Summer Stock takes place on a farm, a seedier setting—quite literally—than most MGM musicals. Perhaps that’s why this one has a certain looseness, a freeing sense of play, compared to many of the others, where grand claims about the importance of the theater are made within show business’ own hallowed halls. Judy Garland plays Jane Falbury, a plucky young woman struggling to keep her family farm afloat. When her younger sister (Gloria DeHaven), an aspiring actress, arrives with her theater troupe looking for a place to rehearse, Jane agrees to exchange space in the barn for help with the chores. (The director is Charles Walters, who also worked with Garland on Easter Parade.) Gene Kelly plays Joe D. Ross, the troupe’s leader, and while he and Garland are good together—at one point they turn a staid barn dance into a burst of competitive joy—it’s interesting that the film’s highlights are two solo numbers. Garland delivers one of the definitive performances of her career: “Get Happy,” where she sports a fedora, tights, and a half dozen male backup dancers. I don’t know if she’s ever been more at ease on the screen. And then there’s Kelly, whose own ease and fluidity—to say nothing of his downright dreamboatiness—are shocking, even if you’ve already seen Singin’ in the Rain 10 times. Alone in the barn after rehearsals one night, Joe amuses himself with a light, improvised tap that involves a creaky floor board and a discarded newspaper. It evolves into an intricate, five-minute routine, the music eventually reprising “You Wonderful You” from earlier in the film. It’s fitting, for Summer Stock, that a seemingly throwaway moment becomes one of the loveliest things I’ve ever seen on the screen.