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C'mon, Get Happy - The Making of Summer Stock

C'mon, Get Happy

The Making of Summer Stock

By David Fantle & Tom Johnson
Foreword by Savion Glover
Hardcover : 9781496838391, 312 pages, 24 b&w photographs, October 2023

Table of contents


Foreword by Savion Glover

Introduction: Why Summer Stock?

I. The Studio: MGM: Dream Factory in Transition

II. The Story: It’ll Make Oklahoma! Look like a Bum

III. The Talent: It’s up to You—Your Blood and Guts

IV. The Production: How Dare This Look like We’re Having Any Fun!

V. The Musical Numbers: A Brilliant Creation!

VI. Marketing, Reviews, Revenue, and Revivals: The Voice of Garland and the Feet of Kelly Are at High Tide in Summer Stock

VII. Straight Up All the Way
VIII. Taking Stock: Who’s Doing Anything Remotely like It Now? I’ll Tell You Who—Nobody!

Key Dates in the Making of Summer Stock

Cast and Crew of Summer Stock


Appendix I: Johnny Green and the MGM Orchestra

Appendix II: Arrangements Have Been Made: Conrad Salinger and Skip Martin and the “MGM Sound”

Appendix III: Summer Stock from Vinyl Album to Digital CD


Selected Bibliography


The troubled production that became a triumphant musical starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly


In their third and final screen teaming, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly starred together in the MGM musical Summer Stock. Despite its riveting production history, charismatic lead actors, and classic musical moments, the movie has not received the same attention as other musicals from MGM’s storied dream factory. In C’mon, Get Happy: The Making of “Summer Stock,” authors David Fantle and Tom Johnson present a comprehensive study of this 1950 motion picture, from start to finish and after its release.

The production coincided at a critical point in the careers of Kelly and an emotionally spent Garland. Kelly, who starred in An American in Paris just one year later, was at the peak of his abilities. On the other hand, Summer Stock was Garland’s final film at MGM, and she gamely completed it despite her own personal struggles. Summer Stock includes Kelly’s favorite solo dance routine and Garland’s signature number “Get Happy.”

The authors discuss in rich detail the contributions of the cast (which included Gloria DeHaven, Eddie Bracken, Phil Silvers, and Marjorie Main); the director (Charles Walters); the producer (Joe Pasternak); the script writers (George Wells and Sy Gomberg); the songwriters (which included Harry Warren and Mack Gordon); and top MGM executives (Louis B. Mayer and Dore Schary). The volume features extensive interviews, conducted by the authors, with Kelly, Walters, Warren, and others, who shared their recollections of making the movie. Deeply researched, C’mon, Get Happy reveals the studio system at work during Hollywood’s Golden Era.

Additionally, the authors have written a special section called “Taking Stock” that buttonholes numerous contemporary dancers, singers, choreographers, musicians, and even Garland impersonators for their take on Summer Stock, its stars, and any enduring legacy they think the film might have. Artists from Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ben Vereen, and Tommy Tune to Garland’s and Kelly’s daughters, Lorna Luft and Kerry Kelly Novick, respectively, offer their unique perspective on the film and its stars.


"Just like the dance Gene Kelly does on a squeaky board and newspaper that builds from a hesitating start to an explosive finish, Dave and Tom expertly chronicle the making of Summer Stock from uncertain beginnings to its ultimate triumph on the screen."

- Tommy Tune, ten-time Tony Award–winning director, choreographer, and dancer

"This very special book is entertaining and meticulously researched. It offers a clear sense of how they created a musical during the Golden Age of Hollywood and connects the dots of the process, combining the strands of many important voices, leaving the modern reader agog at the wonders of the MGM factory and the studio system. I thoroughly enjoyed it!"

- Michael Feinstein, singer, songwriter, and ambassador of the Great American Songbook

"Shout ‘HALLELUJAH!’—Fantle and Johnson have given us a rare peek into the miracle that is filmmaking. Their love for movie musicals of the Golden Age comes through in every glorious and riveting detail."

- Rob Marshall, film and Broadway director and choreographer of Chicago, Nine, and Into the Woods

"I know every step in Summer Stock like the back of my hand, and David and Tom have done a brilliant job capturing the magic of this beloved classic. What a thrill to be taken behind the scenes to glimpse the extraordinary talents who brought to life one of the all-time greats from the MGM era. An absolute must-read!"

- Susan Stroman, five-time Tony Award–winning choreographer and director of the Broadway and film versions of The Producers

"Whenever a film scoring assignment took me to MGM, I looked forward to eating lunch in the studio café where Gene Kelly and Judy Garland dined, peeking into soundstages 26 and 27 where they rehearsed and filmed the great musicals of MGM’s Golden Age. ‘If only these walls could talk,’ I wondered. Well, it’s as if they spilled all they had seen and heard to David Fantle and Tom Johnson who have given me and all you lucky readers this fascinating, meticulously researched, mega-readable book. I ate it up and couldn’t wait to watch Summer Stock again, only this time as a privileged insider."

- David Shire, Oscar-winning songwriter, composer, and arranger for The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, The Conversation, and All the President’s Men

"The book brings to life every detail of the making of this movie, and I enjoyed it immensely. The research and the result should be applauded."

- Alan Bergman, multiple Oscar-, Emmy-, and Grammy-winning songwriter

"Thank you for your insightful and loving book about the movie Summer Stock. I’m sure that, without a doubt, it will make your readers forget their troubles and just Get Happy!"

- Lorna Luft, singer, author, and daughter of Judy Garland

"The authors have done us a great service. They bring us into the world of the creation of an MGM musical, Summer Stock, in the waning days of the studio system and let us see the process in ways we seldom get to know. They take us behind the scenes and show us what went into creating these moments, and all the others, while at the same time giving us a glimpse into the lives of the wildly talented actors and artists—people who were doing the creating. This is the present the authors have given us in this remarkable and delightful book—a full tour of how an MGM musical was really made. In Fantle and Johnson’s hands, the making of Summer Stock is touching—and ultimately moving."

- Richard Maltby Jr., Tony Award-winning director and lyricist of such shows as Ain’t Misbehavin’, Fosse, and Miss Saigon

"Fans of Garland, Kelly, and the golden age of movie musicals will enjoy this exploration."

- Zhui Ning Chang, Library Journal

"David Fantle and Tom Johnson have written the book on the movie."

- David Luhrssen, Shepherd Express

"A fascinating new book. . . . Coauthors David Fantle and Tom Johnson did extensive research and conducted many new interviews to bring us an in-depth account of the making of this musical."

- Alicia Malone, Turner Classic Movies

"Through their discerning approach, [Fantle and Johnson] unpack long-held myths about Garland's role in production delays, as well as analyze the genius of her iconic 'Get Happy' number and Gene Kelly's choreography and performances. If you need a reason to forget your troubles this fall, look no further than this book."

- Maureen Lee Lenker, Entertainment Weekly

"A marvelous grab bag of facts, tidbits, and insights, including from some modern-day showbiz folk. What Fantle and Johnson say about Kelly's films can be said about golden age musicals in general: their ‘sunny, can-do optimism. . .helped define the American century.’ C’mon, Get Happy enhances that definition."

- Nell Beram, Shelf Awareness

"A 1950 musical with Gene Kelly and Judy Garland finally gets the credit it deserves in [this] new book."

- Parade

"C'mon, Get Happy: The Making of “Summer Stock” sets the standard for books about the history of a motion picture, though I doubt anyone will be able to rival the achievement of this group biography."

- Carl Rollyson, The New York Sun

"The book will make fans of Garland, and film musicals in general, very happy, indeed."

- Paul Freeman, Pop Culture Classics