“For Me and My Gal” (1942): A Great Musical About Vaudeville

Today marks 80th anniversary of the terrific vaudeville-themed musical For Me and My Gal (1942) at Loew’s State; this year marks the 60th anniversary of the passing of the film’s protagonist Harry Palmer (ca. 1889-1962).

When I first saw this Busby Berkley musical for MGM’s Freed Unit, I naturally assumed that like, similar vehicles, say, Babes in Arms, it had a made-up plot. But, no, Harry Palmer and Jo Hayden were a real vaudeville act and later a real married couple. They’re played by Gene Kelly and Judy Garland here, in a cast that also includes George Murphy, Ben Blue, Keenan Wynn, and Hungarian opera star Marta Eggerth. The plot concerns Palmer’s efforts to get back into Hayden’s good graces after he initially dodges service in World War One, splitting up the team and the couple. Naturally Palmer proves himself and the pair reunite. A truck load of great old tin pan alley songs, including the eponymous tune, enliven the ride. The patriotic Great War stuff evokes the memory of Elsie Janis.

Palmer is a loaded name for a vaudeville guy from Chicago. It unavoidably reminds one of both the Palmer House, and of Joe Palmer, who was partners at one time in a trio with Harry and Al Jolson. No idea if they’re related.

For Me and My Gal should be joined with April Showers, The Seven Little Foys, and Yankee Doodle Dandy as one of the best vaudeville movies of all time. I’d also rank it with The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, and The Harvey Girls as one of the best Garland/Freed Unit vehicles.

You want much, much, much more? This post on The Judy Room will blow your mind.

And for more on vaudeville itself, where nearly everyone mentioned in this post performed, please read No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,

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