Presenting Lily Mars (1943)

Judy Garland
Judy Garland looks absolutely stunning in this publicity still for Presenting Lily Mars, a film in which she gives an equally stunning performance. (image via doctormacro.com)

Judy Garland stars as Lily Mars, a role originally intended as a star vehicle for Lana Turner before she found out that she was pregnant and had to drop out of the film. As a result of Judy’s casting, the film was adapted to include a few musical numbers that would showcase the pipes she remains famous for.

Garland’s character, Lily, is a small town girl and aspiring stage star with seriously big talent to back up her ambitions. She decides to go about finding success by hounding a producer and even going to far as to follow him to New York, where she finally does strike gold and land her first big role.

In addition to the always lovable Garland in the leading role, the film also boasts not one but two fantastic orchestras – Tommy Dorsey’s and Bob Crosby’s.

Presenting Lily Mars is a fun, fluffy film. It’s packed with comedy, romance and delightful musical numbers.

Garland completely steals the show, outshining not only her fellow performers but also the material itself. And it isn’t just her performance that’s delightful. The character of Lily Mars is one of her strongest: an extremely ambitious, entirely determined girl who cares more about her goals than anything else. This is a step away from Garland’s usual “love-struck, hopelessly romantic girl” persona.

There are a few things out of place here. Martha Eggerth, for instance, is a fine singer but her musical numbers here are a bit difficult to sit through. With a voice as smooth as Judy’s to compete with, Eggerth’s style is such a stark contrast that it seems out of sync with the rest of the film.

Presenting Lily Mars
(image via cinefish.bg)

But overall, this film is very enjoyable. Judy is perfect, her songs are on-point, the story is cute and the laughs are carried off well. Judy’s comedic talent was somewhat undervalued, in my opinion. Many of her musicals have a comedic edge to them, but the romance is always emphasized more. Films like Presenting Lily Mars and The Pirate, two of her most hilarious (though somewhat exaggerated) roles, are never counted among her best films, but this is one of the few cases in her filmography where she truly gets to let her funny side shine above all else.

Presenting Lily Mars may not be Judy’s masterpiece, but it’s a great film nonetheless and deserves a watch or three. The score: 3.8/5

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