The Harvey Girls
Harvey Girls poster.jpg
theatrical poster
Directed byGeorge Sidney
Robert Alton (musical number)
Written byKay Van Riper (additional dialogue)
Screenplay byEdmund Beloin
Nathaniel Curtis
Harry Crane
James O'Hanlon
Samson Raphaelson
Story byEleanore Griffin
William Rankin
Based onThe Harvey Girls
1942 novel
by Samuel Hopkins Adams
Produced byArthur Freed
StarringJudy Garland
John Hodiak
Ray Bolger
Angela Lansbury
Virginia O'Brien
CinematographyGeorge J. Folsey
Edited byAlbert Akst
Music byHarry Warren (music)
Johnny Mercer (lyrics)
Lennie Hayton (score)
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byLoew's Inc.
Release date
  • January 18, 1946 (1946-01-18)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$5,175,000[1]

The Harvey Girls is a 1946 Technicolor American musical film produced by Arthur Freed for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is based on the 1942 novel of the same name by Samuel Hopkins Adams, about Fred Harvey's Harvey House waitresses.[2] Directed by George Sidney, the film stars Judy Garland and features John Hodiak, Ray Bolger, and Angela Lansbury, as well as Preston Foster, Virginia O'Brien, Kenny Baker, Marjorie Main and Chill Wills. Future star Cyd Charisse appears in her first speaking role on film.

The Harvey Girls won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe", written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer.


In the 1890s, a group of "Harvey Girls" – new waitresses for Fred Harvey's pioneering chain of Harvey House restaurants – travels on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway to the western town of Sandrock, Arizona. On the trip they meet Susan Bradley, who is travelling to the same town to marry the man whose beautiful letters she received when she answered a "lonely-hearts" ad.

Unfortunately, when she arrives, her husband-to-be turns out to be an "old coot" who does not at all meet her expectations. They start to argue and list each other's personal faults, both claiming none was mentioned in each other's letters. With their mutual disinclination to continue with the marital union clear, they jointly decide to call off the wedding.

With the marriage safely cancelled, he reveals to Susan that his letters were actually ghost-written as a joke by Ned Trent, the local saloon owner. Susan, rightly furious, confronts Ned to tell him off, in the process endearing herself to him.

Susan joins the Harvey Girls, and she soon becomes their leader in fighting against the attempts by Trent's business associate, Judge Sam Purvis. Purvis wants to scare them away in order to maintain his own thriving business running the large saloon in town. The Harvey Girls also face the animosity of the so-called "dance-hall girls," led by Em, who is in love with Trent and sees Susan as a rival.

Trent visits the Harvey House and see its value along with the other trappings of civilization and then tells Purvis to leave them alone. Purvis continues with his campaign of intimidation, finally burning down the restaurant. Trent offers his saloon as a replacement, and Em and the dance-hall girls leave town. Susan, thinking that Trent too is leaving, gets on the train, but Em, seeing that Susan loves Trent so much that she is willing to give up everything for him, stops the train and points out Trent, riding toward them on his horse. Ultimately, they wed in the desert, surrounded by the Harvey Girls.


Judy Garland and John Hodiak in The Harvey Girls
Judy Garland and John Hodiak in The Harvey Girls

Cast notes:


The Harvey Girls was conceived by MGM as a dramatic vehicle for Lana Turner, but Roger Edens, of the Arthur Freed unit, decided after seeing the musical Oklahoma! that the story should be reworked as MGM's western musical with Judy Garland as its star. Unfortunately, Garland wanted to work with Fred Astaire on Yolanda and the Thief, which was directed by fiancé Vincente Minnelli. Edens convinced her that the part in Yolanda was not large enough for her, and he promised that The Harvey Girls would be specifically created to showcase her talents.[4] Ann Sothern and Lucille Ball were slated to have roles in the film, and Edward Arnold was scheduled to play the role of Judge Purvis.[5] Sothern was originally intended for the role of "Em", but because of her personal problems, Lansbury was cast in what became her fourth film role.[3]

Principal photography on The Harvey Girls lasted from January 12 through June 4, 1945,[6] a long production period. Studio filming was at MGM's Culver City studios, and the locations were in Victorville, California; at the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth (near Los Angeles); and in Monument Valley.[5][7]

Although Angela Lansbury was a fine singer, her voice was considered unsuitable for her character, a low-class saloon singer. Virginia Rees provided Lansbury's singing voice. Cyd Charisse, who had her first speaking role in the film, also had her singing dubbed by Marion Doenges.[8]

Virginia O'Brien, a comic actress known for her deadpan style of singing, was pregnant while The Harvey Girls was filmed. Several scenes with Ray Bolger were never filmed due to the difficulty in hiding her pregnancy. This accounts for O'Brien's character disappearing after she sings "Wild Wild West".[5]

The Harvey Girls was released in the United States on January 18, 1946.

Production credits:


The songs in The Harvey Girls were all written by Harry Warren (music) and Johnny Mercer (lyrics):

By far the biggest hit from the score of The Harvey Girls was "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe". MGM released the song to record companies even before shooting was finished on the film, and it became an instant hit dominating the airwaves through the summer and fall of 1945, with versions by Bing Crosby with Six Hits and a Miss, Judy Garland and The Merry Macs, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with the Sentimentalists, and, the most popular, Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers. Mercer's version entered the Billboard charts on July 5, 1945, and stayed on it for 16 weeks, including seven straight weeks as No. 1 between July 28 and September 8. Crosby's entered the charts on July 19 and stayed ten weeks, going as high as No. 4, while Dorsey's entered on August 2 and stayed for six weeks, peaking at No. 6. Garland's hit the Billboard No. 10 position on September 20. The song was also number 1 on Your Hit Parade for eight weeks running.[4]

In shooting the number for the film, Garland reportedly did the entire song up to the tempo change in one take, twice, after watching her stand-in do one run-through.

Deleted songs

Cut from the film were three other songs written for it by Warren and Mercer: "March of the Doagies", "Hayride" and "My Intuition".[5] "Doagies" was a production number featuring Garland; the outtake was included in That's Entertainment! III (1994).[9] "My Intuition" was a duet for Garland and John Hodiak; this was also filmed and still survives in video format.[10] "Hayride", sung by Garland and Ray Bolger, was prerecorded but not filmed.[11]

Critical response

Howard Barnes wrote in the New York Herald Tribune that the film was "A great big animated picture postcard. Judy Garland is the film's bright ... star. Miss Garland is effectively glamorized in get-ups of the (18)90's and sings her songs pleasantly. The Harvey Girls is a perfect demonstration of what Hollywood can do with its vast resources when it wants to be really showy ... pretty girls – period sets and costumes – lilting tunes – super-speedy dance shuffles."

The New York Daily News said it was "A nostalgic whiff of the old west. Judy sings several sentimental ballads, as well as On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe number. Her chief support in the way of real entertainment comes from Ray Bolger." Time wrote "A technicolored musical celebrating the coming of chastity, clean silverware, and crumbless tablecloths to the pioneer Southwest. The bearers of this culture, according to evidence presented here, were waitresses. The Harvey Girls is good fun in spots. Miss Garland doesn't seem as recklessly happy as she was in St. Louis but she still appears to be having a pretty fine time."[12]

Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $4,112,000 in the US and Canada and $1,063,000.[1][13]

Awards and honors

"On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe" won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer. In addition, Lennie Hayton's score was nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, but did not win; the Oscar went to Morris Stoloff for The Jolson Story.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:



  1. ^ a b c Glancy, H. Mark (1992). "MGM film grosses, 1924–1948: The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 12 (2): 127–144. doi:10.1080/01439689200260081.
  2. ^ Zaballos, Nausica (2014) Mythes et Gastronomie de l'Ouest américain: sur la route Paris: Le Square. pp.101-110.
  3. ^ a b Osborne, Robert. Outro to the Turner Classic Movie showing of the film on January 29, 2014
  4. ^ a b Miller, Frank "The Harvey Girls" (article)
  5. ^ a b c d TCM "Notes"
  6. ^ "Business data"
  7. ^ "Filming locations"
  8. ^ TCM "Trivia"
  9. ^ "March of the Doagies" clip from "That's Entertainment! III" (1994) on YouTube.
  10. ^ Judy Garland & John Hodiak - My Intuition - deleted song from The Harvey Girls, 1946
  11. ^ Hayride pre-recording from "The Harvey Girls" at YouTube
  12. ^ Morella, Joe and Epstein, Edward Z.(1969) Judy: The Films and Career of Judy Garland Cadillac Publishing. p.130
  13. ^ "60 Top Grossers of 1946". Variety. January 8, 1947. p. 8. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  14. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  15. ^ "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 13, 2016.

Further reading