“Surely the greatest musical performer the movies have ever produced”
– Jerry Parker, syndicated columnist, 1974
May 17, 1931: Judy and her sisters, “The Gumm Sisters,” were most likely in rehearsals for the upcoming July show “Stars of Tomorrow.” Although none of the acts are listed in this article and ad for Maurice L. Kusell, rehearsals had already begun for the show.
May 17, 1935: Judy and her sisters, “The Garland Sisters,” received this review in the Los Angeles newspaper, the “Illustrated Daily News.” The paper said, “The Three Garland Sisters are good, while the youngest, Francis, comes near to being a sensation.” The sisters were on the third day of a three-week engagement at the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles, part of Rube Wolf’s stage show that accompanied the feature film, in this case, Mae West’s Goin’ to Town.
May 17, 1939: Filming on Babes In Arms continued with more scenes shot on the “Interior Moran Living Room” set. Judy had a call for 8:30 a.m.; lunch: 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.; dismissed: 5:30 p.m.
May 17, 1940: Filming on Strike Up The Band continued with scenes shot on the “Interior Judd Living Room” and “Interior Jim’s Bedroom” sets. Time called: 9:00 a.m.; dismissed: 4:30 p.m.
May 17, 1941: These photos were taken of Judy on the set of Life Begins For Andy Hardy. The film was Judy’s last appearance in the Hardy series. It was also the first film at MGM in which Judy did not sing (aside from a quick “Happy Birthday”) even though she pre-recorded four songs: “Easy To Love“; “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee”); “Abide With Me“; and “My Rosary.”
According to the papers, on this date, Judy and her Hardy co-star Mickey Rooney took part in entertaining a contingent of “South American naval chieftains” at an afternoon luncheon at MGM.
Photos provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!
May 17, 1943: Filming on Girl Crazy continued with scenes shot on the “Exterior Station” and “Exterior Camp” sets on MGM’s backlot. The company had been in Palm Springs, California, in early May for some location shooting that was completed on May 11th.
May 17, 1944: Judy, Bing Crosby, and Jimmy Durante performed, and recorded, Mail Call #91 which was sent to the troops overseas. All three performed “The Groaner, The Canary, and The Nose.” Judy sang “Can Do, Will Do (The Song of the Seabees)” and “The Trolley Song.”
Listen to “The Groaner, The Canary, and The Nose” here:
Listen to “The Trolley Song” here:
Listen to “Can Do, Will Do” here:
The performances from the show were previously released on the 1992 CD “Judy Garland & Bing Crosby – Mail Call.”
May 17, 1945: This wonderful advertisement appeared in various magazines promoting The Clock.
May 17, 1945: Filming on The Harvey Girls continued with scenes shot on the “Interior R.R. Coach” set. Time called: 10:00 a.m.; Judy arrived at 10:45 a.m.; dismissed: 6:20 p.m.
May 17, 1947: The Pirate filming continued with scenes on the “Interior Don Pedro’s House.” Judy had a call for 10 a.m., arriving at 10:40 a.m.
Per the assistant director’s notes: “1:15-1:52 – Wait for Miss Garland; returned to stage after lunch at 1:49; Ready to shoot at 1:52 p.m. Note: At 1:15 p.m. Miss Garland told Mr. Shenberg in her dressing room that she had pains in her stomach and she was not well. She also said that was the reason she was late this morning, but that she would try and work out the day and that she would have to work slowly to take things easy in order to keep on her feet. 2:34-2:53: Wait for Miss Garland: resting in her dressing room. Dismissed at 6:20 p.m.”
May 17, 1948: Judy was scheduled to return to MGM after a rare two months vacation to begin work on her guest appearance in Words and Music. She had worn herself out filming both The Pirate and Easter Parade over the preceding year and a half and was dangerously thin. She was still ill and didn’t make this return date. The studio rescheduled her return to May 20, 1948.
May 17, 1949: Harold Heffernan reported on Judy’s being fired from Annie Get Your Gun.
Eight months ago Judy Garland was taken from the star role of “The Barkelys of Broadway” because of a nervous breakdown. The company came to a halt after eight weeks of work. Ginger Rogers was finally substituted. Much footage was tossed away. The fiasco ran up an enormous loss.
Once again, last week, MGM was forced after six weeks of shooting to stop the pretentious musical, “Annie Get Your Bun,” for withdrawal of the same actress from the star role. She is now under suspension. The company again has come to a complete standstill. The studio searches again for a star to replace the ailing Judy. As before, the loss can be tremendous.
Many businessmen, in awe of this strange situation, have asked the question: What prompts a big motion-picture company to take such a terrific gamble on the temperament and physical condition of an individual who only a short time before had proved herself unable to finish the assigned task?
In no other industry, perhaps, would such risks be assumed on a person whose previous record has caused a major debacle. This long-odds practice continues in Hollywood even though money no longer flows through box offices as it did up to and during the war years.
The film companies today economize by picking up stray nails in the studio streets. They fire important publicity workers right and left. They have raised food prices in their commissaries. One major lot asked employees to bring their own towels for the washrooms.
Petty retrenchments are practiced in every form – but undependable actor personalities, cast in leading roles, continue to jeopardize investments of $3,000,000 or more.
Some effort was made to check on Judy Garland’s physical condition before “Annie” was started. As the story goes, Louis B. Mayer, who heads the company, told his star he would not permit her to start the film unless she went under the care of two physicians named by the studio. Judy complied with the ultimatum, but failed to keep her doctors’ appointments regularly. In fact, intimates declare, she accorded the medicos the same desultory recognition she did the stage of “Annie Get Your Gun.”
Gossip columnist, and Judy fan, Hedda Hopper defended Judy in her own column published on this same day, perhaps in response to Heffernan:
GARLAND FOR JUDY: Judy Garland was 12 when she made “Pigskin Parade.” She’s 25 now. During those 13 years, Judy has made 30 pictures. They were not easy ones. She had to learn to dance, act, imitate. She became a great entertainer while girls her age were just growing up. For four years she was tops at the box-office. She also attended school, made personal appearances, did radio spots, and the other thousand and one things that go into a star’s life. Before you condemn her, take a look at what she’s done. Singing came from Judy’s heart. She still doesn’t know in what key she sings . . .
Judy was taken off Annie Get Your Gun on May 10th. Because it was the second time in a year that she had been suspended from a high-profile film, it was big news.
May 17, 1951: Columnist Jimmie Fidler got into the act of making comments about Judy’s weight.
May 17, 1954: A screening of the incomplete A Star Is Born was held at Warner Bros. for some of the industry producers and directors who were working on the Warners lot at the time.
May 17, 1955: The cover of “Une Semaine de Paris” magazine.
Scan provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!
May 17, 1964: Judy’s second concert at the Sydney Stadium in Sydney, Australia, the previous night (May 16th) was an even bigger success than her premiere night at the venue on May 13th. A recording made from the audience survives, see links below. After the concert, a promoter insulted Judy by calling her a “freak” singer because of what she had done to her audience. He meant it as a compliment, but Judy slapped his face after asking him to repeat what he had said, and everything began to unravel.
Listen to “That’s Entertainment!” here:
From the Sydney Morning Herald, Jock Veitch’s column about Judy laying low:
Stay at home Judy has no tears for us
She said it whenever she appeared in public – which was not often. She said it when she got off the plane last Monday morning; she said it at her huge Press conference and she said t from the stage.
“They always say I’m sobbing and crying,” she kept saying. She made it sound like a joke – a grim one.
“They said I was sobbing and crying when I got off the plane. Actually, I thought I was rather gay then,” she insisted at her crowded Press conference.
Actually all they said was after the long plane trip she looked tired and a little confused by her tumultuous airport reception.
“I’m laughing and happy now,” she went on. “I suppose you’ll have to say I laughed through the sobs and tears,” she teased.
But there were no tantrums from the 42-year-old singer who climbed into the hearts of millions at the age of 16 with the wonderful “Wizard of Oz.”
Sackings, massive temperament, divorces, suicide attempts, heartbreak, litigation there may have been in other places, but not in Sydney.
Not that Sydney saw much of the fabled performer, a tiny figure just on five feet tall and weighing just under seven stone. Nor did she see much of Sydney.
Most of the week she stayed secure on the thirteenth floor of the Chevron Hilton Hotel where she occupied the plush, three-bedroomed Oriental suite.
She walked along the corridor for her Press conference on the Monday, she went briefly to a Greek restaurant for dinner on Tuesday before she looked over the Stadium, she went to the Stadium on Wednesday for her concert and went straight home again, and on Thursday she went downstairs in the hotel to see her friend comedienne Sue Carson perform.
That was it. She had no rehearsals; she had brought a conductor and two musicians to Australia with her and they rehearsed some local men.
But she did not go into action entirely cold for her first performance.
She paced the Stadium for about an hour and a half on Tuesday getting the feel of the place. She checked its acoustics, its stage and its exits like a true professional.
And the next night she proved her professionalism still more. For five minutes before the show started the 10,000 people crowded around the stage yelled and clapped for her.
People crowded around her in the aisle as she jostled her way to the stage, touching her, shaking her hand and trying to speak to her.
At the interval 16 uniformed police held back the crowd so she could get back to her dressing room untouched.
But this upset her. She did not want police protection and she politely asked that it be withdrawn when she next left the stage.
So when she left the stage the next time she had to rely on the protection only of her actor friend Mr. Mark Herron, her constant companion in Australia, who ushered her off.
She quietly asked the hundreds of people trying to mob her. “Make a pathway for me, please,” and they did.
That was about all. The rest of the time she spent in her suite reading books, sleeping and learning the lines of a play called “The Owl And The Pussycat.”
She and Mr. Herron will appear together in the play in London after they leave Australia.
“I can honestly say,” promoter Harry M. Miller said yesterday, “that I have never worked with an artist who has caused me less trouble.”
“She’s been marvelous, perfect. She’s been pleasant and co-operative and hasn’t complained about a thing.”
But she has given Mr. Miller one worry. She insists on going to Melbourne today by car rather than by plane.
“I want to see the country,” she told him.
So today she will leave in a hired care and spend tonight at a motel somewhere near the State border.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” said Mr. Miller. “There are so many maniacal drivers around on Sundays. I certainly don’t want to lose her.”
May 17, 1965: Judy danced “a wild watusi” at the birthday party of her road manager, Karl Brent, at the Daisy Club in Hollywood.
May 17, 1968: Judy’s ex-husband Sid Luft and Raymond Filiberti, who was really “Group Five,” sold Judy’s contract – as security in exchange for a loan of $18,750 – to two businessmen, Leon Greenspan, and Howard Harper; The latter’s real name was Harker, and he, like Filiberti, had a police record, a long one, and had been found guilty by the state of New Jersey, on various dates, of disorderly conduct and of strong-armed threats. For the payment of one dollar, Greenspan and Harper got the exclusive use of Judy’s services for the next year, along with both the screenplay of the still unmade Born in Wedlock from 1956, and “certain coal deposits located in the counties of Grundy, Sequatchie, Bledsoe, and Cumberland in the State of Tennessee.”
The $18,750 loan to Luft and Filiberti had to be repaid within 90 days, which was August 17, 1968. The final official signing-over of her contract was not completed until October 28, 1968, when Harper, and Greenspan – Greenspan had acted as his own Notary Public on the assignment agreement – filed a Summons and Complaint against Group Fice and Raymond Filiberti, in the Supreme Court of Westchester County. A copy of the assignment dated May 17, 1968, still exists, minus the signatures, and was reprinted in Anne Edward’s 1975 biography, “Judy Garland.”
May 17, 1970: The famous, or infamous, MGM auction continued into its 15th day. The focus for this day was on “Star Wardrobe.” The highlight of the many amazing costumes and other apparel was the auction of the Ruby Slippers that Judy wore in The Wizard of Oz (1939). The auction began at 1 p.m. and after the slippers were brought out for all to see, the bidding began and hit a frenzy. Debbie Reynolds wanted them for her planned museum of Hollywood memorabilia but she was outbid. The winning bid, $15,000, was placed by Dick Wonder acting on behalf of an anonymous client. That client donated the pair to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History.
At the time, the public assumed that this was the only pair. But then a woman in Texas, Roberta Bauman, came forward proving that she won a pair in a contest in 1939. It turned out that Kent Warner, who was tasked with putting together costumes and other items for the auction, discovered four pairs. He sold all but the pair that was in the best shape, commonly called the “Witch’s Shoes” because they’re believed to be the pair that was on the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East in the Munchkinland sequence as well as being the “clicking pair” used for close-ups. They’re the only pair without felt on the bottom. Warner sold one pair to Michael Shaw. Those are the pair stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005 (recovered in 2018). The other pair that Warner sold, to Debbie Reynolds, was the “Arabian” pair of test shoes, so named because of the curled toe.
Other items of interest auctioned on this same day were: The Cowardly Lion’s costume which sold for $2,400. One of the hats worn by Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West was sold for $450.
May 17, 1974: MGM’s anthology film That’s Entertainment! had its world premiere at the Beverly Theater in Los Angeles, California. The film was produced by Jack Haley, Jr., who was the son of Jack Haley, the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, as part of the celebration of MGM’s 50th anniversary. The post-premiere party took place at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and was attended by a “who’s who” of old (and new) Hollywood including Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart, Ava Gardner, Margaret O’Brien, Myrna Loy, Donna Reed, and among the new stars, Judy’s daughter Liza Minnelli. Liza was dating Jack Haley, Jr. and the two would wed that following September 15th.
That’s Entertainment! was a milestone for both MGM and Judy. The film was a surprise hit that summer, bringing in a lot of revenue as well as renewed interest in the Golden Age of MGM Musicals. The public hadn’t seen MGM’s great musicals on the big screen in years aside from various local art houses, revival screenings, and some film festivals.
For Judy’s legacy, That’s Entertainment! introduced her MGM career and achievements to a whole new set of fans, as well as reintroducing her to the public who just five years earlier had mourned her death after what seemed like a final year spent in the tabloids. Seeing Judy in all of her glory was a revelation to many who had forgotten or never seen her early films. Judy was accorded two sections in the film, one that featured her “Let’s Put On A Show” musicals with Mickey Rooney (plus a little “Andy Hardy” footage) as well as a second section devoted to solely her. If any single star came out of the film above the rest, it was Judy Garland, and rightly so. As Jerry Parker noted in his syndicated review of the film, “It is Miss Garland who emerges as the star of stars of this musical epic and affirms her place as surely the greatest musical performer the movies have ever produced.”
The 2-LP soundtrack album, oddly issued by MCA Records instead of MGM Records, was also a hit, featuring recordings previously unavailable. It also featured early attempts to remix some of the pre-recordings into stereo. The result was that the chorus for the excerpt of “On The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” from The Harvey Girls, moved from one channel to the other. This confused soundtrack fans who knew that the recording pre-dated stereo, not knowing that MGM recorded in an early multi-channel format, many of those channels survived. It wouldn’t be until the 1990s when technology had advanced that the multi-channels could be remixed and released on CD and laserdisc.
Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s That’s Entertainment! pages for details about the original album and its subsequent releases on LP and CD.