Harvey Girls, The (1946): George Sidney’s Oscar-Winning Musical, Starring Judy Garland, Angela Lansbury, John Hodiak

MGM’s Technicolor musical western (or western musical), about the Fred Harvey chain of restaurants, stars Judy Garland at the height of her popularity (right after “Meet Me in the St. Louis”) as a 19th-century mail-order bride.

Directed by George Sidney (who was not Vincente Minnelli in vision or talent), “The Harvey Girls” is loosely based on the historical chronicle by Samuel Hopkins Adams. 

Upon arriving in New Mexico, Susan Bradley (Judy Garland) discovers that her husband-to-be is no other but the town drunk. To cut her losses, she takes a job at the local Harvey restaurant, a place aiming to bring some culture civilization and class to the wide open wilderness.

Harvey’s operation is challenged by saloon-owner John Hodiak, corrupt-judge Preston S. Foster, and the local-madam Em, played with penache by Angela Lansbury (who always looked older than her real age).

With the help of tenderfoot Ray Bolger, Garland and her fellow waitresses fight the corrupt elements in town.

In the supporting cast are Cyd Charisse, Marjorie Main, Chill Wills, Kenny Baker and Virginia O’Brien The songs are mediocre, with the exception of the Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer’s Oscar-winning “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.”

“Harvey Girl” is a joyous, upbeat and sunny A tribute to the New England ladies, who went out West to provide miners and cowboys superior service and cuisine.


Oscar Nominations: 2

Song: “On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe,” music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

Scoring of Musical: Lennie Hayton,


Oscar Awards: 1

Best Song

Oscar Context:

The Scoring Oscar went to vet Morris Stoloff for the musical biopic, “The Jolson Story.”

Running time: 102 Minutes

Directed by George Sidney II.

Screenplay: Edmund Beloin, Nathaniel Curtis, Harry Crane, James O’Hanlon, Samson Raphaelson.

Released January 1, 1946.

DVD: April 30, 2001