“People from all over the country called just to tell us how much they liked Judy. We’ve never had such an intimate personal reaction from viewers before.” – CBS spokesman, 1955
September 27, 1930: “The Gumm Sisters” performed again with the Big Brother Ken Show at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, California. Note that “The Beverly Hill-Billies” is not the same as portrayed three decades later on the popular TV series. Perhaps the act was part of the inspiration for the series?
September 27, 1934: Judy and her sisters, as “The Garland Sisters,” received a mention in this article about the stage show titled “Shufflin’ South” published by the “Kansas City Star.” The article states, “The Garland Sisters are three girl singers, hailing from California, who present one number in the Helen Morgan ‘torch’ fashion. They also do tap dancing when, and if, needed.”
The Helen Morgan reference pertained to the point in the sisters’ act in which Judy would sit on the top of a piano (as Morgan did) with a pin spot on her face and sing Morgan’s signature song “Bill.” At the end of the song, the house lights would come up to reveal the singer was actually a young girl, not a grown woman as the audience assumed. The effect usually generated wild applause and stopped the show. The photo here of Judy on the piano was taken during their engagement at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago that previous August.
This show in Kansas City, Missouri opened at the Tower Theatre on September 28 and ran through October 4. The sisters had just been rechristened “The Garland Sisters” during their engagement at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago that previous August. This Kansas City engagement was also part of the family’s post-Chicago tour in which they basically sang their way back home to California.
Judy recorded this version of “Bill” for Decca Records on March 29, 1935. Her mom, Ethel Gumm, provided the piano accompaniment. The recording was one of three test records made for the label that day. The other two tests were a Judy solo of a medley of “On The Good Ship Lolipop”/”The Object of My Affection”/”Dinah”), and a recording of the three sisters singing “Moonglow.” Although the tests did not result in a contract with the label, the recordings of “Bill” and the “Medley” have survived (“Moonglow” is still lost). These are Judy Garland’s first studio recordings. The discs are also the only recordings of Judy’s voice as it sounded before she signed with MGM and was immediately put under the tutelage of her future mentor Roger Edens.
Listen to “Bill” here:
Listen to the “Medley” here:
September 27, 1935: The first photo taken of Judy by an MGM photographer. 13-year-old Judy was in the Los Angeles Superior Court for the final approval of her very first contract with MGM. Judy’s parents, Frank, and Ethel Gumm were present to sign and give approval of the contract in court because Judy was a minor.
Even at this early stage, MGM was already shaving a year off of Judy’s age, listing her at 12 years old in an attempt to make her seem even more precocious than she already was.
According to the local newspapers, Judy was part of a big show in Pasadena, CA, (at the Pasadena Community Playhouse) titled “Rhythm Madness” that opened a few days prior, on September 24, 1935. The show was produced by Maurice L. Kusell, who in previous years produced successful juvenile Vaudeville revues that included Judy and her sisters.
Judy’s participation in the show was short-lived. These stage engagements at movie theatres were usually a week long but Judy’s first day at MGM was just a few days later on October 1, 1935. The result is that “Rhythm Madness” holds the distinction of being Judy’s last professional engagement before her MGM career. Note that one of the articles shown here mistakenly lists the opening date as the 26th.
September 27, 1940: Strike Up The Band was still opening around the country. This wonderful full-page ad treatment appeared in the Mansfield, Ohio “News Journal” newspaper, tying in local businesses to the film. Very cute!
September 27, 1940: More Strike Up The Band promotions including a record ad focused on Paul Whiteman but, oddly, none of Judy’s Decca singles. In the mix is also Judy’s second appearance in an Andy Hardy film, Andy Hardy Meets Debutante.
September 27, 1940: Judy’s recent pay raise at MGM made the nationwide news. The raise was significant. She had previously been making $500 per week. This new contract gave her $2,000 per week for three years, $2,500 per week for the next two years, then $3,000 per week for the final 2 years of the contract.
In the summer of 1946, a year prior to the end of this 1940 seven-year contract, Judy had just given birth to Liza Minnelli and made it known that when the contract expired in August 1947, she would not renew it preferring to go freelance and possibly star in a Broadway show.
MGM had other ideas. They made Judy an astounding offer. She was promised that she could continue to work with her husband (director Vincente Minnelli); She would only need to star in two films per year, one of which could be a guest spot but still getting top billing and all would be “lavish productions”; she would keep her makeup artist Dottie Ponedell as long as she was “employed by the studio”; she could still make records and radio appearances. The 5-year contract gave her a weekly salary of $5,619.23 with a guarantee of 300k per year ($150,000k per film). The new contract was dated November 20, 1946, nine months before the end of the 1940 contract. Judy returned to MGM in December 1946, under this new 5-year contract.
Judy later said that when she was convinced to sign the new contract and she did, she knew it was one of the biggest mistakes of her life.
September 27, 1940: Little Nellie Kelly finished filming (with retakes). Judy had a 4 p.m. called and was dismissed at 5:09 p.m. The scene was noted as “Added scenes – Interior Kelly’s Apartment.”
This article was published on this date explaining how MGM used Judy’s childhood photos (and a couple of MGM promotional pics) for the growing-up scenes in the film.
September 27, 1944: The Clock filming continued with scenes shot on the “Interior and Exterior Bus-pro treadmill” and “Interior Hotel Astor Lobby” sets. Time called: 10 a.m.; time arrived: 10:18 a.m.; time dismissed: 4:20 p.m.
September 27, 1948: Judy rehearsed “Johnny One Note” for Words And Music. Time called: 1:30 p.m.; dismissed: 2:45 p.m.
September 27, 1954: Premiering soon!
September 27, 1955: This interesting article appeared in the Melbourne, Australia newspaper “The News.” It’s about A Star Is Born and the notion that it was a “flop” but mentions why, including the cuts.
September 27, 1955: More reviews from Judy’s very first television special on September 24th.
September 27, 1955: Judy was a topic of both Walter Winchell and Dorothy Kilgallen’s columns. Judy allegedly told Winchell, “Problems have been the story of my life. First of all, I never really had a childhood – at least, the kind most children have. I went on the stage when I was three, and because we were shown folk – my whole family – other mothers wouldn’t let their children play with me. With no close friends, I was always lonesome. The only time I felt accepted or wanted was when I was on stage performing. I guess the stage was my only friend, the only place where I could feel comfortable. It was the one place I felt equal and safe. There were no snubs when I was on.”
September 27, 1956: The reviews were in and Judy was a smash at the opening of her second run at The Palace Theatre the night before (September 26th). Even the “tiny” review…
September 27, 1957: Judy’s Palace show, a year later, wowed them in Philadelphia. She opened a week-long engagement at the Mastbaum Theatre on September 26th.
September 27, 1958: The ongoing saga continued between Judy’s husband Sid Luft, and his previous wife, actress Lynn Bari, and the custody of their son, John. Bari had previously sued for more child support after Sid became Judy’s manager (then-husband) and Judy’s concert career took off. This time, Luft was given custody, and Bari, naturally, appealed.
September 27, 1961: Judy was still seeking happiness.
September 27, 1963: The videotaping of both the dress rehearsal (from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and the final performance (9:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.) of “Episode Eight” of “The Judy Garland Show” at CBS Television City, Stage 43, Hollywood, CA. Judy’s guests were George Maharis, Jak Carter, The Dillards, and series regular Jerry Van Dyke.
Judy’s songs were: “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (opening); “Be My Guest” (with Maharis and Carter); “I Wish You Love” (the audio from the dress rehearsal version was released on the 1991 Capitol Records boxed set “The One And Only”; and “Side By Side” (with Maharis); “Country Medley” (with all the guests).
For the “Born In A Trunk” sequence, Judy told the story about her feather boa then sang “Swanee” followed by “I Will Come Back.” Judy also taped a “Tea For Two” spot with baseball coach Leo Durocher.
The episode aired on October 20, 1963.
After the taping, Judy went out to a nightclub with Maharis, CBS executive Hunt Stromberg, and the network president, James Aubrey. Both men had attended the taping, and Judy adlibbed “Hunt Stromberg, Jr. is a cousin of mine!” during “I Will Come Back.”
Dress rehearsal footage survives and is on the now out-of-print DVD of the show, “The Judy Garland Show – Volume Four” (copies can be found on eBay).
The premiere of the show was just two days away.
September 27, 1967: Judy took her Palace show to the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis, Missouri. John Brod Peters of the “St. Louis Globe-Democrat” said:
Judy Garland’s secret is that she knows how to provoke and foster involvement . . . She tears herself open – she’s basically a sweet waif wanting love . . . She says what others dare not say for fear of embarrassment, for fear of being hurt: ‘I Love You. I want you to like me, to love me, I need your love.’ The pleading of this button-eyed waif of a celebrity – pleading to you and me – is utterly irresistible and she’s saying openly and boldly what the rest of us all our lives only say indirectly – when we say it at all . . . The experience of a Judy Garland performance may not turn everyone into a true believer, but it cannot fail to leave one utterly move.”