Here’s some fun futurist deco type for the next title card in my series!
Strike Up the Band was a follow up to the massively successful film Babes in Arms. Its title was chosen for no other reason than that it sounded “patriotic” which was especially important with the rumblings of World War II overseas. The film encapsulates the optimism of America’s youth and the finale is a fascinating commentary on the state of the nation in 1940.
In the film, Rooney plays a high school band drummer with hopes of leading his own jazz orchestra one day, while Garland plays Mary, a singer who can't get Jimmy to notice her as anything more than a friend. Doesn’t this sound familiar?
Jimmy and his band eventually get the chance to audition for the famous orchestra leader Paul Whiteman which leads to a manic baton-whirling finale with enough cheerfulness to bring a smile to any pessimist’s face.
The film is obviously a vehicle for Rooney, but Garland’s role is quite a feature and she sings many memorable songs. One of them is a beautiful number called, “Our Love Affair” with music written by her mentor Roger Edens and the lyrics by Arthur Freed, the film's producer. The song was nominated for an Academy Award that year!
Judy turned 18 years old while making this picture and she met one of her future husbands, director Vincente Minnelli. They wouldn’t fall in love, however, until they worked together in 1944 on a little film called Meet Me In St. Louis.
Minnelli was on the set at the request of Arthur Freed who was having trouble with a scene. “We need a big production number here,” Freed told Minnelli. “Mickey and Judy are in the house, and he’s telling her he wants to be a famous band leader like Paul Whiteman. Something big has to happen.” Minnelli looked around and noticed a bowl of fruit on the table and said, “Why don’t you take that bowl of fruit and have Mickey set each piece of fruit as if it were a musical instrument. Apples for fiddles, oranges for brass, bananas for woodwinds. Then have Mickey conduct with his hands. The pieces of fruit are now puppet characters of musicians." (This is an excerpt from his fascinating 1974 autobiography I Remember it Well.)
The charming and imaginative number is one of the film’s highlights and Louis B. Mayer always referred to Minnelli as “the genius who took a bowl of fruit and made a big production number out of it.”
The trailer titles feature two deco sans serif type treatments and the standard music note motif which was very popular at the time with the explosion of the musical motion picture.
The main titles are really lovely and feature some unique futurist deco type. Paul Whiteman even gets third billing!
It’s fascinating to see Garland growing up on film. She’s one of the first stars we get to see grow from a child star into an icon and observe what happens to a person during those years. I’ve bored so many of my friends to death telling them about how much I believe Judy Garland and Britney Spears have in common and how the time they existed in facilitated many of their successes or failures and the constantly observed life is bound to be affected by that observation and the constant commentary that goes along with it. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll get to writing that book eventually...
I love collecting lobby cards and posters. Check out the cool type solutions found here and also the color photographs of Garland and Rooney. I believe these were shot in Kodachrome.
Here’s the theatrical trailer! Warning: It’s quite frantic and joyful!