“Judy is the greatest actress I ever saw. She can do everything – she can sing like nobody else can, she can play straight dramatic roles, she can play slapstick comedy and sophisticated comedy, and she can dance. What else is there!” – Actress Jean Simmons, 1954
May 1937: Here’s an undated clipping, circa May 1937, of Judy and her mom enjoying hot dogs. Regardless of the caption, we all know that Judy definitely did not get to eat whatever she wanted!
May 30, 1937: The notice at right was published announcing a new musical comedy radio show starring MGM’s Frank Morgan titled “Frank Morgan’s Varieties” sponsored by Dodge. The notice states that the show would air each Monday and Wednesday, but newspaper archives reveal that the shows aired on various nights in different markets but consistently on Monday nights. This is because the program was a limited series of thirteen 15-minute shows.
The series was promoted with the following: Morgan clowns his way through these song-and-patter quarter-hours, giving listeners a good idea of the fun and grief that attend big-time show production. Morgan has with him in each of these programs, Freddie Rich and his band and a succession of “guest” stars including Frances Langford, Dorothy Lamour, Judy Garland and Ella Logan – all songstresses of the screen and radio.
Judy is named as Morgan’s main guest in the listings for the shows that aired on June 6th, 14th, 21st, 28th; July 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th; and August 2nd & 9th. She’s not listed in the final three episodes on August 16, 23, & 30.
No recordings of the shows are known to exist, nor are any records of the contents of the shows outside of what’s printed in the newspaper listings which don’t mention what Judy sang.
May 30, 1945: Judy’s first dramatic film, The Clock, was still playing around the country.
May 30, 1947: Around this time Carlton Alsop became Judy’s manager. Alsop and his wife, actress Sylvia Sidney, were close friends of Judy’s and were of great help to her during her difficult times at MGM in the late 1940s. Sydney is best known today for her role as “Juno” in the 1988 Tim Burton film Beetlejuice.
May 20, 1949: Judy’s recent arrival (May 29) at thePeter Brent Bringham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, was big news. The papers all focused on Judy needing a long rest when in fact the stay was for that reason and to cure her dependency on prescription medicines.
May 30, 1954: “A Star Is Reborn” by Jack Wilson, Minneapolis Tribue staff Correspondent. Wilson gets a few facts wrong but it’s still a good article.
JUDY GARLAND was sitting in a dressing room in Los Angeles’ big Shrine auditorium late one afternoon a couple of months ago. It was three years after Hollywood had decided she was washed up in pictures. Her eyes were red from crying and she dabbed at her nose with a wad of paper handkerchiefs.
“I feel like such a fool,” she said. “I practically convinced myself that poor Jimmy was really dead.”
Poor Jimmy was James Mason, who was working opposite her in “A Star Is Born,” Warner Brothers’ 4 million dollar bet that Judy still has what the customers loved when she was pulling them in for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The auditorium was the setting for the pay-off scene, in which she wept brave, proud tears because poor Jimmy had wandered off into the Pacific until his hangover floated.
FROM NOON until 6 p.m. that day she stood in front of two cameras and 300 dress extras, choking back her tears and speaking her little piece. It consisted of two sentences: “Hello, everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine.” (Tears. Cheers. Fadeout.). She went through the scene six times before the director was satisfied, and then once more at her own suggestion, to see if she couldn’t squeeze a few extra drops of moisture out of it.
Between takes she sat on a tall stool, all alone behind the scenery, and mourned for poor Jimmy in private just to keep her hand in.
The fact that she can cry real tears, on schedule, seven times in one afternoon and believe in every one of them is part of the reason her pictures have made several fortunes for the producers during her 18 years in the trade. It’s only part of the reason, though. What Judy has that no one else in Hollywood can match is the Garland legend.
STATED BALDLY, the Garland legend has it that here is a little girl who has been kicked around by life but still troupes along, singing through the tears. As one old-timer in the business put it, “Hell, everybody in town wants to mother her.”
The significant thing about the legend is that it grew up in spite of the lady herself. She had a run of assorted woes a few years ago and wound up sick, broke and friendless, but the legend was already well established by that time.
It’s true she’s little – a fraction under 5-1, a fraction over 107 pounds – but she’s hardly the guileless girl of the legend. She has more than held her own for 18 years in an industry that gobbles up wide-eyed innocents the way its customers gobble popcorn.
SHE AND MGM split in 1948. The studio talked politely about a “suspension.” Judy says, “The sprung me – I was fired.” It happened after she had flubbed out of three pictures. She was making “The Barkleys of Broadway” with Fred Astaire when she began complaining of exhaustion, and missing her dates with the camera. Ginger Rogers replaced her. The next year she started “Annie Get Your Gun,” ran into the same kind of trouble, and was replaced by Betty Hutton.
The studio shipped her off to a Boston hospital for a spell, and she returned and made “Summer Stock” with Gene Kelly. Then she started work on “Royal Wedding” in the spring of 1950, and when she began missing work again she was suspended.
TWO NIGHTS LATER she broke up a conference at her home by running into the bathroom and scratching her neck with a broken water glass. The doctor who was called in said the scratches were just scratches. Today, Judy describes it as “something that happened while I was emotionally upset, in the middle of a nervous breakdown. It was just a very foolish thing.”
The resulting publicity was ruinous to Judy’s chances for a quick comeback. “I couldn’t get a job any place in town,” she said afterward.
The word got around that I was unreliable, and there were those stories in the papers that I had tried to cut my head off and all sorts of awful things. About the only place I could have found work as in a burlesque house, but they probably wouldn’t even have had me there. I was too fat.”
“WHEN THEY fired me I was flat broke,” she said. “I owed the government taxes since, oh, 1848 or some outlandish time, and they were attaching my house. So I went to the Beverly Hills hotel and got myself a suite, no less. I just stayed there and ate. It was wonderful. I didn’t have to worry about getting fat, and I ate about nine meals a day. When I finally out of there I weighed 135 pounds, and had chins…” She showed where she had chins.
Today she weighs a satisfactory 107 pounds, and has one chin.
“I finally decided I wasn’t getting anywhere here so I went to New York. There wasn’t any money, of course, to pay my bill at the Beverly, so I just kept the suite there, told them I’d be back pretty soon, and got another suite at the St Regis in New York. Very regal.” She waved her hand languidly, in the grand manner, to show how regal it was.
Nobody Knows What She’ll Do Next
“ONE DAY I was having lunch with my agent in New York and he said he could book me into the Palladium in London. It was all big and far away and didn’t scare me at all. I said, ‘Why, certainly, I’d be charmed, when do they want me?’ You know, nonchalant. A couple of days later he called and said it was all set, and I was terrified.”
“I said ‘OK’ (she said OK in a small, wavering voice, with plenty of terror in it), because I figured, well, maybe a truck would hit me, or something, to get me out of it. Of course, nothing did, so we borrowed enough to pay my bills, and worked up an act and sailed, all in about four days.”
THE PALLADIUM is known as a theater that is rough on the incompetents. The clients there are used to the best variety entertainment in the world, and they can politely applaud a second-rater in a manner that makes ice crystals form in the bloodstream. So, Judy went out on the stage and made them love her. She fell down.
“That was at the end of my first performance,” she said. “I was supposed to take two steps backward and curtsy. (She showed how it was supposed to have worked.). Only I lost my balance and sat down, hard. I was petrified, but I scrambled off, and they pushed me back on stage and I said something about I guessed I had the distinction of making the most undignified exit they had ever seen, and the audience took it all right.”
THE AUDIENCE took it all right to the extent of all but tearing the house down to show its approval. By the time she finished her run there, she was something the British Isles couldn’t get enough of. She went on to Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, finally to Dublin, smashing box office records as she went. Then she returned to New York and was booked into the Palace.
The result was the sort of emotional jag that Broadway loves. The audiences yelled when she sang “Rockabye,” and sobbed when she sang “Over the Rainbow.” It went on for 19 weeks, winding up with an almost hysterical sell-out crowd weeping joyously at her final show. It was the longest run in the history of the Palace. The record, until Judy came along, was Kate Smith’s 10 weeks in 1931.
IT’S NO NEWS at this date that Judy can plug a song. What is less generally realized is that the professionals in Hollywood consider her the hottest actress in the business today. Jean Simmons, who starred in “The Robe,” is a good solid pro and a sound student of the techniques of the trade. She said a few weeks ago, “Judy is the greatest actress I ever saw. She can do everything – she can sing like nobody else can, she can play straight dramatic roles, she can play slapstick comedy and sophisticated comedy, and she can dance. What else is there!”
Nobody, including Judy, knows what she’s going to do next. There have been rumors that she might tackle a stage musical, but the best bet seems to be that she’ll decide to give old-fashioned vaudeville another helpful jolt. “This is a thing an actress should never say,” she said, “but I don’t think I would like working in a long-run play, singing the same songs and speaking the same lines night after night. In variety, you can change things around and talk to the audience if you feel like it, and it’s more fun”
The record seems to show that if it’s fun for Judy, it’s fun for everybody.
May 30, 1957: Judy began a one-week engagement at The Riviera Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. There are no recordings of the show, but here are pages from the program and a photo of Judy waving to fans after the show.