“She steams up songs like a circus calliope.” – Unkown author, 1937
June 23, 1937: “The Hollywood Reporter” ran a story that Judy was losing popularity with her neighbors because she was practicing the saxophone, which she was to play in her next movie!?! She’s never seen playing the instrument in any of her films, although in several films she’s seen playing the piano and even guitar.
Also on June 23, 1937: Here are two clippings.
The first promotes Frank Morgan’s 15-minute weekly radio “shows” of which Judy was a part of. Judy wasn’t on the show on this night. She was listed as being a part of 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 are known to exist of any of the shows nor is there any information as to what Judy sang.
The second is a short article about how the studios were actively seeking child/teen stars. The unknown author, while incorrectly giving Judy’s age as 14, praises her abilities stating that she “steams up songs like a circus calliope.”
June 23, 1938: This ad appeared in the Film Daily trade magazine. Judy is featured, with two of her films noted.
Also on June 23, 1938: Everybody Sing was still getting good reviews and good box office. Also, the teen wave currently over Hollywood is noted in this uncredited article which, again, incorrectly lists Judy’s age as 14.
June 23, 1939: Work on Babes In Arms continued. Judy rehearsed the “Minstrel Number” and pre-recorded (for a second day) the title number for “Babes In Arms” with co-stars Mickey Rooney, Douglas McPhail, Betty Jaynes, and the MGM Studio Chorus. Time called: 9 a.m.; lunch: 12 – 1 p.m.; time dismissed: 4:10 p.m.
June 23, 1940: Here’s a nice full-page spread about the Andy Hardy series and the starlets it’s thus far promoted. Check out The Judy Room’s Filmography Pages on The Andy Hardy Series here.
June 23, 1941: Here’s something curious. This short and uncredited review of Ziegelfd Girl from the Bristol Daily Courier in Bristol, Pennsylvania, calls out “We Must Have Music” as the highlight of the film. That number was cut from the film allegedly before it was released and the footage has been lost. When this was published the film had already been in release for two months, so how did this person know about the song? Had he or she seen the MGM musical short We Must Have Music and conflated the two? That’s unlikely because in the short film there are just a few quick clips from the number and they’re not identified as being from any particular film plus the short wasn’t released until 1942. One wonders if perhaps the reviewer saw a different cut of Ziegfeld Girl? Curious.
June 23, 1947: Judy and Gene Kelly rehearsed the “Be A Clown” number for The Pirate. Time called: 2 p.m.; Judy arrived at 2:30 p.m.; dismissed: 5:05 p.m.
June 23, 1956: This article appeared in the UK “Picturegoer” magazine. It’s doubtful that it was written by Judy what with the many Garland timeline errors unless Judy was mistaken in some of her memories. This was most likely written by a press agent, possibly with input by Judy.
I knew I was on the WAY BACK
MISS SHOW BUSINESS TELLS ALL PART III
BY JUDY GARLAND
Never in my life am I likely to forget the reception I received from the British fans on my opening night at the Palladium on April 9, 1951. Although I’d been in show business since I was a tot, never have I had such a case of first-night jitters as I did then.
A few days before the opening I felt so lonely and scared at the prospect of appearing before the public in London that I telephoned Sid Luft in Beverly Hills and asked him to fly over. I knew his being with me would give me confidence.
Within the very first moments of my going on stage before the packed house, I choked up. I felt that I would never make it. Then I heard – as if from a million miles away – my pianist playing the introduction to “Over The Rainbow.”
From my trembling lips came the opening notes of the song with which people everywhere have always identified me.
At the end of the number, I remember blurting out through my tear and the wonderful applause: “Now I know I can do it! I’m going to pick up where I left off. I’m going to sing my heart out.”
I was so overcome that when I started for the wings I tripped. I could hear the audience gasp. But I recovered myself, laughed, and said: “That’s one of the most ungraceful exits ever made!”
From then on I knew I was on the way back. I spent eight months in England and on the Continent with the touring company that Sid Luft helped me to organize for our engagements.
I had left America unsung. But when I returned to Broadway to reopen the famous old variety house the Palace – your wonderful comedian Max Bygraves was one of our company – I received as great a welcome home as I could hope for.
During our Palace engagement, we broke every box office record known there in all its long history.
From the success of the engagements in Europe and back home in America, I was – within one year – able to straighten out all my financial obligations and entanglements and look once more towards a great new life.
In April 1952, I returned to California. We opened our show at the vast Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles where many of my old Hollywood friends who less than a year before had thought I was thought, came to greet me.
Early in June that year, Sid Luft and I went up to a secluded ranch in the hills at Paicines, California, and were married by Judge Warren Hain, a pilot of the Second World War and a great friend of Sid.
We thought we could and had, kept our marriage a secret. Five days later it leaked out. I had signed under my legal name Frances Gumm Minnelli – and, when I went to the bureau to get the license, I wore dark glasses, slacks and had my hair tied up in a bun.
The clerk didn’t recognize either me or the name. It took an eagle-eyed local reporter thumbing through the wedding license applications a few days later to spot who Frances Gumm Minnelli was and to spread the news.
I’ve been in California for so long that many people think I was born here. Actually, I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both my parents, Frank and Ethel Gumm, were professions – vaudeville singers and dancers.
Almost as soon as I learned to walk and talk I became a member of a stage trio that consisted of my two sisters, Virginia and Suzanne, and myself. We appeared at the World’s Fair in Chicago and in most of the big mid-Western cities.
My father and mother worked as “Jack and Virginia Lee” and we were known as “The Gumm Sisters.” In 1927 the family came West by a series of one-night stands. My mother and father appeared on the bill as one act and we three girls as another.
On With Career
We finally settled in Lancaster, California, when my father’s health broke down. He died when we were quite young.
Mother was determined that we should carry on with our stage careers. She made costumes for us, trained us in our routines, played the piano for us.
I have often been asked how I took the profession name of Judy Garland. It was coined by George Jessel when I was eleven. He was acting as M.C. on the bill that finally brought us recognition at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre – but where we were erroneously billed as “The Glum Sisters.”
When my two sisters married that year the act broke up. Mother and I moved back permanently to California in the mid-1930s. She was determined I should go it alone and did everything possible to start me on a career for myself.
My mother passed away four years ago. When my own Liza was born I often wondered whether she would follow in her mother’s footsteps.
I have no intention whatever of pushing any one of my three children into a professional career. It must be left to themselves. But I can tell you this: Liza has for several years now been singing and dancing and acting.
But, if she ever does go on stage, I hope she will never make such an undignified exit as I did on that wonderful night in London just over five years ago!
Scan provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!
June 23, 1969: The first in a series of articles about Judy published immediately after her death. June 23rd is the day the news of Judy’s untimely death hit the papers (see yesterday’s post).
The JUDY GARLAND Story
‘I Wish I Had Never Been Anybody But Frances Gumm’
“A Star Is Born” on the screen of life is re-titled “The Star Is Dead” with the demise of Judy Garland. She had that quality, the single indispensable attribute of a top performer – by which, when she was on screen or on stage, the audience sensed the presence of a star.
It was this tremendous faculty of communication between the singer and the listener that enabled Judy Garland to obliterate reams of unfortunate “problem girl” publicity, the hostility and impatience of fellow performers and critics, and the grimly detailed accounts of her costly nervous instability.
For the moment she was “on,” with her sad eyes alight with persistent hope and that little smile playing on her lips and that little catch in her voice, all was forgiven and forgotten – and she had only to sing “Over the Rainbow” to bring vast audiences to their feet in shouting ovation.
This is the story of Judy Garland, the star, as written by Leo Guild, a veteran of the Hollywood scene who knew her well as actress, entertainer, and friend. IN this series, he will reveal a number of hitherto unpublished facts about the star who sang about happiness all the while it seemed to elude her grasp.
By LEO GUILD
JUDY GARLAND seemed to be two Judys, one looking at what the other was doing. And both of them bewildered at the recurrent pattern of the roller-coaster ride in her turbulent life. No star has ever been visited more often by fate which has taken her many times for the swift ride to the top of the track only to plunge her, sometimes precipitantly, sometimes slowly, back to the bottom.
There were times when she ran a nervous hand over her face and said: “I wish I had never been anybody but Frances Gumm.”
That was her right name.
Judy Garland was only one of five other names she had – Mrs. David Rose, Mrs. Vincente Minelli [sic], Mrs. Sid Luft, Mrs. Mark Heron [sic] and Mrs. Mickey Deans.
This last she acquired only March 15 of this year when she married for the fifth time. Her bridegroom was a young New York and London restaurant owner, and she said: “At last, I am really happy.”
The wedding was held at a fashionable restaurant in London. She had invited some old Hollywood friends then performing in London – Bette Davis, Veronica Lake and Ginger Rogers among others. But no star showed up.
AFTER MICKEY DEANS FOUND Judy Garland dead in her bathroom yesterday, Scotland Yard aid she died of natural causes.
But she had five serious suicide attempts to her credit. She had many many serious illnesses. During one she gained 80 pounds from a liver stoppage. The weight was water.
She survived suicide attempts, illnesses, broken marriages, and comebacks that failed.
Once she said, “Good Morning” to her husband and children and walked into the bathroom. She came out with blood spurting from both wrists.
“Look what I did,” she said.
She was rushed to a private doctor to be sewed up, and with wide pearl bracelets hiding the hideous slashes, hosted a dinner party three days later.
THE WARNER BROS. COMMISSARY one day a few years ago was crowded with big-name stars but most of the autograph seekers (tourists on the lot) came to Judy Garland’s table.
She was there attempting a comeback by doing a remake of “A Star Is Born.”
I asked her, “Judy, what is there at the end of the rainbow?”
Her answer was “Borscht.” (That’s a creamed beet soup and the equivalent of nothing.)
By this time Judy was completely disillusioned. But it was not always like that. She had been the number one star of Hollywood and MGM for many years. She was MGM’s biggest money earner for five years. Her closets were filled with awards of every description. They gathered dust – she never looked at them.
During the past few years she had made some money on concert tours and with albums but Uncle Sam hounded her for delinquent tax payments. Everything she earned went to the Internal Revenue Service. She still owes them $500,000.
HOW DOES A TALENTED ACTRESS, judged by the likes of Louis B. Mayer and Jack L. Warner to be the most talented actress in motion picture history, get on the toboggan?
Judy Garland made some $50 million in her 47 years.
She had been close friends with the likes of Clark Gable, Norma Shearer, Robert Taylor, Lana Turner, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, and yet at the end in an apartment in London the only friend she had left was one of her ex-husbands, Sid Luft.
Luft was planning to bring their two children over to England. She said she wasn’t well enough to travel to America. Her other daughter, Liza Minnelli, was busy with her own career.
IRONICALLY, IT WAS HER TALENT for making huge sums of money for her studio, MGM, that started her downfall. Her “Andy Hardy” pictures with Mickey Rooney were making a fortune. her “Wizard of Oz” and other features were pure gold.
The word came through from the New York office to keep Judy working at any cost. She was a veritable cash register for the studio.
So with her mother giving her daily pep talks – mama was on the studio payroll as a spy and “associate” – Judy would work hard every day on the set, then help her boss entertain visiting exhibitors on the weekends. There were also rehearsals, lessons, scripts to be memorized.
She complained to her studio and to her mother that she was tired and needed a rest between films. The bosses raised her pay and convinced her she’d be okay.
She was sent to a studio doctor who gave her a prescription for bennies (pep-up pills). They worked fine. All her pep came back. But they caused another problem.
FOR YEARS SHE HAD FALLEN on the bed at night exhausted and slept soundly until morning. Now with the bennies increasing her heart action and awareness, she couldn’t sleep.
Another doctor suggested hot milk and crackers. That worked for a short time. But then it stopped working as she took more bennies than originally prescribed because she was still tired.
So another doctor gave her seconal. Just one capsule before going to bed. That did the trick temporarily. Then the one seconal wasn’t enough.
Pressures grew stronger. There were more bennies and more seconals. One pepped her up and one slowed her down.
Physicians will tell you the combination is dangerous.
In fact, the kids of today who experiment with acid, grass, and narcotics mix the bennies and seconals so that they get goofballs.
WHAT JUDY WAS TAKING were goofballs which had her fantasizing illusions during her working day.
In other words, Judy began to see things that weren’t there. her balance was off and she was often in a dream state.
She began showing up late for work and sometimes not at all.
She could rationalize it at the time: “I’ve made a fortune for the studio. Why can’t I sleep late once in a while?”
Louis B. Mayer was her boss and best friend. When New York wanted to suspend her, he interceded. He assured them that with rest and sanitarium treatment, she’d be okay. But she was never okay again.
IT WAS THE BEGINNING of multiple marriages and romances, drinking, drugs, aborted engagements like concerts, plays, films and personal appearances.
Yet she had made such an impact on the public, had created such an aura of excitement and nostalgia that wilding cheering audiences would plead for one more bow, one more encore.
Promoters knew this and tried to cash in on it. Usually, they failed. She didn’t know responsibility anymore. Frankly, she didn’t care.
One time in Boston during a concert, she sat on the stage to sing, “Born In A Trunk” and fell asleep.
Can you just picture several thousand fans watching their idol fall asleep while singing and toppling over gently on the stage apron?
The management said Judy had been taken ill, but she hadn’t. She woke up in her dressing room several hours later and wanted to know what had happened.
JUDY WAS PROBABLY AT HER PEAK as an actress when she was making “Meet Me In St. Louis.” It was before she took any drugs and the world was a beautiful place.
Mickey Rooney was one of her best friends, and the two of them with mischievous abandon perpetrated all sorts of practical jokes around the lot and were always forgiven.
Judy once walked into a scene with a fake mustache pasted on her upper lip.
Mickey hopped on stage with one leg tied into a leather casing a la Lon Chaney and said he had been in an accident. He had just come back from vacation. It sent shivers up the spines of the bookkeepers.
WHO WOULD HAVE DREAMED when she sang “Jingle Bells” on a stage in Grand Rapids, Minn., at the age of 2 that Judy would have such a peak to a career as to have a Carnegie Hall audience scream and applaud for seven minutes after one song?
As such a career depression as to have an audience at the Talk of the Town Club in London jeer her for 10 minutes for keeping them waiting for an hour?
That is what made the singing-acting star so unusual. She was a heroine one minute and a bum the next. She was unable to handle either role with adroitness.
WHEN SHE MARRIED for the first time to David Rose, shy bandleader and composer, there was no hint that Judy’s life would be so full of violence, tragedy, and excitement.
Rose played with his miniature trains in a lovely garden, and for a while, Judy would welcome coming back from the turmoil of the studio to this sort of peace and quiet.
Rose was a devoted husband and, with music in common, it looked as if the marriage had a good chance.
But Judy needed something more than that. She was restless. She wanted to travel. There were career problems and her husband couldn’t get too excited about that. He was philosophic. With him, things always worked out okay so why worry?
That wasn’t Judy’s bag. She was a worrier. She wasn’t satisfied to stand still. She began to hate the toy trains and stopped coming home on schedule. It ended in divorce.
JUDY WAS A PIDGEON for psychiatrists. She went to the best. But she never found out why “happiness” wasn’t enough for her.
The stew always had to be stirred, even when it was perfect.
Many times during her lifetime she had what anyone else in the world would have considered all one could possibly get out of life. But it wasn’t right for her.
She upset marriages, a couple of which were good ones, career, friends, lovers, children, to try and make it different – mind you, not better, but different.
TUESDAY: Judy tries television.
June 23, 1969: The Guardian in London, England, published this article about Judy written by Stanley Reynolds. It’s a bit mean spirited and Reynolds, like everyone writing about Judy at this time, got facts wrong, but in the end he does predict that Judy would go on entertaining new generations “in old movies on television” (and home media, etc.)
World champion girl next door
STANLEY REYNOLDS on JUDY GARLAND
“I WAS born in a truck in the Princess Theatre in Pocatello, Idaho,” Judy Garland used to sing, each year her voice straining more and more and getting more and more show biz schmaltz into it so you would sit and listen to her and your spine would crawl with embarrassment. It was all so embarrassing. Judy Garland sitting down on the edge of the stage and singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” – it got to be a joke. It got so the only people who genuinely seemed to enjoy her act were out-of-town businessmen drunk enough to be sentimental, or queers who, in some sisterly way, sympathized with the world champion Girl Next Door up there under the lights with her voice cracking and her mascara running. “Oh, Gawd,” they would say, “isn’t she wonderful! Such a mess!”
But it was all true. Judy Garland was born Frances Gumm in her father’s vaudeville theatre in Grand Rapids, which is going Pocatello one better, and she first appeared on the stage when she was just 3 years old. In 1939, when she appeared in MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz” with such big established stars as Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, and Jack Haley, it was Judy Garland singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” who stole the show, who won a special Academy Award, and who became the world champion Girl Next Door. It was a title she defended that same year with Mickey Rooney in “Andy Hardy meets a Debutante” and in “Babes in Arms,” the doctored version of the Rogers [sic] and Hart Broadway musical. She was cute, with big eyes and chubby healthy cheeks, and she had a voice that was clear and had this curious quaver in it that was, of all things, sort of grave.
Mickey and Judy would walk through the plots. Mickey would be puzzled; Tom Sawyer in adolescence. Judy would frown with this real cute comic-serious frown. Hitler and Mussolini were stomping all over Europe, but this was clean-cut, magnolias-up-to-the-front-porch, main-street America. And it was big business at the Roxy.
Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in these early movies were the world’s first certified teenagers. She was so pretty and innocent that she used to make the big hard-eyed men at the studio, who said “yes” or “no” according to the whims of the seat of their pants, wee when they saw her on the screen. Arthur Freed, who produced most of MGM’s big musicals, and who gave Judy her first break, could say years afterwards – after Judy caused trouble and caused the studio to lose a million dollars when she walked out of “Annie get your Gu” that he had real tears in his eyes every time he reran “Babes in Arms.” And Louis G. Mayer, whose million dollars it was that Judy lost when she walked out, loved her so much he paid her doctor’s bills. “He didn’t have to,” Freed said, “the studio cared about what happened to Judy. After all, we practically brought her up.”
The last kid picture she made was “Meet me in St Louis” in 1944 where she sang the “Trolley Song.” In 1948 she did “Easter Parade” with Fred Astaire, singing “We’re a couple of Swells” with her teeth blacked out and with a fright wig on. She seemed to have made the jump from teenage star like an Olympic champ.
But her private life was all messed up. She was in and out of the Cedars of Lebanon, the biggest, fanciest, most expensive clinic in the world. She had show business in her blood, she had been around the motion pictures, and seen the back of the movie lots, but, incredibly, she still seemed to believe it all. You could tell she believed it by the genuine trill that would come into her voice – even when she was groping through one of those disastrous cabaret performances, like her last at London’s Talk of the Town – and by the times and times again she fell for true love, true love, just like in the pictures.
But she drank, and she had to take pills to sleep and pills tow rok. By 1955 she was all washed up. But then she made “A Star is Born” with James Mason, and this was sort of her own story. She sang “Born in a trunk” and “The man that got away,” her voice was good again, and the film set her up. But she could not be the tough showbiz character, the female Frank Sinatra. She did not have the resilience. But she could be a fine actress. In 1961 she played in “Judgement at Nuremberg,” with Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, and Maximillian Schell. Schelle on an Oscar and Judy got acclaim for her small dramatic part.
It should have been easy for her. She should have been able to go on forever, working up a career as a dramatic actress and doing the occasional Auld Lang Syne singing tour for the out-of-town drunks. But she had been so big so young that there must have been some grand urge to her to live and be always at that unreal, happy height that she sang about in 1963, in that otherwise bad film with Dirk Bogarde when she seemed to be defying the whole world as she sang “I could go on singing till the cows come home.” Life, of course, is unfortunately not like that, but stars of the caliber of Miss Garland lead double legends and it is likely that long after the unhappy woman has passed from mind the brave little girl will be entertaining a new generation in old movies on television.