This glorified Technicolor commercial for the Fred Harvey restaurants stars Judy Garland as a 19th-century mail-order bride. Upon arriving in New Mexico, Garland discovers that her husband-to-be is the town drunk. She cuts her losses and takes a job at the local Harvey restaurant, an establishment which endeavors to bring a little civilization and class to the wide open spaces. Harvey's operation is challenged by saloon-owner John Hodiak, corrupt-judge Preston S. Foster, and local-madam Angela Lansbury. With the help of tenderfoot Ray Bolger, Garland and her fellow waitresses foil the corrupt elements in town. Prominent in the supporting cast are Cyd Charisse, Marjorie Main, Chill Wills, Kenny Baker and Virginia O'Brien (whose musical numbers aren't quite as rambunctious as the contributions of the others, mainly because O'Brien was pregnant during filming). The songs are for the most part perfunctory, with the spectacular exception of the Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer's Oscar-winning "Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe." The Harvey Girls is tenuously based on a more sober-sided historical volume by Samuel Hopkins Adams.
by Hal Erickson synopsis