“Frances Gumm, wow!”
– Judy Garland, 1943
May 20, 1930: Frances (Judy) and her two sisters performed at the Easter Star “Sunshine Chapter” sixteenth birthday held at the Masonic Hall in Lancaster, California.
May 20, 1934: Judy’s father, Frank Gumm, wrote this letter to Jimmy Starr, a syndicated editor at the “Los Angeles Times.” Frank referenced the sisters’ current engagement at the Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles, California. May 20th was the last night of that engagement. This letter shows how proud Frank was of his youngest daughter.
My Dear Sir: –
As a reader and an appreciative one of your excellent column, I am presuming to write you a line in regard to my little girl, Frances Gumm, whom you were kind enough to notice in your column when she appeared with Teddy Joyce at Warner’s Hollywood theater; you will recall perhaps that you referred to her as “little hotcha singer and a show stopper.” We appreciated this so much and the article is in the little girl’s scrapbook.
All three of the girls are appearing on the frolic at the Gilmore Stadium this week-end; working at Leon Errols Beer Garden and going over, if I do brag a bit, very good indeed.
The other day the little one, Frances, 10 years old, made a wisecrack that I think is “hot” and I thought maybe you could use it. If you can I would get a big kick out of it and if you can’t there is no harm done in asking anyway I hope. It would run something like this.
“The other day little Frances Gumm, the ten-year old member of the Gumm Sisters trio who appeared last week-end at the Movie Stars frolic at the Gilmore Stadium, wanted to go downtown in Los Angeles alone. Her mother protested that such a thing would be out of the question. Frances wanted to know WHY and her mother advised her of the danger of being kidnapped. Frances said “Well mother why would anyone want to kidnap ME?” Her mother replied “Well they would kidnap you and hOLD you for RANSOM. Little Frances thought for a moment and replied, “Why mother, what’s the matter with “RANSOME” can’t he OLD his own girls?”
Again thank you for giving the baby the nice little mention. you did and assuring you if you can use this gag I would be grateful to you I am with sincere wishes,
Very truly yours,
[Frank A Gumm]
May 20, 1939: Judy, Mickey Rooney, and June Preisser were on the “Interior Drugstore” set filming scenes for Babes in Arms. Time called: 9 a.m.; lunch: 12:40-1:40 p.m.; time dismissed: 5:56 p.m.
Also on this day, this news blurb about Judy breaking up “The Dead End” gang due to her romance with the “gang’s” leader, Billy Halop. Judy really did date Halop, however briefly, but the rest of the news story is, again, studio fabrication.
May 20, 1940: Strike Up The Band filming continued with scenes on the “Exterior Holden Porch” (the “Andy Hardy” street on MGM’s Lot 2) and “Interior Hospital” sets. Time called: 9 a.m.; dismissed: 4:45 p.m.
May 20, 1942: For Me And My Gal filming continued with the filming of the original “Finale” on the “Interior Palace” set. Time called: 10 a.m.; dismissed: 6:25 p.m. This original finale featured Judy and co-stars Gene Kelly and George Murphy more or less equally. The sequence was re-recorded and re-shot in late June after preview audiences responded that Murphy should have ended up with Judy at the end. The new finale removed Murphy and along with other retakes, Kelly’s character became more sympathetic and thus making him the one audiences wanted to “get the gal.”
The footage no longer survives but the audio does, and was first released on the 1977 LP “Cut! Outtakes from Hollywood’s Greatest Musicals – Vol. 3” and remastered, in stereo, on the 1996 CD soundtrack of the film released by Rhino Records.
Photos above provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!
May 20, 1943: Decca Records released “Fascinating Rhythm” and “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart” for the first time in the U.S. as part of the album “The Judy Garland Second Souvenir Album.”
Judy recorded the singles on July 29, 1939, but they were not immediately released in the U.S. “Zing!” and the third single recorded that day, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” were released in the U.K. on Decca’s Brunswick label in the spring of 1940. “Fascinating Rhythm” stayed in the vaults. “Harry” was not released in the U.S. until 1984 when it was included on the fantastic MCA Records LP “Judy Garland – From The Decca Vaults.
Also released on this day, on Decca Single #18524, were Judy’s recordings of “That Old Black Magic” and “I Never Knew (I Could Love Anybody Like I’m Loving You.” Judy had recorded both on July 26, 1942, during a recording session with Gene Kelly at which the two duetted on “For Me And My Gal” and “When You Wore A Tulip.” All four were also released on “The Judy Garland Second Souvenir Album.”
Decca went to their vaults to create this album, and a few new singles releases, due to a current music industry strike. The President of the American Federation of Musicians, James Petrillo, announced a ban on their members making any recordings when the union’s existing contract with the recording industry expired on August 1, 1942. Luckily for Decca, they had several unreleased Garland tracks to choose from.
Decca would be the first to settle with the union in late 1943. By that time, Judy had signed another contract to record another 12 sides for the label, which would result in the second Garland “Cast Album”, this time for her final co-starring role with Mickey Rooney, Girl Crazy (MGM 1943).
Also on May 20, 1943, this notice went out that Judy was scheduled to appear with Andre Kostelanetz and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Judy appeared with Kostelanetz at the Robin Hood Dell on July 1st (not May 24th as the notice states). It was, in fact, her very first concert appearance and a forerunner of her legendary concert years that began eight years later.
May 20, 1947: Judy enjoyed the first day of a rare five days off from MGM. She had returned to the studio in December 1946 to begin work on The Pirate after having given birth to Liza Minnelli.
Photo: Page from the MGM Casting Office Ledger, 1947; 1947 promotional portrait for MGM Records.
On this date, she began work on her guest appearance in Words and Music. MGM paid her $100,000 for two songs to be performed in a party sequence in the film, playing herself. The amount was what they had withheld from her salary for the delays during the filming of The Pirate.
Judy was due at the studio at 1:30 p.m.; she arrived at 1:50 p.m.; dismissed: 2:30 p.m. The time was spent rehearsing “I Wish I Were In Love Again” with Mickey Rooney. This was their last movie appearance together.
May 20, 1949: The big Hollywood news on this day, and for several days, was that of Betty Hutton being chosen as Judy’s replacement in Annie Get Your Gun. Judy had recently been taken off the film, and reports of the costs MGM endured of Judy’s time on the film ranged from $250,000 to $1,250,00. Judy is quoted as saying, “I just have to face the fact that much of this was my own fault and the studio had every right to replace me. It’s a business making motion pictures and the studio just couldn’t afford to take chances and I don’t blame them.”
Columnist Jimmie Fidler was especially harsh on Judy in his column, published on this day, referring to Judy as a pampered neurotic and MGM as well-meaning:
The case of Judy Garland grows more baffling day by day. Few actresses in Hollywood history have been more pampered; none, I’m sure, has ever made life more difficult for well-meaning employers.
If you or I had, in cash, all the money that her sulks and tantrums – not to mention bonafide illnesses – have cost Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer we could invest in gilt-edged securities and live comfortably for the rest of our lives on the income.
Metro’s patience has been phenomenal.
Not until her “temperament” got so far out of hand that it promised to wreck a picture worth millions did the studio bosses finally – and reluctantly – level the boom and place her on suspension.
Admittedly, it’s much easier to sit on the sidelines and criticise than it is to make the decisions in a case like Judy’s but I can’t help wondering whether M.G.M. hasn’t overdone the virtue of patience, thereby jeopardizing not only the studio’s interests by Miss Garlan’s as well.
Her current suspension might have been an effective “spanking” if it had been handed out when she first began to get out of line but I’ll be money-to-marbles that it will do little good now.
Pampered, deferred to and spoiled for years, Judy seems to have become a confirmed neurotic, incapable of controlling herself when the going gets the least bit tough.
Certainly a four-week suspension, as announced by the studio, will be too weak a medicine to effect a cure.
No matter what’s wrong with Miss Garland – deep-seated nervous affliction or just plain bad disposition – it’s going to require something more than a sugar-coated pill to get her back on an even keel.
May 20, 1962: Judy’s recent TV special, “The Judy Garland Show,” (commonly known as “Judy, Frank, and Dean”) was nominated for two Emmy Awards, “Outstanding Program Achievements in the Fields of Variety and Music” and “Program of the Year,” losing to “The Garry Moore Show” and “Hallmark Hall of Fame, (Episode: “Victoria Regina”)” respectively.
May 20, 1964: Judy’s Australian tour took her to the Festival Hall in Melbourne. Unfortunately, Judy was an hour late and fighting vocal issues. The result was an angry audience. She only made it through half of the show before leaving the stage. The reviews were brutal. Sadly the whole experience would be remembered as a low point in Judy’s life and career in spite of the triumphs in Sydney just days before.