While its title suggests the opposite, “In the Good Old Summertime” is a musical set primarily during the Christmas season. In fact, it’s a remake of the Ernst Lubitsch comedy “The Shop Around the Corner”, which is also considered a holiday classic. The setting of this version of the story is moved from 1930s Budapest to turn of the century Chicago. Veronica Fisher (Judy Garland) is hired by Otto Oberkugen (S.Z. Sakall) to work in his music shop, much to the dismay of his top salesman, Andrew Larkin (Van Johnson). Veronica and Andrew bicker constantly, unaware that outside of work they are falling in love as secret pen pals.
Garland gets to sing some nice songs in the film, but the highlight is when she sings “Merry Christmas”, a song that made its debut in this movie but isn’t often heard outside of it. But while this film is a musical, the music isn’t actually the best part of it. The scenes between Veronica and Andrew, including their heat-filled exchanges, are what make this film fun. One of the best and funniest character actors of his time, S.Z. Sakall, is a joy to watch as always. But this movie is also notable for featuring legendary silent film comedian Buster Keaton in a small role—his first for MGM since he was fired by the studio in 1933. Keaton, whose acting career was struggling at this point, was working as a gag man for the studio, and for one scene came up with a way for a violin to break that would make sense while also being funny. When the filmmakers realized he was the only person who could pull it off, he was cast in the movie.
And speaking of cameo appearances, pay attention to the little girl Garland and Johnson are holding in the film’s final scene. That’s baby Liza Minnelli, Garland’s real-life daughter with husband Vincente Minnelli.
“In the Good Old Summertime” is available to rent or buy on all digital platforms, and is airing on Turner Classic Movies on the following dates:
Tuesday, December 22nd at 10 PM EST
Thursday, December 24th at 2 PM EST
Runtime: 102 minutes