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Film Review: The Harvey Girls


The Harvey Girls

MGM, 1946 (Color, 101 minutes, Production No. 1348)

When Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury ("Murder She Wrote") head out West, the fur flies and the fun begins. Here's a big, bustling musical extravaganza the way they used to make 'em, brimming with period charm. The Harvey Girls also boasts a hummable score by Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren, including "It's a Great Big World", "Oh, You Kid", and the Oscar-winning "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe."

At the turn of the Century, Fred Harvey's hotels and restaurants were the epitome of American elegance. When winsome Susan Bradley (Garland) discovers that the chain needs waitresses for their new place along the tracks of the Santa Fe railroad, she eagerly answers the call of "Go West, Young Woman!"

The sparkling supporting cast features Ray Bolger (The Wizard of Oz), Cyd Charisse, Chill Wills, Marjorie Main (Ma and Pa Kettle) and Preston Foster. Directed by George Sidney (Show Boat), The Harvey Girls serves up a sprightly, rollicking banquet with the talented Judy Garland at her singing, dancing, romancing best!

[from MGM/UA videotape sleeve]

See DVD Review


Produced by: Arthur Freed
Associate Producer: Roger Edens
Directed by: George Sidney
Screen Play by: Edmund Beloin, Nathaniel Curtis, Harry Crane, James O'Hanlon and Samson Raphaelson
Additional Dialogue by: Kay Van Riper
Based on the Book by Samuel Hopkins Adams and the Original Story by Eleanore Griffin and William Rankin
Words and Music by: Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren
Musical Direction: Lennie Hayton
Orchestration: Conrad Salinger
Vocal Arrangements: Kay Thompson
Musical Numbers Staged by: Robert Alton
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis
Associate: Mildred Griffiths
Costume Supervision: Irene
Costumes Designed by: Helen Rose
Men's Costumes: Valles
Make-Up Created by: Jack Dawn
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Director of Photography: George Folsey
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe
Photographed in Technicolor
Technicolor Color Director: Natalie Kalmus
Associate: Henri Jaffa
Film Editor: Albert Akst

"The help of the Fred Harvey Company on many historical details is thankfully acknowledged."

Filmed: January 1945 - June 1945 (Judy was 22 years old)
Released: January 1946


Judy Garland ... Susan Bradley
John Hodiak ... Ned Trent
Ray Bolger ... Chris Maule
Preston Foster ... Judge Sam Purvis
Virginia O'Brien ... Alma
Angela Lansbury ... Em
Marjorie Main ... Sonora Cassidy
Chill Wills ... H.H. Hartsey
Kenny Baker ... Terry O'Halloran
Selena Royle ... Miss Bliss
Cyd Charisse ... Deborah
Ruth Brady ... Ethel
Catherine McLeod ... Louise
Jack Lambert ... Marty Peters
Edward Earle ... Jed Adams
Virginia Hunter ... Jane
William "Bill" Phillips, Norman Leavitt ... Cowboys
Ray Teal ... Conductor
Horace (Stephen) McNally ... Golddust McClean
Jack Clifford ... Fireman
Vernon Dent ... Engineer
Paul "Tiny" Newlan ... Station Agent
Jim Toney ... Mule Skinner
Morris Ankrum ... Reverend Claggett
Lucille Casey, Mary Jo Ellis, Dorothy Gilmore, Gloria Hope, Mary Jean French, Daphne Moore, Joan Thorson, Dorothy Tuttle ... Harvey Girls
Hazel Brooks, Kay English, Hane Hall, Vera Lee, Peggy Maley, Erin O'Kelly, Dorothy Van Nuys, Eve Whitney, Dallas Worth ... Dance Hall Girls
Ben Carter ... John Henry
Byron Harvey Jr, Beverly Tyler ... Bits
Marion Doenges ... Singing voice of Cyd Charisse
Virginia Rees ... Singing voice of Angela Lansbury

Musical Program

[0:00] Overture: "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" / "Swing Your Partner Round and Roung" (played by Orchestra behind titles)
[0:02] In the Valley (Where the Evening Sun Goes Down) (sung by Judy Garland)
[0:11] Wait and See (sung by Virginia Rees dubbing for Angela Lansbury)
[0:14] On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe [ AA] (Production number performed by Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, Virginia O'Brien, Marjorie Main, Ray Bolger, Benny Carter, The Seckler Group, The Williams Brothers (Andy, Bob and Don), Alice Ludes, Dorothy McCarty, Lee Gotch, Jud Conlon, Ralph Blane, Loulie Jean Norman, Dorothy Jackson, Judy Matson, Mary Moder, Ruth Clark, Jimmie Garland, Dorothy Wilkerson, Vivian Edwards, Joe Karnes, Kenneth Rundquist, Claude Martin, Arnet Amos, Elva Kellog and the MGM Studio Chorus)
[0:30] Training Montage (The Train Must be Fed) (performed by Edward Earle, Selena Royle, Marjorie Main, Joe Karnes, Elva Kellog, Judy Garland, Virginia O'Brien, Cyd Charisse and the MGM Studio Chorus)
[0:32] Oh, You Kid (sung by Virginia Rees dubbing for Angela Lansbury)
[0:40] Wait and See (excerpt sung by Kenny Baker)
[0:41] It's a Great Big World (performed by Judy Garland, Virginia O'Brien and Marion Doenges dubbing for Cyd Charisse)
[0:56] The Wild, Wild West (performed by Virginia O'Brien and Ray Bolger)
[1:06] Wait and See (sung by Kenny Baker and Marion Doenges dubbing for Cyd Charisse, danced by Cyd Charisse)
[1:15] On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe (special instrumental arrangement danced by Ray Bolger)
[1:18] Swing Your Partner Round and Round (sung and danced by Judy Garland, Marjorie Main and Company)
[cut] My Intuition (sung by Judy Garland and John Hodiak)
[cut] March of the Doagies (performed by Judy Garland, Joe Karnes, Frank Laine, Don Ellis, Eugene Dorian, Ralph Blane, Don Williams and the MGM Studio Chorus)
[cut] In the Valley (Where the Evening Sun Goes Down) (sung by Kenny Baker, Judy Garland and the MGM Studio Chorus)
[cut] Hayride (sung by Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and the MGM Studio Chorus)

see sountrack CD review


The Harvey Girls was originally planned as a drama starring Lana Turner. When the project's producer Bernard Hyman passed away MGM attempted to sell the property. The Harvey family, however, let it be known that they would not allow anyone but MGM to make the film, so the property was assigned to the Freed unit where it was seen as a perfect vehicle to use as an answer to the new Broadway sensation, Oklahoma!.

"On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" was awarded Best Song Academy Award for 1946. The number was also recorded by Johnny Mercer, and was a chart-topper on the hit parade.

Highlights of the film include Susan's rescue of the kidnapped Harvey House steaks (classic Garland comedy), the lovely number "It's a Great Big World" (danced and sung in their nightgowns by Judy, Virginia O'Brien and Cyd Charisse - dubbed by Betty Russell), Susan and Trent's meeting in the valley where she sits on his hat (more classic Garland comedy), Kenny Baker's "Wait and See" (danced by Cyd Charisse), and the beautifully staged "Round and Round", which includes a beautifully staged and costumed ballroom dance scene and a comedy dance routine by Ray Bolger and Marjorie Main. The picture is pure war-years escapism, with a mixture of drama and comedy with musical interludes as enjoyable as any ever to hit the screen.

"March of the Doagies" (nicknamed "Judy of Arc"), a beautiful production number, was cut from the movie only because the running time was too long. It can be seen in its entirety in That's Entertainment III and in the Golden Years box set (see below).

The Harvey Girls is one of three tapes in the "Judy Garland Collection" videotape box set (above left) from MGM/UA Home Video (M602386), 1991. This tape bears the number M202452.

The film and outtakes were released as part of the laser disc box set "Judy Garland: The Golden Years at MGM," MGM/UA Home Video ML104869 (1994).

See Judy Garland Movies on Video for information about the latest releases of home video and sountrack.

See Class Act for more information on this and other classic films.


Won Best Song Academy Award ("On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe"), Harry Warren (Music), Johnny Mercer (Lyrics); won Academy Award nomination for Best Score - Musical (Lennie Hayton)

Critical Response

"An abundance of chromatic spectacle and an uncommonly good score. Miss Garland of course is at the center of most of the activity and handles herself in pleasing fashion - up to and including the high notes. A rather lofty tribute to Fred Harvey's girls, but it's a show."

- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

"A great big animated picture postcard. Judy Garland is the film's bright...star. Miss Garland is effectively glamorized in get-ups of the '90's and sings her songs pleasantly. Hodiak gives her valuable dramatic support. The Harvey Girls is a perfect demonstration of what Hollywood can do with its vast resources when it wants to be really showy...Pretty girls...period sets and costumes...lilting tunes...super-speedy dance shuffles.

- Howard Barnes, The New York Herald Tribune

Memorable Lines

Hartsey: "Are you disappointed?"
Susan: "Disappointed?
Hartsey: "Well, I mean you didn't expect a mangy old buzzard like me, or did ya?"
Susan: "Oh, yes! I did!"

Susan: "Could it be possible you don't want to marry me?"
Hartsey: "Now wait a minute, Miss Bradley! I wanna marry ya! I wanna marry ya like somethin' awful! I wanna marry ya somethin' awful! But, please, Ma'am, please say no!"
Susan: "Oh, Mr. Hartsey, I think you're wonderful! Of course, if you insist, I'll say no!"

Susan: "You're a yellow dog, Mr. Trent! Good Day!"

Susan: (to Ned Trent) "Now you listen to me. If anybody leaves here, it's going to be you! You and your kind - men who run gambling houses and send lying letters to girls and sell a lot of liquor to drunkards!"

Diner 1: (after Susan takes his soup) "Hey! What'd she do that for? I warn't finished!"
Diner 2: "It's on account of your manners. In a place like this, you don't blow on your soup, ya fan it with yer hat!"

Man at Alhambra: (while Susan points a gun at him) "Watch out men! Be careful! I'd rather have Dead-Eyed Dick than a female with a gun in her hand!"

Susan: (to Ned) "Well, some girls are just a little harder to get than others!"

Supplemental Material

Supplement 1: Assorted photographs

See DVD Review

The Harvey Girls DVD

See DVD Review

Judy Garland Signature Collection DVD Box Set
Buy DVD Box Set

The Harvey Girls VHS

The Harvey Girls Soundtrack CD
Buy Soundtrack CD

The Harvey Girls Posters
Buy Posters

Original magazine ad: Judy Garland in "The Harvey Girls"

Magazine clipping: Judy Garland in costume

Magazine clipping: Judy sneaks into the Alhambra House

Original music sheet

Susan drops her guns

Susan takes control of the situation

Judy in costume

Susan takes a breather after the brawl

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