Robert Z. Leonard’s In The Good Old Summertime (1949) is an inexplicably leaden musical remake of MGM’s darling melodrama, The Shop Around The Corner (1940) (also available from Warner and the preferred version of this filmic scenario). In place of the obviously poignant and tender chemistry that James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan brought to the original, on this occasion we are given shrill ineptitude, a la the usually brilliant Judy Garland, and mean spirited inclinations via an embittered Van Johnson.
Really, this reviewer cannot see how anyone would believe Garland and Johnson could be in love much less produce a child by the final fade out. (Film trivia: the child in the last shot is Liza Minnelli – the daughter of Garland and film director, Vincente Minnelli.)
Garland plays Veronica Fisher, an unemployed young woman in turn of the century Chicago who unfortunately gets off on the wrong foot with Andrew Larkin (Van Johnson), the man she ends up working for. He doesn’t like her because she once sold a harp that he could not - don’t ask.
Larkin and Fisher have been secretly corresponding with one another via letters marked “dear friend.” Of course, neither knows that the ‘friend’ is actually the person they dislike the most. However, when Larkin discovers that Fisher is ‘the friend’ he decides to play a merciless game of deception, designed to test the depths of Veronica’s feelings for her mystery beaux.
This remake doesn’t come anywhere near the sprite gaiety of the original, but it nevertheless has its moments. Garland - although wrong for the part, is in excellent voice and her songs sparkle with professionalism that only a great artist like she can deliver. In supporting cast we have one of cinema's great joys - S.Z. Sakall as portly and easily flustered Mr. Otto Oberkugen - proprietor of the music shop where both Larkin and Fisher work. Buster Keaton is wasted in his role as Hickey, Mr. Oberkugen’s nephew.
Warner Home Video delivers a relatively clean looking DVD transfer. Colors are somewhat dated, but overall the Technicolor is rich and vibrant. Outdoor scenes seem somewhat more faded with overly pink flesh tones. Age related artifacts are present throughout but do not distract. Black levels are solid. Contrast levels tend to be just a bit too low. There are several glaring examples of edge enhancement, particularly during the main title sequence. The audio is mono but well balanced. Extras include a brief intro from Garland biographer, John Fricke and the original theatrical trailer.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)