A Great Day For The Irish!

Nowhere I've lived thus far has felt like a more appropriate place to be celebrating St. Patrick's Day, than right here in New York City.  When I awoke this morning I donned my green checked button snap shirt and headed out to save a little cash on a pair of dress pants, so I have more office clothing options when I'm making a little "green" (see what I did there?).  Banana Republic had a coupon for the holiday, and on my way there I saw more people in green than you can imagine.  And  when on the subway, there were about eight or nine New York firemen, older gents in pressed uniforms headed to the parade.  It brought a real sense of excitement to me, even though I wasn't participating.  On the street there were groups of people decked out in full regalia, and it was really exciting to see so much buzz for a holiday that prior to living here had just felt like a great excuse for people to put on horrible accents and drink a shit ton of Guinness.

Me?  Last night I baked some Irish soda bread, and I currently have a pot of stew simmering on the stovetop (made with Guinness, of course) and have just finished watching Judy sprinkle some serious charm over an often hokey, but good hearted film called Little Nellie Kelly.  Tonight, my roommate and I will be watching Darby O'Gill and The Little People, and another friend is coming over later to have a drink and eat some stew.  So it should be a pretty cozy evening.

Now, a word for Little Nellie Kelly.  If you want a perfect example of early 1940's schmaltz, patriotism, and overt rapturizing over familial love, you need not look any further.  If you are looking for some really ineffective Irish brogues, this is your film.  Even Judy's is less than stellar, although she more than makes up for it by taking the somewhat wooden dialogue and making it breathe.  She just exudes genuine warmth, and when she opens her mouth to sing, it doesn't get any better.

The first half of the film revolves around a charming but lazy Irishman by the name of Michael Noonan, who rants and raves at his local pub about the menace of work.  His young daughter, Nellie Kelly watches over him and keeps house for him as her mother had passed away some time before.  But when she falls in love and decides to move away to America so that her future husband can find a better opportunity for work, Mr. Noonan is having none of it.  Of course, all three of them eventually make their way to New York City, and there are loads of opportunities for dewey eyed Judy to beam patriotism as images of the American flag, and the Declaration of Independence scroll behind her.

The second half of the film revolves around Nellie Kelly's daughter, also played by Judy, who grows up to become a young woman and is stuck in between her feuding father and grandfather much as her mother had been.  She is pursued by the very stiff and off-putting Douglas McPhail.  He was being groomed by MGM at the time as an operatic lead, but he is a poor match for Judy, and while his voice is lovely and resonant, a great screen presence, he is not.

What makes this film work, as much as it does, are the dual performances of Judy Garland, and the brash and bombastic emoting of Charles Winninger, as her grandfather.  And, I have to admit, that in spite of some flaws, the MGM factory knew how to tell a story and I did find my eyes tearing up a few times during the film.  As a sidetone, this is the first time that Judy was allowed to be the center of a picture in which she is put on a pedestal as a beauty that all the young men are intent on wooing.

For those of you not able to invest the ninety minutes into the film, below is a clip from the St. Patrick's Day parade in which Judy and Douglas sing their little hearts out.