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According to Hollywood Reporter, M-G-M optioned Sy Gomberg's original screenplay in December 1948, at which time Judy Garland and Gene Kelly were announced for the starring roles. Although June Allyson was announced for the leading female role in February 1949, Garland was later reinstated. The film was Garland's first picture since being placed on suspension by M-G-M on May 10, 1949. Garland's suspension came during the filming of Annie Get Your Gun, from which she was fired and replaced by Betty Hutton. Following her suspension, Garland spent nearly three months at a Boston hospital, where she was treated for drug dependency.
According to a May 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, Busby Berkeley, the first director assigned to the film, was replaced by Charles Walters before production began. Contemporary news items in Daily Variety indicate that Walter Plunkett replaced Helen Rose as the film's head costume designer, and that garments designed by Rose were discarded following her replacement. Rose was later placed in charge of designing Gloria De Haven's costumes. Daily Variety news items list actor Michael Chapin and models Ann Beck, Lola Kendreck, Dona Damron and Pat Dean Smith in the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Hollywood Reporter production charts indicate that Joseph Ruttenberg worked as a co-cinematographer with Robert Planck in late December 1949 and early January 1950. A March 1950 Daily Variety news item notes that the "Get Happy" production number, which was to have been directed by dance director Nick Castle, was instead directed by Walters.
Modern sources relate the following information about the production: Producer Joe Pasternak initially wanted to cast Mickey Rooney opposite Garland, but because Rooney was no longer considered the box office draw that he had been in the past, Kelly was cast instead. Kelly and Walters disliked the script but agreed to do it only as a personal favor to Garland, whose career was near collapse. After three weeks of production, Pasternak, frustrated by Garland's frequent delays and erratic behavior, tried to abandon the picture. However, M-G-M production chief Louis B. Mayer refused to allow the picture to be halted and insisted that Pasternak give Garland another chance. The delays continued and additional problems were created by Garland's rapid gain in weight.
The "Get Happy" number was one of the last items on the film's production schedule, and was shot nearly three months after Garland had filmed her other scenes. During those months, Garland was treated by a hypnotist for weight loss, and succeeded in losing several pounds. Another musical number, entitled "Heavenly Music," was to have featured Garland singing and dancing with Kelly and Phil Silvers, but because she failed to show up on the set, the number was filmed without her. (Garland does, however, appear in her costume for the "Heavenly Music" number in the scene following the "Get Happy" number). Kelly choreographed himself in the "You Wonderful You" musical number, as well as the numbers "All for You" and "Portland Fancy." Castle choreographed other routines, including the "Dig-Dig-Dig Dig for Your Dinner" number.
Summer Stock was the last film Garland made for M-G-M, the studio to which she had been under contract for many years. Garland was fired by M-G-M in September 1950, while working on Royal Wedding in a part she had taken over from the then pregnant June Allyson. Jane Powell replaced Garland, who did not appear in another film until 1954, when she starred in A Star Is Born.