Directed by the legendary Rouben Mamoulian, Summer Holiday (1947) starred the irrepressible Mickey Rooney and pretty Gloria De Haven. The film was a musical version of Eugene O'Neill's hit play Ah Wilderness! A family saga, in lighter vein than most O'Neill's plays, it celebrated small town Connecticut family life.
On its initial release, the film had only a lukewarm reception and it remains one of M-G-M's 'lost' musicals…
Using sources ranging from the surviving studio pre-recordings transferred years ago from nitrate optical film to magnetic tape, to playback acetates and the metal stampers from which those playback discs were manufactured, this Rhino release is the first to include all the songs and numbers that were deleted. After its disappointing first sneak preview – M-G-M executives panicked and the expensively-produced film was shelved for some eighteen months before premiering in April 1948. A vault fire destroyed the omitted scenes.
Warren's music is affectionately sentimental, and homely an atmosphere evoked in the 'Our Home Town' opening number with the Blane's clever narrative-style lyrics. This narrative style, which pushes the plot forward, is consistent through all the musical's numbers, like the charming and infectious 'Afraid to Fall in Love'. This makes this a most interesting musical score – almost approaching opera with the use of recurring musical leitmotifs and unifying thematic ideas. And added to Warren's fine music is Conrad Salinger's glorious orchestrations.
The songs, while not quite so tunefully memorable, are fully characterised and they are extensive. 'Dan-Dan-Danville High' is an exuberant high school song for chorus. Linked together are the cheery male chorus 'Independence Day' and the girls' domestic riposte 'While the Men Are All Drinking'. 'The Stanley Steamer' (a veteran motorcar) is a vivacious holiday number that has romantic contributions of all hues from all of the leading cast that also includes Agnes Moorehead and Walter Huston; with Marilyn Maxwell, brassy in the 'Barroom Sequence'.
Outtakes include 'Omar and the Princess' in which Rooney sings of his love for De Haven with a passion motivated by Rubaiyet Of Omar Khayyam and the delectably tentative ''Wish I Had A Braver Heart' that allows De Haven to confess her passion inhibited by shyness.
Bonus tracks comprise a series of demo recordings, made in 1946, of the score made prior to filming with lyricist Ralph Blane as the singer with M-G-M studio pianist Bobby Tucker, some of which are introduced by composer Harry Warren.
An unusual but rewarding musical experience; lovely music and clever lyrics.