“I used to work with people who kept me in a box until they needed me. I’d come out and work when they said so, then go back to my box. Now I’m free.”
– Judy Garland, 1963
May 18, 1937: Judy’s weekly appearance on the radio show “Jack Oakie’s College.” She sang: “Suddenly” and “Play, Orchestra, Play” which included bits of “Blue Skies”, “April Showers”, “Look for The Silver Lining”, “Singin’ In The Rain”, and “I Got Rhythm.”
No recordings survive from this broadcast, but you can check out The Judy Room’s “Judy Sings! On the Radio” page and listen to other Garland radio performances from the era.
May 18, 1941: Judy took part in the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) salute to the Mutual radio network. No recording exists, nor is there any info about what Judy sang, but it’s known that along with Judy, David Rose (whom Judy was dating at the time and would soon marry), Tony Martin, Jerome Kern, Don Ameche, Eddy Duchin and other stars participated. George Jessel was the emcee. The show was 90 minutes long, with three half-hour periods broadcast out of New York, Chicago and Hollywood respectively.
Judy and David had recently attended a “Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty” party given by Milton Berle at the Beverly Hills Sand and Pool Club where guests were encouraged to wear old bathing suits and/or be in Keystone Cops attire. The party took place on either Saturday, May 3rd or Sunday, May 4th. Hedda Hopper’s column that Friday noted that she was laying low for the weekend and would “… miss Judy Garland’s unveiling of her new portrait, Milton Berle’s bathing party a la Mack Sennett …”
May 18, 1943: “Hard Work Led Judy Garland From Small Midwest Town to Film Fame”
PARENTS TOURED VAUDEVILLE CIRCUIT
She Was Spotted by a Scout While Doing Trio Act With Sisters
HOLLYWOOD – Setting for Judy Garland’s newest film story should be homelike enough for Judy. It is a small midwest town. The story, “Presenting Lily Mars” is about a 19-year-old girl, daughter of the town’s hard-working milliner, sho has convinced her family and herself that she is potentially a great actress but she has succeeded in impressing no one else.
In real life, Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minn., where her father, Frank Gumm, operated a theater. Her father and mother had toured the vaudeville circuits previously but had settled in Minnesota for a time. Judy made her acting debut at eight years of age, when she sang “Jingle Bells” eight times in a row for an entranced audience during a Christmas week show. Her father carried her kicking and screaming off stage – even then she loved the footlights.
Some years later the garlands moved to California. They worked at any small theater that would book them and eventually settled in Lancaster, Ca, where Mr. Gumm took over the local theater. For nine years the family lived in the small desert town. Winter found the girls studying hard in school; summer found them working hard on the road. They played every theater on the west coast that would have them, but it wasn’t easy. Audiences often walked out and managers and critics panned them. One Christmas found the girls and their mother eating Christmas dinner at a drug store near the theater. It didn’t stop them, however: the hardship only made them mad and gave them courage to go on.
Just before sisters Virginia and Sue got married, a talent scout spotted Judy dancing with them in a trio act, and signed her to an M-G-M contract. It was still tough going for a long time, but Judy made the grade and her role in “Love Finds Andy Hardy” set her future definitely for her.
May 18, 1947: Two clippings. One is an example of a typical record store advertisement of the time. The Decca “Cast Album” of songs from Meet Me In St. Louis is listed, selling for $3.15. The second, dated May 17th and published on the 18th, notes the new dance team of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly and both The Pirate and Easter Parade. At this point, Kelly hadn’t yet broken his ankle prompting Fred Astaire to be his replacement.
Of particular note is the mention that Judy had gained 20 pounds and was looking beautiful at 110 pounds, which indicates that she had previously allegedly been down to 95 pounds. Judy’s weight was always a topic for the columns and in the forties, it was often remarked that she was too skinny rather than “plump” as she had previously been described, and would again be described in the 1950s.
On this day in 1947, Judy was at home sick from MGM. She had been working on The Pirate with Gene Kelly and, contrary to the article’s note about her gaining weight, was not in good health and was once again wearing herself out.
May 18, 1952: The last night of Judy’s four-week engagement at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The engagement grossed $220,000 including $56,000 in the third week alone. Judy’s next concert appearance was on May 26th when opened her vaudeville show to the Curran Theater in San Francisco. In the interim, she appeared on Bing Crosby’s radio show and was granted her divorce from Vincente Minnelli freeing her up to marry Sid Luft.
May 18, 1963: This article by Jack Ryan appeared in the syndicated “Family Weekly” news magazine.
Big Talent, Big Problems
By JACK RYAN
JUDY GARLAND was scheduled to being a series of quickie personal appearances in New York City at 6:30 one evening last winter.
At 6:45 I was with an entourage awaiting her in a chartered bus outside her hotel. We were told, “She’s exhausted. They had to call a doctor for her, but she’ll be down soon. Just wait.”
The prediction was true. Smiling determinedly, her dark plum eyes bright and merry, Judy stepped aboard the bus about an hour later and began an exhausting tour of movie houses showing Warner Bros.’ full-length cartoon, “Gay Purr-ee,” which featured her voice.
Did summoning a doctor mean Judy had run herself into health problems again? She once said of her early career at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: “It was take a pill for this, take a pill for that – for sleep, to slim down, to pep up.” Ultimately, she suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1959 she had a serious liver ailment; a doctor told her she would never work again. Judy virtually willed herself back to health – and another of the famous Garland “comebacks.” How was she now?
“I never felt better,” Judy said, once the bus was underway. She shrugged off the doctor business and explained that she had made three of these exhausting tours in four days. On her “off” day, she flew to Washington to entertain at a party for President Kennedy.
“All I need – or ever needed – ” she replied, “is happiness, and I’ve got that now.”
Happiness has come and gone – and come again – with one of the world’s greatest women entertainers. Why was she “up” now – especially with newspapers reporting the bitter recriminations between her and her husband?
With a sweeping gesture, Judy indicated a corps of agents and attendants. “Because I’m working with people I love and who love me. I used to work with people who kept me in a box until they needed me. I’d come out and work when they said so, then go back to my box. Now I’m free.”
Some 10 years ago Judy used almost the same words to describe her “first” movie career, one which included the classic, “The Wizard of Oz.” Now freedom included the most recent separation from her husband, Sid Luft, who is generally credited with reviving Judy’s failing career in the ’50s with spectacularly successful tours of concert halls and night clubs.
THE SEPARATION, of course, was temporary and, as of this writing, the Lufts are together again and hopeful of escaping the past history of big problems with great success, both professional and personal. When not battling itself, however, the Luft-Garland relationship battled hotels, costumers, tax men, and club owners. A few years ago Freddie Fields took over Judy’s management and started her “second” movie career, which is highlighted this year with two United Artists releases, “A Child Is Waiting” and “I Could Go On Singing.” And next year Miss Garland will star on her own weekly television show.
Judy begins her new career with a new figure – a svelte 105-119 pounds, quite a trimming achievement for a woman who always has admitted to a weight problem. She claims that Louis B. Mayer once assigned a girl to live with her to make sure she didn’t raid the refrigerator. How, at 40, was she slimmer than ever? Was she dieting?
“It’s simply that I’m happy,” she replied sweetly.
“Nothing more?” I asked incredulously.
“No! I’m just happy!”
For many years Judy Garland has uttered two phrases as if they were a credo: “I’m happy” and “I’m free.” She has incanted them with prayerlike fervor after illnesses, career pitfalls, marital reconciliations – or, as the case may be, marital separations. But probably Judy Garland is truly free and happy in only two places: before an audience, where she has a rare magic of loving the people she entertains and being loved in return; and alone with her three children, for whom she works diligently to give a “sense of security” – and gets the same in return.
But other than these relatively brief moments, Judy’s life is as turbulent and tormenting as it was in the years she recalls with bitterness and now says are part of the past. For example, despite protestations of good health and freedom from pills and diets, Judy ended up a recent series of engagements on a sadly familiar note. Booked for three weeks in a Lake Tahoe, Nev., casino, she collapsed in her dressing room. A doctor pronounced her case one of complete physical exhaustion” and advised canceling the rest of the engagement.
On the legal front, life has quieted since the highly publicized rift last winter. That breakup was a bitter one, but then so had been four preceding ones. In 1958, Judy’s layers charged Luft with alleged cruelty. Yet not long after, Judy was in court testifying that Luft should have custody of his son by his former wife, Lynn Bari. When questioned about his temper, she said: “he has a very good disposition.”
The 1962-1963 separation was even more bitter. Luft claimed Judy had two detectives restrain him while she ran off with their two children Lorna, 10, and Joey, 7. Judy kept the youngsters under police guard and charged Luft with “extreme cruelty, mental in nature.” He countered by asking the court to refuse Judy custody of the children.
DURING A previous spat, the late Jerry Geisler, famed Hollywood lawyer, commented: “Sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes a bit longer, but they always make up.” This time, though, Judy told reporters: “No, we’ve tried it (reconciliation), and it didn’t work.”
Wrote a show-business expert: “So harsh were the words and accusations that neither Judy nor Sid can ever wipe them off the record.” Not long after, however, Judy became ill, Luft flew to her side, and they reconciled. From a San Francisco hotel, Luft announced they both had Asian flu: “We’re a couple of sick honeymooners.” They then went to the Bahamas on their fifth honeymoon.
During the rift, the Lufts’ two children had been living at a luxurious dude ranch on the shore of Lake Tahoe, where Judy established residence for her proposed divorce. Now that the divorce had been shelved, one of Judy’s first orders of business will be to “put down roots” for Joey’s and Lorna’s sake.
“I want to keep their lives, up to a certain age, as normal as possible. But how can it be when they travel all over?”
THE LUFTS have tried to “put down roots” in London, but unsuccessfully. Most recently Judy was thinking of New York: “The education is so good there, and I can travel to both Europe and the Coast without being away too long.”
Still, Las Vegas seems to have an attraction for her. Some of her best friends are connected with the lavish shows there, and Judy can walk around without being unduly besieged by fans. She herself does little gambling (she has few evident extravagances except clothes).
When Judy talks about her eldest daughter, Liza Minnelli, 17, her eyes mist as they do during an inspired torch song. For the past year, Liza has been studying acting in New York. She made her debut in a school production, and her mother says: “I went expecting to stand in the wings and help out, but she didn’t need me. She did it on her own.”
Liza’s off-Broadway debut in “Best Foot Forward” also convinced critics of her potential, yet Judy’s attitude remains watchfully maternal. “One day I heard Liza was asked to sing in a cartoon version of ‘The Wizard of Oz,'” Judy says. This is one of her own most memorable films, and the song, “Over the Rainbow,” is virtually her trademark.
I thought they were just exploiting Liza to use my name,” Judy told me. “But when I finally read the contract, it stated that she was to be billed under her own name. They wanted Liza, not Garland. I was out – and I didn’t mind!”
Judy Garland, of course, will never be “out” – down once in a while maybe, but she bounces right back, better than ever.