“I was so enthralled by all that was happening, Judy’s wonderful voice filling this huge theater and the audience’s appreciation of witnessing musical talent at its best …” – Tom McGee
May 21, 1927: The first of a two-night engagement for the entire Gumm family at the family’s new theater, “The New Lancaster Theater.” “The Gumm Sisters” (Judy and her two sisters) as well as their mother and father, Frank and Ethel, performed. The sisters performed “Bye, Bye, Blackbird,” “When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along,” and “In A Little Spanish Town.” The local newspaper, the “Ledger-Gazette” stated: “The little daughters completely won the hearts of the audience with their songs and dances.”
May 21, 1932: Local girl, 9-year-old Frances Gumm (Judy Garland), took part in the “Annual May Musicale of the PTA” at the Lancaster High School Auditorium, Lancaster, California. It’s reported that she sang “Only God Can Make A Tree” and “Cherie.”
May 21, 1940: Filming on Strike Up The Band continued on the “Exterior Holden Porch” and “Interior Class Room” sets. Time called: 9:00 a.m.; dismissed: 4:32 p.m.
May 21, 1940: MGM’s “Studio News” publication noted the upcoming slate of production of film musicals. Judy was, of course, a huge part of the lineup which was a reflection of her clear trajectory to becoming the studio’s top female musical star.
May 21, 1941: Judy’s appearance in Life Begins For Andy Hardy was her final in the series. She had outgrown the “good pal” Betsy Booth role and was more than ready for adult roles.
May 21, 1941: Judy Garland records for 9 cents each.
May 21, 1942: Filing on For Me And My Gal continued with scenes shot on the “Interior Newark Palace” and “Exterior Palace” sets. Time called: 11:00 a.m.; dismissed: 5:50 p.m.
May 21, 1943: Here is another article that notes which job Judy’s sisters briefly held at MGM. The oldest, Sue (Mary Jane) worked for a time in the fan mail department and the second oldest Jimmie (Virginia) was a script girl. Over the years an urban legend has grown that claims Jimmie was a contract dancer at the studio and is allegedly seen in the background of a few of Judy’s musical numbers. This is just a legend and completely untrue. No records have ever been found to support this theory. In all of the newspaper blurbs from the time period (such as this one), there is no mention of either sister ever appearing on screen. In all honesty, neither sister was talented enough, nor were they professional dancers, to be hired by MGM as a contract dancer and to dance on that level. Unfortunately, IMDB listings incorrectly reflect this theory due to additions made by overzealous fans.
May 21, 1944: The Tennessean Sun in Nashville, Tennessee, reported on the death of Judy’s great aunt. Judy’s father, Frank Gumm, was originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and the town still reported on the comings and goings of the family both before Judy hit it big and naturally afterward. It’s unclear if Judy ever met her great aunt or not but probably not. After Judy and her sisters were born the family never visited the town.
Meanwhile, Judy’s MGM career was at its peak, with the studio allowing her to finally branch out and play a straight dramatic role (The Clock). One year later The Clock was enjoying success with audiences and critics. To this day remains one of Judy’s best film performances.
May 21, 1947: Judy was given the plum role of Annie Oakley in MGM’s version of the smash Broadway hit, Annie Get Your Gun. Sadly, exactly two years later newspapers were filled with the news that Betty Hutton was replacing Judy in the film.
May 21, 1948: The Pirate had just had its Radio City Musical Hall premiere the night before. Here is a review of the film from “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.”
May 21, 1949: A short two years after the 1947 notice shown above, the news was out that Judy had been removed from Annie Get Your Gun.
May 21, 1951: Here’s Judy entering and in concert at the Empire Theater in Glasgow, Scotland.
Judy Garland and Alfred Ellsworth, MBE, in Glasgow, Scotland, May 21, 1951
Judy had recently opened at The London Palladium which began her legendary “Concert Years.” This week-long engagement in Glasgow was a part of a tour of Great Britain that helped put Judy back on her feet professionally and prepped her for her record-breaking appearance at The Palace in New York.
Here is an account of Judy’s show written by Tom McGee and published in 2001 in a Betty Grable fan publication. Although McGee has his month incorrect, the article is a wonderful read (tap on the image to read it. A big thanks to Kim Lundgreen for sharing the article and the photos.
May 21, 1952: “The Bing Crosby Show” aired on CBS Radio, with Judy as Bing’s guest. Judy sang “When You’re Smiling”; “Mean To Me” and duetted with Bing on “When You Wore A Tulip.”
Listen to the complete show here:
Crosby’s shows were pre-recorded a week or two in advance which is why so many have survived for us to enjoy. Judy and Bing are magic together! The performances have been released on various LP and CDs, including the recent deluxe 4-CD boxed set “Classic Duets.”
May 21, 1959: The owner of the Town and Country Club in Brooklyn, New York, Bob Maksik, sued Judy and Sid Luft for $150,000. That’s the amount that Maksik claimed he lost due to Judy allegedly walking out on her contract for her engagement at the club that previous March (see March 20, 1958). When Judy walked out (March 30, 1958) she claimed it was due to Maksik hitting her.
There’s no information as to why it took a year for Maksik to file this lawsuit. It was reported that Judy hired Rita Hayworth’s layer, Bartley Crum, to represent her. However, I have not been able to find out what the outcome of the suit was. Most likely it was either dropped or settled out of court. Judy had a case (and photos) showing the physical abuse by Maksik which would have helped her case.
May 21, 1961: Judy returned to Carnegie Hall in New York, just a month after her legendary concert of April 23. Silent footage from this show exists (see video). Liza joined Judy on stage for a second rendition of “Swanee.”
May 21, 1964: Judy’s disastrous appearance in Melbourne, Australia was big news. The recent triumphs in Sydney were almost forgotten due to being overshadowed by the more dramatic, tabloid press of the Melbourne debacle. Here are a few articles (tap the images to read them). The report transcribed below is from the Chicago Tribune. On this day, Judy and Mark Herron flew from Melbourne returning to Sydney on an 8:00 p.m. flight.
JUDY GARLAND EVADES PRESS AFTER FIASCO
Jeered by Audience in Melbourne
SYDNEY, Australia, May 21 [Reuters] – Singer Judy Garland evaded reporters here today after arriving by plane in the wake of a storm she created in Melbourne.
She was dragged struggling to the plane at Melbourne airport earlier today after last night’s concert when she was jeered by an audience she kept waiting 65 minutes.
Miss Garland and her party were whisked off by two cars when they arrived at Sydney. Reporters and photographers were kept away until they had left.
Actor with Her
Miss Garland said, in a radio interview, that it may be time for her to quit singing.
She was scheduled to leave for Hong Kong tomorrow morning.
The 42-year-old singer, accompanied by an American actor, Mark Herron, arrived at Melbourne airport today 10 minutes before her plane was to leave. She stayed in a lounge until officials insisted she go aboard.
Walk from hell
Miss Garland cried “no, No,” as she was put on the plane. She tried to break free several times.
Last night she arrived late for her concert at Melbourne’s Festival Hall, tripped going on stage, and sang in a voice which critics described as “harsh and raspy.”
A steady stream of people walked out of the hall. After an extended intermission she sang three numbers and left.
Her performance was described as “the most humiliating professional musicians ever had to bear in Australia,” by J.D. Thomson, secretary of the musician’s union.
After the concert last night her manager, Karl Brent, said he thought the singer had laryngitis.
Brent explained Miss Garland’s struggling at the airport by saying that the zipper on her skirt had broken and she wanted it fixed before taking off.
May 21, 1969: Judy and her husband Mickey Deans few to New York. They returned to London on May 29th. They then flew back to New York the following week and stayed until June 17, 1969. These trips were for meetings on the “Judy Garland Cinema Mini-Theaters,” and they stayed at the apartment of the great jazz singer/pianist/arranger Charlie Cochran, on Lexington Avenue and 88th. Mickey had lived there with Charlie before moving to London with Judy. During this time in New York, Judy also saw Liza, who told biographer Gerald Frank that Judy resembled a calm, middle-aged housewife, asking Liza if she had ever tried Teflon kitchenware, and not at all seeming like mama or “Judy Garland.” Judy also saw Peter Allen, who took her to a nightclub called “Aux Puces.” Judy wore a straw hat with flowers in it and a white sweater. She left them behind at the club, where the hatcheck girl, Laura, found them and kept them at the club until it closed in 1971. After leaving the club, Peter Allen sang his song “Simon” for Judy – the first and only tie Judy would hear her son-in-law sing an original Allen composition. Also, during this time in New York, Judy was apparently on tranquilizers “rather than uppers and downers,” according to Deans; at one point, Gerald Frank’s biography states that Deans called his New York physician, who took Judy off her usual sleeping pill Seconal and put her on Thorazine instead.
Other activities during that trip included: a clothes shopping trip to “Revelation,” escorted by friend Bob Jorgen, Deans’s old roommate, where she added extravagantly to her new “mod” wardrobe, encouraged by Deans. After the shopping, Bob took her to a florist shop, where the florist refused any money, saying “you’ve brought too much happiness to the world.” Deans claimed Judy was so touched that she wrote lyrics for a song “Words From A Flower Vendor,” which she apparently hoped Deans would set to music; the lyrics are no known to have surfaced. Bob Jorgen also took Judy to lunch at Maxwell’s Plum, one day; one night was spent at the Apartment, a nightclub on Second Avenue, where Charlie Cochran was entertaining.
During this time Deans also took Judy to New Jersey, where he showed her the various nightclubs, where he had started, playing a bit of “Over The Rainbow” for her in one place. Deans also took her and Bob Jorgen to meet Deans’ parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mary DeVinko, who lived in a one-story red bungalow in Garfield, New Jersey.
Photo: Judy and Deans on March 18, 1969, provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!
May 21, 1995: Rhino Records entered into a contract with Turner Entertainment, Co. to produce new MGM soundtrack CDs. Two of the first MGM soundtracks to be released on CD under the Rhino label were also the last two to be released under the MGM Records label (in 1994), Meet Me In St. Louis and Ziegfeld Follies. Both had been released in 1994 with the deluxe laserdisc and VHS editions of the films as “MGM Records” CDs prior to this contract. The contract with Turner lasted until the mid-2000s and produced dozens of expanded soundtracks.