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Case Number 26361

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Presenting Lily Mars (1943)

Warner Bros. // 1943 // 104 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // October 3rd, 2013

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart thinks the floral-scented candy bar just might work.

Editor's Note

Our review of Presenting Lily Mars, published January 1st, 2007, is also available.

The Charge

"There's a Lily Mars in every town, and they're all alike—so full of hope, and so hopeless."—John Thornway

Opening Statement

Judy Garland never really had to search for stardom; she went down in movie history early with The Wizard of Oz. In Presenting Lily Mars, she plays a young actress and singer who heads for New York on that quest.

The story comes from Booth Tarkington.

Facts of the Case

When producer John Thornway (Van Heflin, Airport) comes home to Midhaven, Indiana, it spurs Lily to audition—whether he wants to hear it or not. Spurned, Lily heads for New York anyway, where she ends up hiding out in Thornway's theater until she passes out from hunger. Thornway gives Lily a small role, but his jealous leading lady (Martha Eggerth, For Me and My Gal) might take off, threatening his show.

The Evidence

My favorite scene in Presenting Lily Mars finds a cleaning lady telling young actress Lily Mars that she, too, came to New York in search of stardom. Lily asks if she had any regrets, and the woman says she didn't. It's tender and real, with a beautiful duet between Lily and her friend.

It's one of a handful of scenes that show the movie's underlying message: trying is what makes us human. The trouble is, there's not enough of that. The script emphasizes gags, such as Lily's lame Lady Macbeth, and candy coats things, giving us a Hollywood-style storybook ending. The cleaning lady's story might have been more interesting.

Still, Presenting Lily Mars is charming. Judy Garland plays up the cartoonish aspects of the story, making her quest for a role seem almost like a Tweety and Sylvester chase with Van Heflin. Better yet—and most important for viewers—she sings. You'll want more—and the extras, seeming to recognize this, include the audio from "Paging Mr. Greenback," a patriotic number that was cut; an extended audio version of "Where There's Music," the final number; and a stereo version of "Where There's Music"—but her voice carries the movie. Watching her belt out "Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son" is delightful. Everything else is predictable and genial, right down to the villainous leading lady who doesn't turn out to be so bad. If you need more, Bob Crosby and Tommy Dorsey bring their orchestras.

The story's thinness comes out in one of the extras, a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation, with June Allyson substituting for Garland. It's only an hour, but without Garland's music, it seems like a tedious, melodramatic hour. It also comes out in the trailer, which seems like a Mad joke as it talks about other Judy Garland roles, but not this one.

The black-and-white picture is good, despite a few flecks, and the mono sound isn't bad.

"Heavenly Music," a short about a bandleader and crooner causing havoc in Heaven, and Tex Avery's surreal "Who Killed Who?" parody of mysteries round out the extras package.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

If you're a Judy Garland fan, you'll like the treatment that Presenting Lily Mars gets. It's a made-on-demand release (which might not play on all DVD players), but there are quite a few extras, apparently ported over from an earlier release. It's a better-than-usual MOD offering.

Closing Statement

I actually like Presenting Lily Mars, although I suspect that tracking down the other movies emphasized in the trailer might be better. If you like the movie or are a Judy Garland fan, you'll like its treatment on DVD.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 90
Extras: 0
Acting: 80
Story: 80
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Classic
• Comedy
• Concerts and Musicals
• Drama
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurettes
• Additional Music


• IMDb

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