On This Day In Judy Garland’s Life And Career – October 20

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“Lovable Judy, only 28 but with fifty years worth of troubles behind her, came back and dragged two-a-day along.  It may not stay.  Judy will.” – Earl Wilson, 1951

October 20, 1933:  Here is a notice about the upcoming stage show at the Torrance Theatre in Redondo Beach, California.  Even at this early stage in their vaudeville career, the sisters were well-known enough to garner to get this advanced praise, singling out Judy for her talents:

Next are the Gumm Sisters, a trio of voices that are unusual.  The youngest member of the trio is a comedienne of no little reputation and her comedy songs are said to be a hilarious sensation.  Also featured in their act is harmony that is sweet and pleasing.

October 20, 1936:  This review of Pigskin Parade was published in the “Film Daily” trade magazine.  It noted:  Fifteen-year old Judy Garland, given her first screen chance, delivers solidly with “It’s Love I’m After.”  Just was actually only fourteen years old.


October 20, 1937:  This photo was taken on the set of Everybody Sing.  Judy is clowning with her fellow cast members, plus Roger Edens, and I think director Edwin L. Marin.


October 20, 1938:  In the curio department, this notice about the “Judy Garland International Heartthrob Sociedad Anonima of North America” club is headquartered in Harlingen, Texas.

On this day at MGM, Judy and her castmates began two days of filming the chase of Dorothy and her companions by the Winkies through the Witch’s entrance hall for The Wizard of Oz.  Also filmed were exterior shots of the Winkies outside the drawbridge that was possibly Toto’s escape.  All of this ended up on the cutting room floor after filming was halted on October 24th.  None of the scrapped footage exists.

On the night of October 21, the original Tin Man, Buddy Ebsen, collapsed and was hospitalized after breathing in the aluminum dust used for the makeup.  Producer Mervyn LeRoy was unhappy with the footage shot so far, so director Richard Thorpe was fired from the project and it was decided to start all over again after securing a new Tin Man.  George Cukor came in as a temporary consultant and changed the looks of the principal characters, most famously making Dorothy a brunette, and is quoted as telling Judy to remember that “you’re just a little girl from Kansas.”  The implication is that Thorpe had her acting in what’s been termed a “fairy tale princess manner.”  When shooting resumed under the direction of Victor Fleming on November 4, even the Yellow Brick Road had been changed.  The Witch’s Castle scenes were not re-filmed until early to mid-December.

Check out The Judy Room’s Spotlight on The Wizard of Oz here.

October 20, 1938:  Judy appeared on the “Good News of 1939” radio program along with Joan Crawford, Billie Burke, Fanny Brice, Frank Morgan, Meredith Willson, and Robert Young.  Judy sang “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart” and “On The Bumpy Road To Love” (with Fanny Brice, “Daddy” Stafford, Frank Morgan, Robert Young, and Joan Crawford).

Listen to “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart” here:

Listen to “On The Bumpy Road To Love” here:

Listen to the entire show here:

October 20, 1939 Trailer

October 20, 1939:  The scoring for the trailer to Babes in Arms was recorded on this day.

More details and images of all of Judy’s activities during that golden year of 1939 can be found on The Judy Room’s Garland Centennial 1939 Page.

October 20, 1940:  A busy week for Judy.  In addition to her duties at MGM, she was scheduled to be at the racetrack the following evening (October 21) for the “Judy Garland Race.”  It was the tenth race of the day and Judy was to give the trophy to the winner.  The race happened and was covered by the papers but no photos were included so it’s unclear if any photos were taken of Judy giving out the trophy.

That Wednesday (per the second article above, October 23rd), Judy, along with Mickey Rooney and several other young stars (Lana Turner and Marsha Hunt doing duty as cigarette girls!), was scheduled to participate in a benefit party put on by the “Motion Picture Mothers, Inc.” in the Palm Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel.  Again, no photos of the event were published.

At this time, Strike Up The Band was opening in theaters around the country and was another big hit for Judy, Mickey Rooney, and MGM.


October 20, 1942:  For Me And My Gal was set to premiere in New York the next day!

Check out The Judy Room’s Filmography Pages on For Me And My Gal here.

The Clock Herald

October 20, 1944:  Filming continued on The Clock with scenes shot on the “Interior Laboratory and Corridor Outside” set.  Time called: 10 a.m.; dismissed: 6:15 p.m.

Check out The Judy Room’s Filmography Pages on The Clock here.


October 20, 1945:  Judy was out sick and did not work on the film she was currently working on, Till The Clouds Roll By.

Check out The Judy Room’s Spotlight on Till The Clouds Roll By here.

October 20, 1947:  Here’s an ad for the MGM Records soundtrack of Till The Clouds Roll By.  The album was the very first release by the newly formed label, given the number “MGM-1.”  It was reissued many times over the years.

Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s Till The Clouds Roll By pages here.

Check out The Judy Room’s Spotlight on Till The Clouds Roll By here.


October 20, 1947:  Judy and her new co-star, Fred Astaire, began music rehearsals of “A Couple of Swells” for Easter Parade.  Time called: 2 p.m.; Judy arrived at 2:15 p.m.; dismissed: 3:20 p.m.

Check out The Judy Room’s Spotlight on Easter Parade here.

October 20, 1948:  This two-page ad appeared in the trade magazine, “Motion Picture Daily.”


October 20, 1949:  Judy and Mickey Rooney are listed in this article as examples of child stars losing their childhoods.  Sadly, Judy became the poster girl for stars who were robbed of their childhoods and the oftentimes tragic results.

October 20, 1951:  Columnist Earl Wilson reports on Judy’s recent opening night, and phenomenal comeback, at The Palace Theatre in New York.  Basically, everyone was in tears.

Check out The Judy Room’s “Judy Garland – The Concert Years” Section here.

October 20, 1953:  A Star Is Born filming continued with the shooting of the first version of “The Man That Got Away.”

The song was shot utilizing two different systems: “CinemaScope,” the new process, was the first version shot; this filming went from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., by which time the standard Technicolor version had been relit and reblocked.

The Technicolor filming at 5:00 p.m. required only three takes to complete the song (the first take was spoiled by the camera, the second by Judy bumping into a table, and the third take – filmed in one complete take for the whole number – was printed). The day had started at 10 a.m. and the company was dismissed at 6:16 p.m.

Photos provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!

Check out The Judy Room’s Spotlight on A Star Is Born here.

October 20, 1953:  The Warner Bros. publicity department sent out photos of Judy as a carhop to promote the beginning of filming on A Star Is Born and probably to show a happy and cute Judy to the public.  Once the film was hacked, Garland fans must have been disappointed that the scenes were not in the film.  Luckily they survived and were restored back into the film in 1983.

Check out The Judy Room’s Spotlight on A Star Is Born here.

October 20, 1954:  A Star Is Born ads and a review.  At this point, the film was still being shown at the original three-hour length.

Check out The Judy Room’s Spotlight on A Star Is Born here.


October 20, 1956:  This article appeared in various papers around the world.  This one in Australia’s “Argus,”

They were ready to “SHOOT” ME


The cheers of the audience at her present Broadway triumph in New York were still ringing in Judy Garland’s ears when she told me the heart-tearing story of another triumph – that turned into tears.

“Just picture the scene,” said Judy.  “There I was, weak and exhausted, after the battle to bring Joe into the world.  He wasn’t too good, either.  At that moment doctors didn’t give him better than a fifty-fifty chance.  Of course I knew it was Oscar night and that I had been nominated, but believe me I had more on my mind than gold statues right then.”

“Anyway there I was lying in bed trying to get my breath back when the door burst open and in came a flock of television technicians.”  Judy already had a TV set in her room but they dragged in two more.

“When I asked what they were for they said I would have to talk back and forth to Bob Hope – who was compering – after I’d got the award,” said Judy.  “The technicians strung wires all round the room.  They even put a microphone under my nightie.”

“We’ll kill you”

“They frightened the poor nurse to death.  That said to her, ‘If you open that window while the show is on we’ll kill you. Outside the hospital other technicians had built a four story high tower for cameras to focus through the window.”

“What with all the excitement and everything, they got me all worked up too.  I was lying in bed trying to look cute and all ready to give a performance.”

Judy paused for a moment as she remembered the drama of the astounding announcement that came from one of the TV sets.  Then she said simply:  “Bob Hope came on the screen and said Grace Kelly had won.”

Judy paused again.  Then she began to laugh. For several minutes she could not go on with her story.  When she did continue she had me doubled up with laughter, too.  “I’ll never forget it to my dying day,” she said.

“They just said ‘Kelly, aah!’ and started lugging all the stuff out again.  “They were so mad they couldn’t even say goodnight to me.”

“You should have seen the looks on their faces as they tramped out with all the gear.”  But it was not so funny at the time.  Judy’s husband, Sid Luft, had brought three bottles of champagne and a dish of caviar to celebrate winning the Oscar.

When the TV men had gone he said:  “How do you feel?” Judy answered:  “A bit disappointed.”  So he opened the champagne and they sat alone sipping it and eating the caviar.

Next morning Judy got a telegram from Groucho Marx.  It said: “This is robbery.”  But Judy was not long in the dumps over her disappointment.  The cheers had once before turned to tears for Judy.

THEN the newspapers headlined what happened to her as a “suicide bid.”

THEN she was released from her film contract by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

THEN she was broke.

Everyone said she was finished as a star – a has-been.


Judy first met him when she was recording the song “Dear Mr. Gable.” At that time Judy was only 14.

Didn’t register

Sid and Judy bet on and off over the years – “but we never registered with each other,” she explained.  It seemed they still didn’t “register” at the meeting that was eventually to change Judy’s life.  It was at a New York bowling alley party given by actor Peter Lawford after her release, in 1950, from M.G.M.

Sid – an ex-Royal Canadian Air Force flyer and test pilot who was still recovering from a bad crash – asked Judy if he could phone her.  But she was so unimpressed by him that when she got back to the hotel she told her secretary she was “out” if he did call.  Judy saw Sid again at a party a few nights later.

“How can you explain these things? says Judy.  “There he was, the same man I had seen a few nights before.  This time he seemed a little chilly towards me, and my heart turned over and went boom.  We made a date to meet two nights later.  I dashed out and bought a new hat and a gold satin coat.  He said he would come for me at 7:30.  I was all dressed up and waiting. AND HOUR later, no Sid. THREE HOURS later, still no Sid.

But he phoned

“To hell with it, I thought.  Why should I wait round like this for any guy?”  Judy went on: “I took off the gold coat and went to bed.  At 1:30 in the morning he phoned.  He said he had come at the right time, but the hotel said I was out.  So he had been drinking and had got in a fist fight on Madison Avenue.  I told him to come right round.  I got up, got dressed and we walked about the streets of New York until dawn.”

Judy describes herself and Sid in those days as – “A couple of brooders, so we thought we might as well brood together.”

In fact, that was exactly what they did NOT do.  Instead of brooding they began to plan a show.


On and on it went for weeks and months – rehearsals, appointments, new songs, dress fittings.  And it all built up to that night of challenge, April 10, 1961, when Judy would open at the London Palladium.

A “Pictorial” reporter took Judy for her first look at the great theatre that was to become the scene of one of the most fantastic performances in stage history.  Judy and the reporter stood together in the empty stalls.  Her brown eyes glistened and she breathed: “So this is it – wonderful.”

Perhaps she sensed then that what happened on that stage to a few days’ time could mean life or death for her career.  Here, for the first time, as she told it to me, is her own story of the anguish of that occasion.  She said: “The night before the opening I did not sleep a wink for terror.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t rest.  I couldn’t even sit.  When they finally got me to the dressing room I was only half conscious.  I had not worked at all for almost three years, and had hardly given a show in public since I was a kid.  There were only minutes left.  I had to get hold of myself.  I said to myself: ‘What’s the matter with you, you dope?  If you don’t cut this out you won’t be able to sing.  Don’t worry, they won’t eat you, you are not going to fall down.’”

“So almost the first thing I do when I go on stage is fall down.”  Judy explained:  “It has been said that I tripped over a wire or loose board.  That is not true.  I didn’t fall at all really.  I JUST COLLAPSED.  Standing in the wings waiting to go on I became paralyzed.”

“My knees locked together and I walked like a stiff toy soldier.”  Judy got up, pressed her knees together, and walked rigidly round the room with her arms hanging by her side to show me what she meant.  The fall happened after I had sung two or three numbers.  I was trying to take a bow.  I just went ‘Ugh!’ and fell.”

Judy said she sat there and thought, “Gosdarn this.”  “Then I looked up at Sid, who was hanging out of a box screaming:  “‘You’re great, baby, you’re great’  Somehow I lurched back into the wings.  I remember thinking:  ‘That’s it, Judy falls flat, and that’s the end of the great comeback.’”

“I was ready to quit.  But my old friend Kay Thompson (the cabaret artist) was waiting at the side of the stage.  She screamed: ‘GET BACK THERE. THEY LOVE YOU.’  She gave me one almighty shove that carried me back almost centre stage.  Instead of getting the bird, that wonderful British audience clapped me.  I unlocked, and all I wanted to do came surging out.  All the bad years went.  It was like being re-born.  It was like being given a new life to start.”  Even the London “Times” said of Judy in a review:  “She runs away with the show.”

After the Palladium, there was the tumultuous reception at New York’s famous Palace Theatre, and then marriage, in June 1952, to “her guy” – the good and patient Sid.

About the marriage, Judy says:  “We are very good for each other.  He steadies me, and I trust him.  With me it used to be way up or way down. Sid helps me to stay on the middle course.”

Sid had cleared his first hurdle.  He had proved to Judy that her talent was as bright and real as it had ever been.  Now he began to edge her towards the idea of making another film.


Check out The Judy Room’s “Judy Garland – The Concert Years” Section here.

October 20, 1961:  Two very different reviews of Judy’s appearance at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the night before.

Check out The Judy Room’s “Judy Garland – The Concert Years” Section here.


October 20, 1963:  “Episode Eight” of “The Judy Garland Show” premiered on CBS.

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.) took place on September 27, 1963, at CBS Television City, Stage 43, Hollywood, CA. Jud.

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.

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).

Check out The Judy Room’s “Judy Garland – The Concert Years” Section here.

October 20 & 21, 1967:  Two reviews of the “Judy at the Palace” LP.

Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s pages about the album and its various releases here.

Check out The Judy Room’s “Judy Garland – The Concert Years” Section here.

October 20, 1967:  The first night of a two-night engagement for Judy at the Bushnell Auditorium, Hartford, CT.

Download the concert here (zip file):
NOTE: The sound quality is very poor due to its being recorded from a seat in the audience.

Judy arrived from California – according to press from Hartford papers – and checked into the Hartford Hilton at 2:30 a.m., the morning of her first concert, October 20.

There had been a press conference scheduled for Thursday evening, October 19, which she, Sid, and the children missed.  One reporter who waited for them was Allen M. Widem of the “Hartford Times,” who got a few scoops.  There was “constant talk of a television series, but at the moment nothing offered seems to smack of the Judy Garland individualist approach. She’s still open to suggestions, however.”  This might explain the sudden and quick trip to California: for business meetings about doing another series, which seems incredible considering the “failure” of the one she did, and the fact that she was blacklisted from all primetime television variety series work, after the April 1, 1966 “Hollywood Palace” debacle.  However, the Palace Theater engagement and the tour had established yet another “comeback” for Judy, so it’s possible that there were some offers; it could just as easily have been for the benefit of the press.

At this time, Judy also said she’d “love” to do a movie version of the Broadway musical “Mame” saying she didn’t believe anyone was signed yet, “and the field’s still wide open.  The role’s the kind that contains a tremendous excitement to me as a performer.”

The morning of the show, October 20, found Judy starting a six-hour rehearsal with Bobby Cole and the 26-piece orchestra at 11 a.m., only 8 1/2 hours after her arrival.

Photos:  Judy with Esse Kupcinent in 1967, various ads, plus a review of the show.

Check out The Judy Room’s “Judy Garland – The Concert Years” Section here.

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