“Right now this red-haired young woman with a big voice is the hottest property in show business. She has put two-a-day vaudeville back on Broadway and into its mecca, the old Palace. She is playing to standing room only audiences. Queues stretch into the street and people have been buying tickets weeks in advance at a top of $4.80.” – Uncredited article, 1951
November 20, 1931: “The Gumm Sisters” performed at Maurice L. Kusell’s Pupil Recital at the Old Soldier’s Home in Sawtelle, California.
Judy, as “Baby Gumm,” performed in the American Legion Review. The review was put on by the Covina, California, chapter of the American Legion, at the town’s high school auditorium. The first article notes one child team as being under the direction of Kussell’s Studios in Los Angeles. Judy and her sisters (The Gumm Sisters) were part of Maurice Kusell’s studios that solely featured child acts. It’s unclear if the sisters were part of this show under Kussell’s banner or on their own. The trio performed on their own as well as with Kusell’s organization.
The articles here are from just before and just after the event. The articles note:
… “Baby Gumm,” tiny tot balladist from Lancaster, protege of the Lancaster American Legion, and featured on many broadcasts from the Los Angeles radio studios.
Baby Gumm from Lancaster, another sweetheart of the Legion, pleased the audience with her songs.
It’s been previously thought that this date was the date of the sisters’ appearance at a Kusell show in Sawtelle, California.
November 20, 1935: A sad, devastating day in Judy’s life. Her beloved father, Frank Gumm, was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Frank had passed in the early morning of November 17, 1935, from spinal meningitis. He was in the hospital the night before and heard Judy’s second appearance on the NBC Radio show ” The Shell Chateau Hour.” She sang “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart.” It was the last time he heard his daughter sing. The death was devastating to Judy. She had been extremely close to her father and felt that he was always in her corner. She later said that his death was “the most terrible thing that ever happened to me in my life.”
Listen to that November 16 radio performance here:
Below is Frank’s obituary as published in “Variety.” Note how he’s listed as “Garland” rather than “Gumm.” Also shown below is another notice about his death, this time from the “Nashville Banner.” Frank was a native of Tennessee.
November 20, 1935: In that same issue of “Variety” that carried Frank Gumm’s obituary was this notice about Judy’s involvement in the upcoming production of The Great Ziegfeld. The article is mostly incorrect. Judy’s involvement, with her sisters, in the project dates back to early 1935 when the project was still at Universal. The sisters were contracted to appear in the film. When Universal sold the project to MGM, the sisters were not part of the deal. Whatever role they were to play in the film was written out by the time MGM began filming.
Universal did not change Judy’s last name to Garland. She and her sisters famously took that name in August 1934, thanks to George Jessell and their engagement on the bill with him in Chicago. The articles that mention the sisters’ involvement in the film project from early 1935 list Judy as “Frances Garland” as well as the sisters as the “Garland Sisters.” Judy did not “go to Metro with the purchase of the story.” Her successful audition for MGM in September 1935 was not related to this project in any way.
The story in the article about how the studio paid little attention to Judy until they heard her sing at a night spot is also untrue. The studio was well aware of her talents and had her sing at various studio functions as well as industry functions and “night spots.”
This “Variety” notice was most likely cooked up by the MGM publicity department, which liked to shave a year off her age. She was already well past her 13th birthday but MGM claimed she was 12 to make her seem even more precocious.
November 20, 1937: Two items from the trade magazine, “Motion Picture Herald.” The first is a positive review of Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry. The second is the magazine’s regular “What The Picture Did For Me” feature. “Horn & Morgan” of the Star Theatre in Hay Springs, Nebraska, had this to say about Broadway Melody of 1938: “Just as good as any of the previous Melodies so far as we could see. It drew extra business, but really it should, considering the costs. It has a swell case of dancers and singers.”
November 19, 1938: Here’s an interesting news blurb about location shooting for The Wizard of Oz being canceled. The only problem is, none of the movie was filmed on location (nor was any of it ever planned to be), it was all filmed on MGM soundstages.
November 20, 1940: Here’s a review of Little Nellie Kelly plus an ad placed in the “Film Daily” trade magazine promoting various MGM films including Strike Up The Band.
November 20, 1942: For Me And My Gal went into general release. It had its premiere in New York City at the Astor Theater on October 21st and was a huge hit. On an investment of $802,980.68, the film would go on to gross $4,371,000.
For Me And My Gal is notable not just because it’s a great film, but also for the screen debut of Gene Kelly (thanks to Judy’s help) and for the fact that it’s the first time Judy had above-the-title-solo billing. It’s also Judy’s first real adult role. Most people point to Presenting Lily Mars as Judy’s first adult role mainly because she’s presented (in the finale) for the first time in a glamorous way. The reality is that For Me And My Gal is her first adult role. Of course, she’s perfect. She and Kelly make a perfect team, too. They ended up starring together in three films, the other two being The PIrate (1948) and Summer Stock (1950).
November 20, 1942: Judy’s set to help out a marine, sailor, and soldier during Thanksgiving. I wonder if that actually happened and if it did, what they chatted about.
Also on this date, Judy was photographed at a film premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, however, I don’t know what film was premiering.
November 20, 1944: The cover of “Victory” magazine as published in India, plus another notice about the upcoming (in just two days!) premiere of Meet Me In St. Louis in, naturally, St. Louis, Missouri.
November 20, 1944: This ad about fan magazines includes the November 1944 edition of “Screen Stories” with Judy on the cover.
November 20, 1944: Filming on The Clock continued with scenes shot on the “Interior Al Henry Kitchen” set. Time called: 10 a.m.; Judy arrived on the set at 10:33 a.m.; dismissed: 7:25 p.m. James and Lucille Gleason provided wonderful support to Judy and co-star Robert Walker.
November 20, 1946: MGM typed up a new contract for Judy, which went into effect on January 2, 1947. This new contract gave her a weekly salary of $5,619.23: Nearly $1,000 per day for the six-day workweek, with a guarantee of $300,000 per year, $150,000 per film, making the contract worth a total of $1.5 million for five years of work.
Judy’s previous contract was scheduled to end in August of 1947. She had changed agents during the time of her pregnancy with Liza and recuperation. She had previously been with Leland Hayward, but Haward sold his company to the Music Corporation of America (MCA) to concentrate on backing Broadway shows.
Judy’s new agency, Berg-Allenberg, Inc., began negotiating a new contract with MGM. Judy had made it clear that after her current contract ran out in August of 1947 she intended to freelance. MGM was not happy about that and did everything it could to keep Judy with the studio.
MGM offered the following incentives: She could continue to work with her husband (Vincente Minnelli); the studio would mount lavish productions starring Judy along with a pledge that she need not make more than two films in one year and one of those two could be a “guest” appearance though she would still get “top billing”; she could continue to have Dottie Ponedel as her makeup artist, as long as Dottie would “be employed by the studio.”; and she had the right to make “phonograph records” and radio appearances.
Later, Judy said that after she signed the new contract she immediately knew she had made a big mistake. She would be proven right in just a few years when the strain of the studio grind became too much for her and she left MGM forever in September 1950.
November 20, 1947: Judy entered into this three-year contract with the agency of Phil, Berg-Bert, Allenberg, Inc. guaranteeing them 10 percent of the money she would make while under contract to MGM. This contract was limited to “the motion picture industry and to contracts of the Actor as an Actor in such industry…” This must have been a renewal, as Judy had already signed with the agency in early 1946 after her original agent, Leland Hayward, sold his company to the Music Corporation of America (MCA) so that he could concentrate on backing Broadway shows. That resulted in the new MGM contract that Judy signed in 1946 (see above).
Also on this day, Judy rehearsed “A Fella With An Umbrella” (with Peter Lawford) and “Mr. Monotony” for Easter Parade. Time called: 11 a.m.; dismissed: 4:40 p.m. In light of this schedule, it’s assumed that Judy signed this paperwork in the evening after the day’s rehearsals.
November 20, 1948: Lovely To Look At, a remake of Roberta, was allegedly planned for Judy and Gene Kelly. They would have been wonderful in the film, although Judy would have had to sing “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” which was a song that she did not like, and hilariously lampooned on her TV series on January 17, 1964. The film was finally made and released in 1952 starring Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel.
November 20, 1948: Words and Music.
November 20, 1949: Judy sells Max Factor. It’s too bad she never had a contract with a makeup line such as the ones stars have today with various beauty product companies. She might have had some extra money.
Also from November 20, 1949, this amusing letter to the Editor of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minnesota:
To the Editor: It seems to me you owe Judy Garland an apology. You had her divorced twice in your matrimonial scoreboard on former child stars in the Tribune Sunday, Oct. 30. I’m sure she has been divorced only once. – LILA THOMPSON. Minneapolis.
Editor’s Note: Judy Garland’s one divorce was from David Rose, band leader. The fact she was credited with two divorces in the Oct. 30 story, erroneously, arose from the suspended status of her current marriage to Vincente Minelli [sic]. She and Minelli [sic] are separated, although there have been reconciliation rumors. It looks like we take a technical K.O. on this one and the apology is in order.
November 20, 1951: Here is a great article about Judy’s appeal and how her fans supported her through thick and thin.
The champions of Judy Garland turn every Palace performance into a neighborly affair where strangers chat with each other about the little star they have come to see. And they’ve come to see Judy Garland, not to welcome two-a-day vaudeville back to Broadway.
A reporter, at a Garland matinee, asked a number of the audience why they were there.
“To see Judy,” they said with complete unanimity. Then each launched into an impassioned defense, usually using the word brave, referring to her as “a little girl,” and speaking of her “bad luck.” Through all of their explanations there seemed to be a sort of personal satisfaction that she refused to be owned by the dark fate pursuing her relentlessly.
“Poor dear,” said a Brooklyn woman, “she’s had such a bad time. Everything against her. And so brave. And such a little thing. I used to love her pictures and everything has made me feel so sorry for her.
November 20, 1954: Here’s an example of a theatre display for A Star Is Born, out of RKO Keith’s Theatre in Syracuse, New York. Included is a combination of ads for the film placed in the “Los Angeles Times.”
November 20, 1961: Judy gave a one-woman show for Jack Benny at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The event was Benny being honored by the American-Israel Cultural Foundation. Judy and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra were apparently the only entertainment. No recording was made and it’s unknown what Judy sang.
November 20, 1964: Listeners of WBAG out of Burlington, North Carolina, were treated to a full day of Judy Garland songs.
November 20, 1966: Judy appeared at the Friars Club tribute in Los Angeles, California, for George Jessell, and won the greatest cheer, with her line; “George, you knew me when I was nine years old: You should have married me!”
November 20, 1967: The second of a three-part series of condensed newspaper reprints of the “Ladies Home Journal” magazine article written by Judy.
November 20, 1968: “Whatever Became of the Harvey Girls?” This article gives the history of the Harvey chain of restaurants, the famous “Harvey Girls” and the 1946 Garland film The Harvey Girls.
Also on this date, Judy and John Meyer unpacked after arriving at Judy’s Boston apartment the day before. This resulted in a dry cleaning bill of $32.85. In the mid-afternoon, Anne Bryant, a 19-year-old student at the Berklee College of Music that Judy had befriended, came over to take down “sketches” of seven more songs from which orchestrations would be made for Judy – so that Judy would not need to pay to get her orchestrations back, and would be able to work again.
November 20, 1982: The cover of the fan publication “Radio Times” featured Judy with In The Good Old Summertime co-star Van Johnson. Johnson was the guest on the radio show “Celebrity Cinema.”
Scan provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!
November 20, 2020: Released on this day, the newly remastered The Pirate on Blu-ray. The film was remastered for the first time from the original three-strip Technicolor negative. The brilliance of Judy and co-star Gene Kelly’s performances and director Vincente Minnelli’s use of color never looked better. Here are some before (DVD) and after (Blu-ray) comparison screenshots.
Check out The Judy Room’s DVD/Blu-ray Page for details about the release including more comparison screenshots.