Watch Strike up the Band
- 2 hr
Strike up the Band is a vibrant and entertaining MGM musical film from 1940, directed by Busby Berkeley, starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. The film features original songs by the legendary composer team of George and Ira Gershwin, and the Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, which bring the catchy and swingy tunes to life. The story follows the adventures of high school students Jimmy Connors (Mickey Rooney) and Mary Holden (Judy Garland), who share a passion for music and eventually form their own band. Along with their talented friends, they dream of winning a national music competition and recording a hit album. However, their ambitious plans are threatened by the harsh realities of the music industry, rival bands, and personal relationship issues. The film starts with Rooney's character, Jimmy Connors, presenting his high school's orchestra to the school principal and demanding that the school put together a swing band to compete against the local rival, led by Paul Whiteman. Meanwhile, Garland's character, Mary Holden, auditions for Jimmy's band and is immediately recruited by Jimmy due to her amazing voice. Together, they embark on a multi-state tour to promote their band and to practice for the national competition. Along the way, Jimmy and Mary fall in love but find the progress of the competition challenged. Adding even more drama, Jimmy's father (William Demarest) doesn't believe that Jimmy can become a successful musician and tells him to focus on academics. The first half of the film comprises several lively and colorful musical numbers, culminating in an impressive performance by the band at a large-scale swimming pool. The key selling point of the movie is the music, performed by the legendary Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, which includes renditions of "Do the La Conga," "Nobody," "I've Got a Heart Full of Music," "Our Love Affair," and "Strike Up the Band." These songs are vintage Gershwin, and the music was so popular that the song "Strike Up the Band" became a staple at baseball games. The second half of the film turns more dramatic as the love story between Mary and Jimmy takes center stage. The film explores the struggles of young musicians trying to make it in the music industry, as well as the difficulties of balancing personal relationships with career goals. Furthermore, the second half is more interesting than the first half, as the movie moves away from being merely a showcase for the musical numbers, to a genuine exploration of the characters and their dreams. Rooney and Garland are both excellent, with Rooney delivering a typical wide-eyed, energetic performance, and Garland adding her exceptional singing voice and charm to the proceedings. They have a great on-screen presence together and complement each other perfectly. They were MGM's most popular actors of the time, and their on-screen chemistry in Strike up the Band immediately draws the audience's attention. Strike up the Band was a box office hit and cemented the partnership between Gershwin and MGM, resulting in more successful musical collaborations to come. The film shows its influence on later musicals, such as The Music Man, which has similar themes set in a different time period. Additionally, the film's emphasis on a musical competition format led to movies such as Bring It On and Pitch Perfect. The movie has aged well and is still entertaining today thanks to the sparkling script, the catchy music, and the brilliant performances of its lead actors. While the film cannot be considered a masterpiece, it is a delightful piece of nostalgia from the golden age of Hollywood. In conclusion, Strike up the Band is an entertaining and classic musical film. It captured the spirit of the times and showcased the talents of both Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. The film's flawless blend of classic Gershwin music, ahead-of-their-time dance sequences, and a charming script make it worth the watch, and it remains a classic example of a musical from the golden age of Hollywood.