Summer Holiday (1948)
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Cast: Mickey Rooney, Gloria DeHaven, Walter Huston
Synopsis: A publisher’s son courts a girl in circa-1900 Connecticut.
There must have been some kind of contest going on in the wardrobe department of Summer Holiday to see which male actor they could con into wearing the daftest hat: Mickey Rooney, Walter Huston, Frank Morgan – they all get into the act at one point or another. Those titfers might be historically accurate for all I know but, boy, they distract your attention from the storyline when either perched precariously atop some hapless actor’s head or pulled snugly over their ears.
The release of Summer Holiday was delayed by two years because MGM suspected it would be a flop – and they were right: it lost around $1.5 million when finally released in 1948. It’s difficult to see why today. Summer Holiday is a pleasant enough piece of Americana (a musical remake of Ah, Wilderness ), sumptuously filmed in MGM’s famously vivid colours and clearly displaying the studio’s high production values. While not outstanding, it’s certainly no worse than other musicals of that period.
That said, it does lose its way at times. The sequence in which Rooney is coaxed into becoming drunk by a (literally) scarlet woman is badly misjudged and noticeably at odds with the tone of the rest of the film, and would have been better if played as straight comedy. The performances however, are generally good – although Rooney tends to overact (a regular problem for him), and Walter Huston is by no stretch of the imagination a singer.
If you have a choice, plump for the ’35 version (in which Rooney also starred), otherwise this one’s worth catching, if only for those hats.
(Reviewed 7th January 2002)