Cast & Crew
In 1916, song-and-dance man Harry Palmer meets Jo Hayden and Jimmy K. Metcalfe, partners in a vaudeville act playing at the same small-town theater. Jimmy and Harry, who both have ambitions to make it on "the big time" circuit, quickly become rivals. One night, Harry invites Jo for coffee, plotting to get her to leave Jimmy and become his new partner. After they playfully perform a new arrangement of "For Me and My Gal," Jo, too, feels that she and Harry are great together, but does not want to hurt Jimmy. Realizing how loyal Jo is, Harry is remorseful and confesses his scheme to her. When Jo returns to her hotel, Jimmy, who is secretly in love with Jo, asks if Harry has suggested that she be his new partner. Jimmy then says that he has been planning to break up their act and insists to the suspicious Jo that he is not just making a noble sacrifice.
As America prepares for war, Harry and Jo go on the road together, playing at small-time vaudeville houses. One day, while on a train to Chicago, Jo reads that Harry and his partner, comic Sid Simms, are now playing on the prestigious Orpheum circuit. Harry is embittered that he and Jo have not been so successful, and when he accidentally wanders into the private car of vaudeville headliner Eve Minard, he is dazzled. In Chicago, while Harry spends time with Eve, Jo is visited by Jimmy, who sympathizes with the unrequited love she feels for Harry. That night, Jo goes to Eve's hotel suite and tells her that she loves Harry. Eve gently tells Jo that Harry is an opportunist and not worthy of her, then, to prove her point, asks Jo to hide when Harry arrives. Eve makes Harry an offer to join her act, and when Harry realizes that Jo will not be part of the deal, he only hesitates for a moment.
Back at their hotel, Harry tries to break the news to Jo, unaware that she already knows, and she pretends that she wants to go back with Jimmy. When she starts to cry, though, he realizes that he is in love with her and decides to turn Eve down. As they are about to leave for their next job, they get a telegram from their agent, Eddie Milton, saying that they are booked for the Palace in New York, and Harry proposes that they marry after their first matinee. In New York, when they discover that the telegram was suppposed to read "the Palace in Newark," they are shattered, especially as Jimmy and Sid actually are opening at the Palace, New York. Harry still wants to get married that day, but Jo insists on waiting until they really play the Palace. A short time later, Bert Waring, manager of the Palace, sees their act in Newark and offers them a booking. They are ecstatic until Harry receives a draft notice. Despite Jo's feelings that he, like her kid brother Danny, must do his duty, Harry bitterly determines that he will not lose his big chance.
A few weeks later, after receiving several postponements, Harry must report for his physical the day before they open at the Palace and, in desperation, slams the lid of a heavy trunk down on his hand. The next day, after he receives a six-week deferment, he returns to his hotel to find Jimmy there, in uniform. When Jo receives a telegram informing her that Danny has been killed in action, Harry tries to comfort her, but when she sees his hand, she realizes what he has done and says that she never wants to see him again. After six weeks, Harry learns that his hand is permanently crippled and he will never be admitted to the Army. He then tries to enlist in other branches of the service, but is turned down.
Some time later, Harry goes to a bond rally and runs into Sid, who suggests that Harry go with him to France as a YMCA entertainer. In Paris, Jo, who is entertaining troops, sees Jimmy and arranges to meet him after her show. Jimmy then runs into Harry, who has joined Sid. Harry admits his bitterness over not being in a real uniform, but Jimmy makes him realize that he is not such a bad person after all. Knowing that Jo is about to arrive, Jimmy leaves. Although Jo is happy to see Harry, he quickly leaves after asking for her forgiveness. One rainy night, Harry and Sid arrive in a small French town, where a desperate army doctor asks Harry to contact a convoy of ambulances that is unwittingly heading toward heavy German fire. Because Harry cannot get through on the field telephone, he jumps into his car and rides ahead. When the car breaks down, he walks on to meet the convoy and, though wounded, Harry throws a grenade to destroy the machine gun that is firing on the ambulances. At the end of the war, Jo is appearing at the Palace theater in Paris. When she sees Jimmy, Sid and Harry in the audience, she runs down to embrace Harry, and Jimmy and Sid push them onstage to do their big number, "For Me and My Gal."
Edward Peil Sr.
Robert E. Homans
The Kings Men
Six Hits And A Miss
Nat D. Ayer
A. Seymour Brown
E. Ray Goetz
George W. Meyer
Howard Emmett Rogers
Edwin B. Willis
For Me and My Gal
Like most of MGM's best musicals, For Me and My Gal was a product of Arthur Freed's production unit. Often hailed as the man who brought taste and sophistication to the film musical, Freed benefited from a strong eye for talent and stories and his openness to the advice of others. In this case, that openness would pay off big time. The original script, called "The Big Time," had unscrupulous song-and-dance man Harry Palmer involved with two women, a singer (the role intended for Garland) and a dancer, with the latter carrying most of the dramatic scenes as the woman he marries and betrays. At the time, legendary stage star and acting teacher Stella Adler was working at MGM as a production assistant, and Freed asked her to review the script. She suggested combining the two female roles and giving Garland, whose work she had admired for years, a chance at her most dramatic role ever. She also suggested that he cast the as-yet-unproven Gene Kelly as the leading man. Freed ended up going with both ideas, which meant moving contract hoofer George Murphy, originally scheduled for the lead, into a smaller role as the vaudeville star who loses Garland to Kelly.
Freed had actually been interested in Kelly since he'd seen him in William Saroyan's Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Time of Your Life in 1939. At the time, however, Kelly wanted to establish himself with stage work. A year later, Kelly was the acclaimed star of the musical Pal Joey and had just choreographed Best Foot Forward, and MGM came calling again. This time Louis B. Mayer offered him a contract after seeing Pal Joey and telling him he didn't need to do a screen test. Then through a communications snafu, Kelly was told he would have to test, so he declined to sign the contract. Instead, he signed with independent producer David O. Selznick. With his limited production slate, however, Selznick had no projects in line for Kelly, who spent his first year in Hollywood doing nothing. When Freed pushed MGM to cast Kelly in For Me and My Gal, over the objections of studio brass who didn't want to take a chance on an unproven film star, Selznick simply handed over his contract to the studio.
Garland had also pushed for Kelly in the lead, and when he started on the film, she went to bat for him whenever he had a disagreement with director Busby Berkeley, whom she loathed. She also helped him adjust to acting for the camera. For her part, the role offered her a welcome chance to grow up. Her only prior shot at an adult role had been a few scenes as a woman who dies in childbirth in Little Nellie Kelly (1940). For the rest of the film, she had played the woman's teenaged daughter. Now she would spend an entire film as an adult, something she was already doing off-screen, where she had recently married composer David Rose. Garland also loved the film's patriotic elements. She had been touring military bases and raising funds for the Allies even before the Pearl Harbor attack that pulled the U.S. into World War II. Now she got to entertain the troops on screen in a series of classic pop numbers including "When You Wore a Tulip" and "Pack Up Your Trouble."
The biggest problem with the film, however, was the characterization of the leading man, who not only betrays his wife, but injures his hand to avoid service in World War I. Even before the U.S. entered the war, using a draft dodger as a romantic lead was questionable. After the start of the war effort, it seemed almost deluded. During production, Berkeley added a scene in which Garland sends her brother (future director Richard Quine) off to war to the tune of "Till We Meet Again," but that only underlined Harry's cowardice. When the film previewed, audiences overwhelmingly expressed their disapproval of Kelly's character, saying that Garland should have ended up with Murphy at the film's conclusion. Mayer blamed Murphy for being too likable and even told him, "You spoiled the picture." He ordered three weeks of re-takes that would give Kelly more of a conscience and cut down on Murphy's presence. He even had the finale re-shot, without Murphy (the original footage is lost, though the soundtrack is available on CD). As disappointed as Murphy was, For Me and My Gal became a hit, clearly establishing Kelly as a film star and paving the way for more ambitious roles for Garland.
Producer: Arthur Freed
Director: Busby Berkeley
Screenplay: Richard Sherman, Fred Finklehoffe, Sid Silvers
Based on the story "The Big Time" by Howard Emmett Rogers
Cinematography: William Daniels
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Gabriel Scognamillo
Music: George E. Stoll
Principal Cast: Judy Garland (Jo Hayden), George Murphy (Jimmy K. Metcalf), Gene Kelly (Harry Palmer), Marta Eggerth (Eve Minard), Ben Blue (Sid Simms), Richard Quine (Danny Hayden), Keenan Wynn (Eddie Milton), Horace [Stephen] McNally (Mr. Waring).
BW-104m. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
For Me and My Gal
Why didn't you tell me I was in love with you?- Harry Palmer
You'll never be big time because you're small time in your heart.- Jo Hayden
Chicago, Boston, Detroit, they're all the same, except New York... that is a city!- Eve Minard
This is the first of two movies in which a character says to 'Judy Garland' , "Why didn't you tell me I was in love with you?" The second is Easter Parade (1948), starring Fred Astaire.
'Gene Kelly' 's film debut. It is known that Judy Garland got him the job after seeing a Broadway show he was in.
Working titles of the film were Me and My Gal and The Big Time. A written prologue reads: "There is a chapter in American history which has never been amply recorded. It embraces one of America's greatest loves-that part of show business called 'Vaudeville'...The clown with the baggy pants, the man in the high hat, the lady who sang and the rabbit who disappeared-to them this picture is fondly dedicated." At several points within the film the passage of time is indicated by inclusion of actual World War I-era newsreel footage.
In addition to the songs credited above, the film contained portions of a number of popular World War I era songs, among them, "By the Beautiful Sea," "After You've Gone," "Ballin' the Jack," "How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm," "There's a Long, Long Trail" and "Where Do We Go from Here." According to news items, two additional songs were recorded or written for the production but were not included in the released film, "Spell of the Waltz," which was to be performed by Marta Eggerth and a male chorus and "Three Cheers for the Yanks," written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin. A Hollywood Reporter news item also mentioned that George Murphy was going to perform a combined jitterbug and soft-shoe dance, but that was not in the picture.
For Me and My Gal marked the motion picture debut of Broadway musical comedy performer Gene Kelly (1919-1996). A Hollywood Reporter news items noted that Murphy was initially cast in the role of "Harry Palmer," but was switched to the role of "Jimmy Metcalfe" because the Harry Palmer role was so similar to the lead role that Kelly had played in the Broadway hit Pal Joey. The New York Times review also pointed out the similarities between the two roles, although the reviewer did not appreciate the similarities, writing: "...Mr. Kelly, who has a dancer's talents, has been pressed a bit too far in his first film role. He has been forced to act brassy like Pal Joey during the early part...and play a modest imitation Sergeant York at the end. The transition is both written and played badly. Mr. Kelly gets embarrassingly balled up." Kelly made films in a variety of genres over the next few years but became best known for his energetic dancing style in M-G-M hits such as Anchors Aweigh (1945, ), On the Town (1950, see below) and An American in Paris (1951). Kelly, who was a choreographer and director as well as a dancer and singer, received a special Academy Award in 1951 in recognition of his outstanding achievement as an actor, dancer, singer and director. He also received a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1985. The song "For Me and My Gal" became one of Kelly's signature songs. The film marked the American motion picture debut of Eggerth. A Hollywood Reporter news item included Bryant Washburn in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The film received Academy Award nominations for Roger Edens for Musical Adaptation and for Georgie Stoll for Musical Direction.