*The Harvey Girls*: “The Train Must be Fed”

The girls and I watched the wonderful The Harvey Girls (1946) with Judy Garland this weekend.  The plot is so silly and nonsensical that it made me think of something like The Umbrella of Cherbourg.

Judy Garland shows up by train in Sante Fe from Ohio to marry a man with whom she’s been engaged in an epistolary romance.  Turns out it was a Cyrano de Bergerac situation and the prospective hubby is a wizened old hick… who for some reason, after glimpsing the lovely Judy G., begs her to let him off the hook (I think the idea was that he knows he’s a terrible reprobate alcoholic and so will not make a good husband).  The letters were in fact written by Ned Trent, the owner of the local saloon.

It’s a battle for the soul of Sante Fe.  Ned Trent’s Alhambra saloon, featuring the primary colors-wearing dancing (bad) girls, led by the throaty seductress Angela Lansbury (!), vs. the Harvey House, an upscale, classy, family place featuring the pastel-color-wearing (good) Harvey Girls.  Any number of hijinks ensue such as, for example, the Alhambra girls stealing all the Harveys’ steaks and chops, leading Garland’s character to hold up the Alhambra with two six-shooters to reclaim all the raw meat.

I was glad to find this clip of perhaps my favorite song & routine, “The Train Must be Fed.”  There’s a bit of a Cheaper by the Dozen, mid-century time & efficiency management feel to this one.

The Harvey system, I must say, primarily pertains
To the absolute perfection in the way we feed the trains
Perfection in the dining room, perfection in the dorm
We even want perfection in the Harvey uniform
The apron must be spotless and must have the proper swirl
That’s the first requirement of a Harvey Girl!

“Please confine your underwear to camisole and rumor”!

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