gal
When You Wore A Tulip
Do I Love You?
After You've Gone
Till We Meet Again
We Don't Want The Bacon
Ballin' The Jack
What Are You Going To Do About The Boys?
How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm?
There's A Long, Long Trail
Where Do We Go From Here?
When Johnny Comes Marching Home
For Me And My Gal (finale)
The Spell Of The Waltz
Don't Bit The Hand That's Feeding You
I'm Sorry I Made You Cry
Dear Old Pal Of Mine
Smiles (extended version)
Three Cheers For The Yanks
For Me And My Gal (original finale)
Judy Garland as Jo Hayden
George Murphy as Jimmy K. Metcalfe
Gene Kelly as Harry Palmer
Marta Eggerth as Eve Minard
Ben Blue as Sid Simms
Richard Quine as Danny Hayden
Keenan Wynn as Eddie Melton
Horace (Stephen) McNally as Mr. Waring
Lucille Norman as Lily Duncan
Betty Welles as a member of Jimmy's company
Anne Rooney as a member of Jimmy's company
Ben Lessey as Dough Boy Dan
Additional vocals provided by:
The Six Hits and a Miss; The King's Men; The Sportsmen
Produced by: Arthur Freed
Directed by: Busby Berkeley
Screen Play: Richard Sherman, Fred Finklehoffe,
and Sid Silvers
Original Story: Howard Emmett Rogers ("The Big Time")
Song: "For Me and My Gal": George W. Meyer, Edgar Leslie, E. Ray Goetz
Musical Adaptation: Roger Edens
Music Direction: Georgie Stoll
Vocals and Orchestrations: Conrad Salinger, George Bassman, Leo Arnaud
Musical Presentation: Merrill Pye
Dance Direction: Bobby Connolly
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons
Associate: Gabriel Scognamillo
Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
Associate: Keogh Gleason
Men's Costumes: Gile Steele
Make-Up Created by: Jack Dawn
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Director of Photography: William Daniels
Film Editor: Ben Lewis