Strike Up the Band (1940) B
In “Strike Up the Band,” directed by Busby Berkeley (better known as choreographer of dazzling Warner musicals during the Depression), Mickey Rooney teams up again with Judy Garland in a joyous, Oscar-nominated musical, one of their most popular outings.
“Strike Up the Band” was the second musical in the series Let’s Put on a Show, which began with “Babes in Arms.”
This time around, Rooney’s Jimmy Connors wants to organize a high-school band. He hopes to enter a competition being held in Chicago by the great orchestra leader Paul Whiteman; all he needs is $200 for train fare. To raise the money, Rooney, Garland’s Mary Holden, and company stage (what else) a terrific student show.
They get the money, but then the sensitive and soft-hearted Rooney turns over the money to the mother of student musician Larry Nunn, who needs emergent surgery. It looks hopeless until Paul Whiteman arrives in town.
The original George and Ira Gershwin Broadway musical Strike Up the Band was a satire of warfare, with America declaring war on Switzerland in order to corner the chocolate industry. But none of that subversive stuff made it into this musical, made by MGM, the most politically conservative and ideologically mainstream studio in Hollywood. Thus, not much is retained from the original Broadway show except for the title tune.
Among the piece’s highlights are a George Pal animated sequence involving dancing fruit (which reportedly was the idea of Vincente Minnelli, before he became a director, serving as apprentice at MGM).
Oscar Nominations: 3
Sound: Douglas Shearer
Song: Öur Love Affair,”music and lyrics by Roger Edens and Arthur Freed
Score: Georgie Stoll and Roger Edens
Oscar Awards: 1
This was the fourth of Douglas Shearer (brother of star Norma) five Oscars.
The Oscar Award for Song went to to Leigh Harline and Ned Washington’s “When You Wish Upon a Star,” from “Pinocchio.
The Scoring Award was won by Alfred Newman for “Tin Pan Alley.”
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