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Sunday, December 27, 2009

the unsung, singing heroes

"I'm brave, I'm determined, I'm fearless...I'm a liar."
-Tex, the Harvey Girls

Today I fell into the rabbit hole of Barnes and Noble. I can't help it. I got sucked in. They feed all of my addictions: literature, movies, music and coffee.

I found the Harvey Girls, buried deep in the musical section. Naturally, I zoomed home and popped it in my DVD player faster than you can say "thar's gold in them thar hills." After I purchased it, of course.

And, just a little note here, I'm currently watching this movie for the second time today. Yes, it's that good.

This film has many similar qualities that the Wizard of Oz has. Obviously, it stars the fabulous Judy Garland. You really can't go wrong with this woman. Roy Bolger (the actor who also played Scarecrow) is also featured in the film. His character, "Tex," and "Susan," Judy's character, even have a dance number with each other. It's so nice to see them floating around on the screen together again.

Also, similarly to the Wizard of Oz, you simply can't take your eyes off of Garland for a second. She's extraordinary, and beautiful. She's searching for a home in this film too. And it's not too different from the sparse and unexplored land Kansas. Though, I always get a little sad when I watch movies where she's the star, because I know how deep her struggles were. But, the show must go on, and according to the proprietor of the Harvey House, "the train must be fed!"

The skeleton of the story follows the lives of waitresses of the infamous Harvey House - a restaurant chain that spread throughout the west around railroad stations (cue Garland's epic song, "the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe"). It was true that wherever the Harvey Houses, and its Harvey Girls (the lovable nickname given to the waitresses of the H.H.) lead, civilization was soon to follow.
This is where the conflict arises and the stakes are raised. The waitresses are known for their wholesome nature, in fact their uniforms are even something akin to a nun's outfit. Seriously, black dress, white apron, big white bow. However, the saloon where all of the "bad girls" sing and dance to their bad songs are threatened by the innocent Harvey Girls. And...

EPIC CHICK FIGHT ENSUES! Yikes, those girls were brutal. And through the whole movie, it's like the real west side story, but instead of the sharks and jets, you have the virgin waitresses and the floozy saloon "dancers."

And of course, the two worlds of good and morally corrupt are brought together by song, dance and a sub-plot of a several love stories.

It's so cool to see Judy and all of her Harvey sisters in action here. They were bringing about change in a world that was just beginning. They abandoned all they were familiar with to begin fresh in the wild world of the west.

They are the unsung, singing, heroes of the era.

A few faves:

"I was born in Paris,
I was raised in Paris
Went to school in Paris, where I met a boy.
I was married in Paris,
Almost buried in Paris
But I left Paris...Paris, Illinois."
-The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe

"I sent my picture to one of those Lonely Hearts Clubs, and it came back marked, 'We're not THAT lonely!'"

"Now you listen to me, if anybody leaves here it's going to be you you and your kind. Men who run gambling palaces and writing lying letters to women and sell a lot of liquor to drunkards. Before we're finished with this town, you're going to have to swallow every one of those pretty letters you wrote. And yes, I hope you choke on them, too!"

And, of course, there is a HILARIOUS scene when some of the waitresses discover that their meet has been stolen by friends of the competing saloon across the street (and what's a trip to the HH without one of their famous steaks?). Judy Garland tries to hold up the saloon with two stolen guns. It's the cutest thing ever.

But, you don't have to take my word for it (da-dun-dun!).


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