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Our Conversation with authors David Fantle and Tom Johnson – new book “C’mon, Get Happy: The Making of “Summer Stock”

C’mon, Get Happy: The Making of Summer Stock, the books tells the troubled backstory of this 1950 MGM musical starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. It was Garland’s last film at the studio after 15 years.

By Judy Shields

Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 12/01/2023

The Hollywood Times had the opportunity to speak with David Fantle and Tom Johnson about their latest book C’mon Get Happy: The Making of Summer Stock.  It was a great conversation about the making of their book and all the things most of us do not know when it comes to making a movie and especially the classical musicals from the 1950s.

Judy Garland C’mon, Get Happy

What a wonderful holiday gift this book would make for all of your friends and family who love musicals and classic movies.  Order one for yourself too!  Click HERE to order yours at Amazon today!

As a huge fan of musicals and classic movies, always watching them on Turner Classic Movies and attending TCM Classic Film Festival, this is one book that I was lucky enough to get my hands on.  Story is that I did a phone interview with Lorna Luft for TCM about the TCM Classic Movies Cruise and David Fantle saw it and reached out to us and the rest is history.  It was meant to be.  I told David and Tom before I recorded our conversation that I was named after Judy Garland, since my mother loved her. You will learn so much about the making of Summer Stock, amazing stories, what it takes to make a movie and a musical to boot.  Who doesn’t like to learn about movie making history.  The photos used in this book are worth the price of the price of the new book.

The foreword was written by Tony Award-winning dancer and choreographer Savion Glover and the authors have received book jacket endorsements from such artists as Lorna Luft, Michael Feinstein, Rob Marshall, Susan Stroman, Tommy Tune, Alan Bergman, David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr.

Judy and Gene perform “All for You” in the show-within-a-movie finale in “Summer Stock” – Courtesy of Kim Lundeen Collection


Lorna Luft, singer, author, and daughter of Judy Garland says
“Thank you for your insightful and loving book about the movie, “Summer Stock”. I’m sure that, without a doubt, it will make your readers forget their troubles and just Get Happy!”


Phil Silvers and Gene Kelly in their hillbilly “Heavenly Music” number. Courtesy of Photofest.

Rob Marshall, film and Broadway director and choreographer of Chicago, Nine, and Into the Woods says – “Shout ‘HALLELUJAH!’—Fantle and Johnson have given us a rare peek into the miracle that is filmmaking. Their love for movie musicals of the Golden Age comes through in every glorious and riveting detail.”

Michael Feinstein, singer, songwriter, and ambassador of the Great American Songbook says – “This very special book is entertaining and meticulously researched. It offers a clear sense of how they created a musical during the Golden Age of Hollywood and connects the dots of the process, combining the strands of many important voices, leaving the modern reader agog at the wonders of the MGM factory and the studio system. I thoroughly enjoyed it!”

Seated around Jane Falbury’s dinner table. L-R: Gene Kelly Al Jennings (assistant director on “Summer Stock”), Judy Garland and Chuck Walters. Courtesy of Photofest.

Tommy Tune, ten-time Tony Award–winning director, choreographer, and dancer says – “Just like the dance Gene Kelly does on a squeaky board and newspaper that builds from a hesitating start to an explosive finish, Dave and Tom expertly chronicle the making of Summer Stock from uncertain beginnings to its ultimate triumph on the screen.”

Gene Kelly newspaper dance

In their third and final screen teaming, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly starred together in the MGM musical Summer Stock. Despite its riveting production history, charismatic lead actors, and classical musical moments, the movie has not received the same attention as other musicals from MGM’s stored dream factory.  In C’mon, Get Happy: The Making of Summer Stock, authors David Fantle and Tom Johnson present a comprehensive study of this 1950 motion picture, from start to finish and after its release.

The production coincided at a critical point in the careers of Kelly and an emotionally spent Garland. Kelly, who starred in An American in Paris just one year later, was at the peak of his abilities. On the other hand, Summer Stock was Garland’s final film at MGM, and she gamely completed it despite her own personal struggles. Summer Stock includes Kelly’s favorite solo dance routine and Garland’s signature number Get Happy.

Enjoy our conversation:


Book event at the National Arts Club in New York City with Lorna Luft and Tony-winning director and songwriter Richard Maltby Jr. (Tom Johnson on the left and David Fantle on the right (Photo courtesy of David Fantle)

DAVID FANTLE, mostly in collaboration with Tom Johnson, has been interviewing, writing, and speaking about Hollywood’s Golden Age stars for more than forty years. Their work has appeared in media outlets throughout the world. Fantle’s career also includes more than three decades as an award-winning marketing and public relations professional, including a tenure as Deputy Tourism Secretary for Wisconsin. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and is an adjunct professor in film, pop culture, and public relations at Marquette University.

Film historians David Fantle and Tom Johnson bonded as teenagers in St. Paul over a shared appreciate for old Hollywood films. Their latest book, “C’mon Get Happy: The Making of Summer Stock,” follows the story of Judy Garland’s final musical with MGM (Photo courtesy of David Fantle)

TOM JOHNSON began his collaboration with David Fantle in 1978 as a student journalist at the University of Minnesota by co-writing an award-winning arts and entertainment column for the Minnesota Daily called “Entertainment Ltd.” Johnson, who lives in Los Angeles, was a senior editor at Netflix and has written movie reviews and features for E! Online, Moviefone, and People magazine, among other publications. Johnson’s entertainment writing has been recognized with a Minnesota Newspaper Association achievement award and a National Hearst Foundation award for news writing.

Fantle and Johnson’s Hollywood Heyday: 75 Candid Interviews with Golden Age Legends was a best-seller on Amazon and winner of the National Indie Excellence Award as Best Book of 2018 (entertainment category).