David Fantle, adjunct professor in film at Marquette, and his writing partner Tom Johnson, former senior editor at Netflix, bring their new book, “C’mon, Get Happy: The Making of Summer Stock” to readers on Oct. 16. The book follows the behind-the-scenes production of the Metro Goldwyn Mayer film “Summer Stock.”
On Sunday, Oct. 15 at 1 p.m. the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center will be hosting a conversation with the authors, moderated by Ryan Jay from TMJ4. After the JCC event, the authors will host a book signing at Boswell Book Company.
“Anyone who’s interested in the golden age of Hollywood would find some interest in this book because Metro Goldwyn Mayer was certainly known for its output of musical films,” Fantle said.
The book attempts to look behind the production of “Summer Stock.”
“There was tremendous drama in how [“Summer Stock”] came together,” Johnson said. “No one really wanted to do it, everyone thought the script was sort of hokey.”
Although MGM is noted more widely for films such as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Summer Stock” contains one of Judy Garland’s top musical scenes and Gene Kelly’s best tap dance scenes, according to Johnson and Fantle.
“‘Summer Stock’ is on the shortlist of her most iconic musical numbers,” Fantle said. “It has the number called ‘Get Happy’ toward the end of the film. The film also contains Jean Kelly’s personal favorite solo dance… it’s not breaking new ground plot-wise, but it has Garland’s iconic number.”
“Tap was sort of dying out as a major dance style in movies,” Fantle said. “However, according to a lot of experts, ‘Summer Stock’ has Jean Kelly’s greatest tap number.”
The book was also Garland’s last MGM film, and towards the end of the popularity of tap dancing in film — two factors that Johnson and Fantle believe influenced the film, along with Garland’s addiction and familial problems.
“At the time, MGM was the only studio Garland had ever known; she grew up there,” Johnson said.
“Personal demons were impacting Garland’s ability to go in every day and do the job… by the time ‘Summer Stock’ started filming she had a growing dependency on prescription medications, a marriage that was on the rocks to a noted film director named Vincent Minnelli and she was tending to her toddler, Liza Minnelli,” Fantle said.
At the event, Fantle and Johnson plan to display and analyze clips from the movie and discuss the influence of Jewish producers and directors in Hollywood’s ‘golden age’ including Joe Pasternak, the producer of “Summer Stock.”
“He was hiding a lot of personal demons behind those feel good musicals,” Fantle said. “His father, sister and his family members were all in Hungary. He pleaded with them during the rise of Hitler and Nazism to come to the States, but none of them did. He lost his father. He lost his sister, he lost her sister’s children. There’s about 40 relatives that he lost, most of them in Auschwitz.”
* * *
How to go
What: David Fantle and Tom Johnson, coauthors of “C’Mon, Get Happy: The Making of Summer Stock,” in conversation with Ryan Jay at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, 6255 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
When: Sunday, Oct. 15, 1 p.m.
More information: BoswellBooks.com or JccMilwaukee.org