“Judy Garland is a delightful surprise. She appears to have been born solely to play the role of Dorothy…” – The Boston Globe, 1939
August 18, 1937: Broadway Melody of 1938 premiered at both the Loew’s State and Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It’s been previously reported that the film premiered on the 20th but that’s not the case. Naturally, the film’s big stars were Robert Taylor and Eleanor Powell but once people began to see the film, Judy emerged as the breakout star. Judy was firmly on the path to superstardom.
August 18, 1939: This review of The Wizard of Oz appeared in the New York Daily News.
’Wizard of Oz,’ Lively, Lovely Film Fantasy
By Kate Cameron
Oh, to be at the Capitol, now that “oz” is here, must have been the dearest wish of New Yorkers yesterday. A goodly number of the population turned out to see the first showing of the picture and the jam around the theatre kept the police busy from the time the line began to form at 6 A.M. on through the day.
The crowds flocked to the Capitol to see the long-heralded Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film version on the famous Baum stories and to welcome the little star of the picture, Judy Garland, who is making personal appearances with the irrepressible Mickey Rooney, on the stage.
It was an enthusiastic and friendly throng for whom Judy and Mickey sang and danced with all the verve and rhythmic bounce of youth. The audience was enthusiastic about the picture, which is a delightful fantasy of the “Snow White and Seven Dwarfs” type. Real people, of course, represent the leading characters of the L. Frank Baum stories, on which the film is based, and which gave pleasure to children for several generations. These stories were used as the basis of the musical comedy, “The Wizard of Oz,” which served the starring team of Montgomery and Stone during many theatrical seasons.
The first part of the film, showing Dorothy Gale’s home on the Kansas farm, is photographed in sepia, which merges into the bright tints of the Technicolor process when the story moves into the dream fantasy that is the land of Oz.
The background of Munchkinland, the forest and the Emerald City of Oz are imaginatively realized on the screen. The little people of Munchkin land, where Dorothy finds herself after being blown away from her Kansas home in the funnel of a cyclone, are delightfully represented by a group of Singer midgets. Billie Burke is charming as the good fairy, Glinda, and Margaret Hamilton, in a poison green makeup, is the wicked West Witch, who is terrible enough to frighten little children.
The satire of the fable is not as cleverly pointed as it was in Disney’s cartoon of “Snow White,” but the broad comedy of Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion, Ray Bolger’s Strawman, Jack Haley’s Tin Woodman and Frank Morgan’s Wizard, make up for those side-tickling subtle touches that made the Disney comedy a classic of the screen.
Judy Garland is perfectly cast as Dorothy. She is as clever a little actress as she is a singer and her special style of vocalizing is ideally adapted to the music of the picture.
August 18, 1939: This review of The Wizard of Oz written by Herbert Cohn and published on this date in “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle” noted that the film “is an alluring entertainment in its own right [comparing it to the Mickey/Judy stage show accompanying the film at the Capitol Theater], a spectacle of color and handsome sets and a gay and imaginative fable peopled by an Alice-in-Wonderland kind of character, punning in the modern mode and talking sensibly about human frailties.”
August 18, 1939: The trade magazine, “Film Daily,” reported on the “Oz” opening the day before:
“OZ” OPENING PENS HISTORY
38,000 Storm Capitol for Pix, Stellar P.A.’s
In an opening without precedent in the history of the Capitol Theater, “The Wizard of Oz,” with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland appearing in person, drew approximately 38,000 patrons yesterday.
Likes started to form at 5:30 A.M. when many arrived at the box office with hot coffee and doughnuts. By 8:45 the entire block was surrounded six-deep and the sale of tickets was suspended. At 11 o’clock ticket-selling was resumed by both the box office and by ushers to persons in the lines.
At 3 P.M. the Capitol was still completely encircled. Additional police reserves were called, with captains and sergeants on hand to assist the patrolmen.
Highly efficient crown handling permitted a constant line movement, with 2,000 admitted every 20 minutes and only a half hour wait from time of joining the waiting queue.
Not only is the Capitol benefiting but stores and restaurants as well as other Broadway houses appeared to be capitalizing on the crowds. New York dailies gave the record breaking opening Page 1 attention.
15 Technicolor Features to Follow “Wizard of Oz”
Opening of M-G-M’s “Wizard of Oz” yesterday and the Capitol leaves on Technicolor’s schedule 15 features to come. Set for release shortly are “Elizabeth and Essex,” Warners; “Hollywood Cavalcade,” 20th-Fox, and “Queen of Destiny,” RKO-Wilcox. In production are “Dr. Cyclops,” “Typhoon,” and “Untamed,” Paramount; “Gulliver’s Travels,” Paramount – Fleischer; “Drums Along the Mohawk,” 20th-Fox; “Gone With The Wind” UA-Selznick’ “Thief of Bagdad,” UA-Korda; and Northwest Passage,” M-G-M. In preparation are “Blue Bird” and “Swanee River,” 20th-Fox; “Royal Canadian Mounted” Paramount; and “Pinocchio,” RKO-Disney.
August 18, 1939: “The New York Times” published this review of The Wizard of Oz written by Frank Nugent. The oft-repeated quote “a delightful piece of wonder-working” comes from this review as does “Judy’s Garland’s Dorothy is a pert and fresh-faced miss with wonder-lit eyes of a believer in fairy tales, but the Baum fantasy is at its best when the Scarecrow, the Woodman and the Lion are on the move. ”
August 18, 1939: More Ozzy ads and a couple of reviews. A few quotes:
Judy Garland is a delightful surprise. She appears to have been born solely to play the role of Dorothy, Kansas farm girl who is blown away to the Land of Oz during one of those terrific cyclones that hit the Middle West. (The Boston Globe)
Marion Boone of the St. Louis Star and Times liked Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs more than The Wizard of Oz although she was impressed, and focused her review on the effects and makeup. What she really gets wrong is calling the film’s music it’s “shortcoming”:
Probably the chief shortcoming of “The Wizard of Oz” is its music. I thas no gay, catchy tune such as “Whistle While You Work,” “Heigh-Ho, “eigh-Ho” or “Wishing Well” [she’s referring to “I’m Wishing”], to send the customers away in a melodic frame of mind.
August 18, 1939: This article about star-maker Louis B. Mayer (the head of MGM) featured a photo from the recent birthday party for Judy at Mayer’s beach home which was publicized as her 16th birthday when actually it was her 17th!
August 18, 1941: Judy sells Bu-tex while also promoting Life Begins for Andy Hardy. On this day at MGM filming continued on Babes on Broadway on the “Interior Old Duchess” set, including Mickey Rooney’s impersonation of Carmen Miranda. Time called: 9 a.m.; lunch: 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.; time dismissed: 3:30 p.m.
August 18, 1947: Two news items. The first notes that Ann Miller would not be in Easter Parade but Cyd Charisse would. That’s true. Charisse was the first choice but tore ligaments in her knee and had to be replaced. Miller was her replacement. It’s interesting to know that Miller was in the running prior to Charisse getting the part. Most people assume that she wasn’t thought of for the part until after Charisse was out.
The second item Judy’s return to MGM as October 1st. Judy was still resting in Boston at this time and returned to MGM in late August to view a rough cut of The Pirate. she returned to work at the studio on September 22nd for music rehearsals for Easter Parade.
August 18, 1948: This ad appeared in the Film Daily trade paper promoting Easter Parade.
August 18, 1948: Here’s something amusing. The same photo in the same newspaper on the same day but with a different caption. Papers had early and late editions with many pages that remained the same while headlines and other articles might have changed or been added. What happened here is the photo of Judy with Peter Lawford was originally identified as Judy with Fred Astaire then corrected for the later edition.
August 18, 1949: In The Good Old Summertime was still in theaters. Judy is at her late 40s loveliest in the film as these photos prove.
August 18, 1950: Hedda Hopper reported on the crowds for Summer Stock and their positive reaction to the film. Audiences applauded after Judy’s songs as if it were a live performance.
Showboat was a film that producer Arthur Freed had been wanting to make for a while. Judy wasn’t considered for the lead but for the important role of “Julie” originated by Helen Morgan. She would have been fantastic singing the show’s two big torch songs, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and “Bill.” Ava Gardner eventually got the role when the film was finally made in 1950/51.
August 18, 1962: “The Garland Touch” on sale for $3.67 (mono edition) and $4.67 (stereo edition) at Montgomery Ward.
August 18, 1967: This article appeared in “Time” magazine:
Friday, Aug. 18, 1967
Seance at the Palace
Curtain time. The crowd presses expectantly into Manhattan’s hallowed house of vaudeville, the Palace. One fan has come from as far away as Brazil. A woman from Long Island, in a $9.90 seat, has already followed the night’s star through four cities and at least 20 performances. As the pit band strikes up the overture, the now capacity crowd begins to peer anxiously toward the orchestra-section entrance.
Will the star make it? Many rise in anticipation. Then, dramatically, the spotlight splashes against the lobby door.
She has made it. In a sequined paisley pants suit, a fragile and unforgettable figure jogs down the aisle, hugging admirers, shaking hands and just plain shaking. She is—who else?—Judy Garland, now 45, and making her third Palace “comeback” in 15 years.
“This is going to be an interesting performance,” she begins hoarsely, “because I have absolutely no voice. But I’ll fake it. Oh, well, maybe I’ll hit the notes because you’re so nice and because it’s so good to be home.” From the balcony, a male voice calls: “I love you, Judy.” “I love you too,” she replies. And so opens an evening that is less a performance than a love-in. Fred Finklehoffe, who worked with her in Hollywood, says: “Judy doesn’t give a concert—she conducts a seance.”
Pity & Terror. Another Hollywood character, the late Spencer Tracy, once said that “Garland audiences don’t just listen—they feel.” They also fear—and in some cases hope—that they may be witnesses to a breakdown, which is one of the compelling attractions exerted by this durable but disaster-prone star. Her audiences arrive, it seems, achingly aware of Judy’s tortured past: her teenage stardom and traumas, her voice crack-ups and innumerable busted contracts, her four broken marriages to increasingly younger men (she just broke off an engagement to a public relations man 16 years her junior), and her ailments and suicide attempts. As a result, she evokes a purgative pity and terror. Her concerts have the will-she-finish suspense of a marathon run, the will-she-crack-up tension of a road race. “Oh,” said a woman from Ohio after one performance, “I’m just relieved she made it through the evening.”
Moving lithely (her weight down to 96 Ibs.) to stage center, Judy opens with “I Feel a Song Coming On.” In the lower registers, at least, she still has the old belting power. “My, I’m a loud lady,” she says, striking the well-known hands-on-hips pose. “No crooner, I.” Next is “Almost Like Being in Love.” Then “The Trolley Song,” and by now the fans are clanging time with their feet. “For Me and My Gal” turns into a community sing. She wonders: “What should I do now?” Man in the mezzanine: “Just stand there.” Judy: “I get too scared to just stand there—guess I’d better sing.” On to more oldies like “Swanee.” A standing ovation for “Old Man River.” She sits down, her legs dangling over the edge of the stage for “The Man That Got Away.” “No more that oldtime thrill,” she trills with her terrible intensity, “for I’ve been through the mill. . .” Many in the audience weep. Some grope down the center aisle to the stage. She leans over and kisses a proffered hand.
Next, more sentimentality. To spell Judy in her nightly 90-minute appearances, there are song-and-dance interludes by her daughter Lorna, 14, and son Joey, 12. Neither has overpowering show-business potential, but the fans love them. Judy also gets a breather by coaxing such professionals in the audience as Duke Ellington or Bea Lillie onto the stage. Finally, and inevitably, comes “Over the Rainbow.” Some nights when she is too drained, it is more croaked than crooned. “Stay here and sing” someone cries amid the shrieks and bravos. “Don’t ever go away!” Later, when she emerges from the stage door, some 200 worshipers are waiting —even if it is 2 a.m. They don’t tear at her, though, as they might some other superstar. They reach out for Judy tenderly, as if she were the last frail leaf of November.
Happy Bluebirds. Such adulation, says her third husband Sid Luft, father of Lorna and Joey and producer of her current tour, “is greater than she ever had before.” Judging from the full houses at the Palace, he must be right. Curiously, a disproportionate part of her nightly claque seems to be homosexual. The boys in the tight trousers roll their eyes, tear at their hair and practically levitate from their seats, particularly when Judy sings: If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow,
Why, oh why can’t I?*
Psychiatrists offer multiple explanations for the phenomenon. Manhattan’s Dr. Leah Schaefer claims that homosexuals gravitate toward superstars because “these are people they can idolize and idealize without getting too close to. In Judy’s case,” she adds, “the attraction might be made considerably stronger by the fact that she has survived so many problems; homosexuals identify with that kind of hysteria.” Agrees another Manhattan psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Hatterer: “Judy was beaten up by life, embattled, and ultimately had to become more masculine. She has the power that homosexuals would like to have, and they attempt to attain it by idolizing her.”
But Garland affects a far broader audience than her ever-present little bluebirds. She has the true entertainer’s capacity for transmitting her feelings across the footlights. Nor is it a oneway message. “Audiences,” she says, “have kept me alive.” As she told her exuberant cult at the Palace last week: “Everything I want is right here.”
* A female impersonator at Manhattan’s East Village, who specializes in imitating Judy’s style and bills himself as Bonnie Garland, showed up at the Palace premiere in the same costume Judy wore.
The video above was created for the 2011 “Judy in New York” fan gathering which marries footage from the Palace to the 1967 ABC Records recordings from the Palace engagement.
August 18, 1989: More from the 50th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz including an article from columnist Bob Thomas.