In the Good Old Summertime (1949) starring Van Johnson, Judy Garland, S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Buster Keaton
In the Good Old Summertime is the story of two clerks in a turn of the 20th century Chicago sheet-music store. They’re intensely antagonistic toward each other at work. But unknown to them, they’re getting very chummy as pen pals. It’s a musical remake of The Shop Around the Corner.
In the Good Old Summertime — a tale of squabbling music-shop clerks who don’t know they’re romantic pen pals — shares a celebrated movie lineage that includes James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in The Shop Around the Corner and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. In between those two, Judy Garland and Van Johnson had mail plus Gold Old tunes evoking an era of straw boaters and silvery moons.
Sparked by Garland’s comedic zest and musical appeal, this confection is “one of the sweetest, most unpretentious entertainments of 1949” (Clive Hirschhorn, The Hollywood Musical). It’s also a nostalgic farewell and a sunny hello. Buster Keaton appears in his final film for the studio he first joined in 1928. And Liza Minnelli, all of 18 months young, makes her debut in the finale.
Cast of characters
- Veronica Fisher (Judy Garland, For Me and My Gal, The Wizard of Oz). A nice young lady, who needs a job and finds one in the music sheet shop. She gets off on the wrong foot with Andrew. And although they’re both nice people, they keep rubbing each other the wrong way. And she begins falling in love with her anonymous pen pal …
- Andrew Delby Larkin (Van Johnson, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Brigadoon). The handsome young protagonist, a very likable person. Who keeps saying the wrong thing to Veronica unintentionally, and causing friction between them. And he’s falling in with his pen pal as well. He’s a diligent employee, who gets along well with everyone. Especially his boss:
- Otto Oberkugen (S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Thank Your Lucky Stars, Casablanca). The lovable owner of the music store. He thinks of Andrew as a son, but he doesn’t tell him so. Otto makes a few questionable purchases for the store, but none too serious. He is serious about his long-time girlfriend:
- Nellie Burke (Spring Byington, You Can’t Take It With You, Little Women 1933). Otto’s long-suffering girlfriend, who wants to be married. She also serves as his conscience. And inadvertently causes the conflict, when she and Otto finally get engaged. And Otto’s prize violin is (seemingly) destroyed at their engagement party.
- Rudy Hansen (Clinton Sundberg, Annie Get Your Gun, The Caddy). Andrew’s co-worker and best friend.
- Hickey (Buster Keaton, Seven Chances, The General). Otto’s nephew who works at the shop. Sadly, the great film clown is given very little to do in the film. His only real moment of comedy is when he trips at the engagement party, falling on and destroying a violin.
- In the Good Old Summertime, Music by George Evans, Lyrics by Ren Shields, Sung by Spring Byington, Van Johnson, S.Z. Sakall and Buster Keaton
- Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland, Music by Leo Friedman, Lyrics by Beth Slater Whitson, Sung by Judy Garland
- Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey (I Never Knew Any Girl Like You), Music by Albert von Tilzer, Lyrics by Junie McCree, Sung by Judy Garland
- Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie, Music by Harry von Tilzer, Lyrics by Andrew B. Sterling, Sung by George Boyce, Eddie Jackson, Joe Niemeyer, and Charles Smith
- Play That Barbershop Chord, Written by Ballard MacDonald, William Tracey, Lewis F. Muir, Sung by Judy Garland, George Boyce, Eddie Jackson, Joe Niemeyer, and Charles Smith
- I Don’t Care, Music by Harry O. Sutton, Lyrics by Jean Lenox, Sung by Judy Garland
- Merry Christmas, Music by Fred Spielman, Lyrics by Janice Torre, Sung by Judy Garland
- Souvenir de Moscou, Written by Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880)
- Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town), Music by Fred Fisher, Played during the opening credits and first scene
- Listen to the Mockingbird, Music by Richard Milburn, Played when Andrew first runs into Veronica
- Gavotte, Music by François-Joseph Gossec, Played on the violin by Otto in his office and often throughout the picture
- Beautiful Dreamer, Music by Stephen Foster, Played on the harp by Veronica
- Symphony No. 5, 1st Movement, Music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Played briefly on the piano in the restaurant
- Wiener Blut, Op.354 (Vienna Blood), Music by Johann Strauss, Played in the restaurant when Veronica is waiting for her date
- Jingle Bells, Music by James Pierpont
- Little Brown Jug, Written by Joseph Winner, Played for one of the dances at Nellie’s party
- The hilarious, slapstick meeting of Van Johnson and Judy Garland’s meeting at the beginning of the film was written and directed by Buster Keaton. Mentioned in Peter Bogdanovich’s documentary, The Great Buster.