“Judy is as much a part of the American scene as the hot dog and Fourth of July firecracker.” – William D. Laffler, 1961
August 20, 1934: This ad appeared in the Chicago Tribune promoting Judy and her sisters, “The Gumm Sisters,” as one of the acts at Chicago’s Oriental Theater. It was during this engagement that headliner George Jessel convinced them to change their name to the more marquee-friendly “Garland” Sisters.
Exactly 20 years later, Leonard Lyons reported that Jessel was to emcee the premiere of Judy’s masterpiece, A Star Is Born. By this time the story about how Judy Garland became Judy “Garland” was muddled by various legends. The general consensus is that Jessel named them after his critic friend Robert Garland after he received laughs from the audience when introducing them as “Gumm.” There is also the story of how Jessel told Judy she was “pretty as a garland of flowers” which resulted in the “aha” moment. This column by Leonard Lyons repeats another legend, this time including Jessel saving the girls from being cut from the show:
There was a run-through of the Oriental Theater show so that the manager could eliminate any acts deemed superfluous. Jessel heard the manager cancel the Gumm Sisters, an act in which Mrs. Gumm played the piano accompaniment to the singing of three little girls. “Don’t cancel the whole act,” Jessel told the manager. “The youngest is good.” The youngest, Frances Gumm, sang “Just My Bill” in remarkable voice. On opening day the child stood int he wings and listened to Jessel introduce her.
EARLIER that day he’s received a message reminding him to send a telegram to Judith Anderson, who was opening on Broadway. The wire to Miss Anderson still was in his mind: “Dear Judy, may this new play add another garland to your Broadway laurels.” Now George was introducing Frances Gumm, and his tongue resisted the clumsy name. He finished his spiel, leading up to the name. “And here she is now,” he concluded, then blurted “Judy Garland.”
He turned to where the child was standing and said: “That’ you honey …”
August 20, 1937: Judy issues her first public “Thank You” in a trade paper. She thanked Sam Katz, Jack Cummings, and Roger Edens for their hand in Broadway Melody of 1938 in this day’s issue of “The Hollywood Reporter.” The “Thank You” was most likely created and executed by MGM’s Publicity Department.
Also on this day, Judy and co-star George Murphy put in a personal appearance in the foyer of Grauman’s Chinese Theater (where Broadway Melody was playing) to greet fans and sign autographs. They were scheduled from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
August 20, 1937: This ad appeared in the Film Daily trade paper.
August 20, 1937: Judy recorded her first singles under her recently signed contract with Decca Records. This was Judy’s very first recording contract with a label. She recorded “Everybody Sing” and “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm.” The single, with both songs on it, was released in September of 1937.
Judy had previously recorded “Stompin’ At The Savoy” and “Swing, Mr. Charlie” for the label on June 12, 1936. Those were released by the label independent of any contract in July 1936. The official story has been that Judy’s first actual contract with the label wasn’t signed until August 1937, of which “Everybody Sing” and “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” were the first recordings made under that contract. Newly discovered information now dates her first contract with the label was actually in late November 1935. Click here for details about these early associations and that new information.
All of Judy’s Decca recordings are available in the wonderful 4-CD boxed set “Smilin’ Through.”
You can check out more about all Judy’s Decca recordings at The Judy Garland Online Discography’s Decca Records Section here.
Listen to “Everybody Sing” here:
Listen to “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” here:
August 20, 1939: More “back to school” specials with The Wizard of Oz.
August 20, 1939: The story of The Wizard of Oz in comic form.
August 20, 1939: Judy and Mickey Rooney were still packing in the crowds at the Capitol Theater in New York.
August 20, 1939: More Ozzy ads and articles including a “Judy Garland dress” available for young girls that were just like what “Dorothy” wore. I wonder if any of these specific dresses are still out there?
Also featured above is a collection of really nice artwork created by Stanley Kohn for The Cincinnati Enquirer.
August 20, 1939: Here’s a full-page photo spread devoted to The Wizard of Oz.
August 20, 1939: An article about the famous MGM schoolhouse, and a promotional photo of Judy (from 1937) used to promote The Wizard of Oz.
August 20, 1941: A late working day for Judy and co-star Mickey Rooney at MGM, filming scenes for Babes on Broadway. They had a call for 1:30 p.m.; then dinner from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m.; then dismissed at 9:05 p.m. During that time they managed to film scenes on the “Exterior Stage Alley”; “Exterior Settlement House”; and “Exterior Morris Tenement” sets. This no doubt included Mickey’s strolling down the street at the very end of the “How About You?” number.
Luckily for Judy, she had the following day off and so was most likely able to sleep in.
August 20, 1947: It’s alleged that on this day Judy returned to Los Angeles from her stay at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Columnists at this time were reporting that Judy was still “in the east.” It must be noted that the columnists didn’t always get their facts straight if they were factual at all. Some stories were pure fiction. For instance, Sheilah Graham reported that Judy had telephoned her from Maine stating she would be back in LA by October 1st. Judy wasn’t in Maine and she returned long before October 1st. Hedda Hopper reported that Judy was telling friends she’d be home by the end of September. Those columns appeared in the week beginning August 17th.
Photo: Judy relaxing at home as featured in “Ladies Home Companion” 1947.
August 20, 1949: “Picture Show” magazine plus a review of Judy’s recent hit In The Good Old Summertime.
August 20, 1950: Here’s a fun ad for Summer Stock which was in general release and was doing great business.
August 20, 1951: Here’s yet another example of how columnists (and the public and even Judy’s peers) obsessed over Judy’s weight. Dorothy Manners, filling in for Louella Parsons, makes a note about how Judy’s “career depends on what she decides about her weight” flatly stating that while she’s heavy she’s not good for television or movies. Is it any wonder that Judy was sensitive about her looks?
August 20, 1953: Here’s an ad for one of Judy’s singles recorded for Columbia Records. The second pic is an ad from August 20, 1955, for the Columbia Records Club. By that point the main Garland album Columbia had to offer was the soundtrack LP to A Star Is Born.
Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s A Star Is Born Pages for details about the soundtrack and its various reissues.
Listen to the 1990s Robert Parker “surround sound” restorations of Judy’s Columbia singles here:
“Send My Baby Back To Me”
“Go Home, Joe”
“Without A Memory”
August 20, 1961: More accolades for “Judy at Carnegie Hall.”
August 20, 1964: Judy attended the opening of Lionel Bart’s “Maggie May” in Liverpool. She had just recorded four songs from the show on August 6, 1964, and August 12, 1964, which was her last recording session, ever, for records at the Capitol/EMI Records studios in London. The photo above is from this night, with (from left) composer Lionel Bart, actor Kenneth Haigh, librettist Alun Owen, and Mark Herron.
The four songs were released in September 1964 on a special “extended play” 45rpm record.
Listen to “Maggie May” here:
Listen to Take 1 of “Maggie May” here:
Listen to “There’s Only One Union” here:
Listen to “The Land of Promises” here:
Listen to “It’s Yourself” here:
Photo below: Judy and Mark Herron backstage after the performance.
August 20, 1967: Here’s a notice about the upcoming series “Off To See The Wizard” which featured animation by famed animator Chuck Jones based on the MGM Wizard of Oz characters and likenesses. The animated bits played before and after commercial breaks. The show was an anthology series that featured live-action MGM films during the bulk of the hour, with feature films (such as Lili and The Glass Slipper) spread over two airings. The animated interstitials have been featured on the various DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K releases of the film.
Also on this date was this notice about the final weeks of Judy’s third, and last, engagement at The Palace Theatre in New York.
August 20, 1968: Judy’s name was back in the tabloids for more legal troubles. This time for fraud stemming from a bad check written by former husband Sid Luft.
August 20, 1989: More Wizard of Oz 50th Anniversary articles, including details about the CBS Special Products CD release of the soundtrack. This was the first U.S. release of the soundtrack on CD and was an expanded version of the “Music and Dramatic Selections Recorded Directly from the Soundtrack” MGM Records LP that had been in release since 1956. Previously there was a UK release of the MGM LP version in 1986 by the CBS label which was the first CD appearance of the soundtrack, as well as another release of that same version in 1989 on the EMI Records label. This CBS CD included the first official CD release of “The Jitterbug” outtake.
August 20, 1998: Judy’s daughter Lorna Luft’s new autobiography, “Me And My Shadows,” had just been published, prompting this article by Steve Rothaus about Lorna’s struggles with the memories of her mother as well as her current struggles with half-sister Liza Minnelli.