“Judy Garland, as slim as an undernourished string bean, plays the role of this little vaudevillian with great flair, not only because of her singing of the old songs, which are many, but because of the emotional quality which she gives the playing … Garland is fresh and active and she puts over a song better than most of her contemporaries with vastly more experience.” – Uncredited review of “For Me And My Gal,” 1942
November 27, 1935: Judy made two test recordings for Decca Records, “No Other One” and “All’s Well” with Victor Young conducting (he would conduct her first commercial recording of “Over The Rainbow” on July 28, 1939). To date, both recordings remain lost.
This was Judy’s second session for the label and the first after she had signed her initial contract with MGM. She had already recorded three tests on March 29, 1935. On that day, Judy and her sisters recorded “Moonglow” (not known to exist) and she soloed on “Bill” and a medley of “On The Good Ship Lollipop/The Object Of My Affection/Dinah.” All were recorded with mom Ethel at the piano. The latter two were lost until discovered in the 2000s. Read the details on The Judy Garland Online Discography’s Page about the recordings.
At this same time in late November 1935, Decca president Jack Kapp was in Los Angeles signing new talent to the then still young label. As reported by Variety a week later, Kapp signed several artists before returning to New York, and Judy was listed as a part of that new talent. Variety described Judy as “the 12-year-old Metro contractee-songstress.” The details of that first contract or agreement are unknown as no documents have survived.
The newly discovered information about this 1935 contract changed the previous “official Decca Records timeline” which maintained that Judy signed her first contract with the label in August 1937. According to Decca, Kapp saw a screening of Broadway Melody of 1938 at the Village Theater in West Los Angeles in late August 1937. He was so impressed with Judy’s performance that he drew up a contract that same night. That contract was for six months. On August 30, 1937, Judy signed the contract (being a minor the contract was co-signed by her mother, Ethel) and also recorded her first singles under that new contract, “Everybody Sing” and “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm.”
To further confuse things, a year prior on June 12, 1936, Judy recorded “Swing, Mr. Charlie” and “Stompin’ At The Savoy” at the label’s New York studios. She was in the city for an MGM promotional tour. The two songs were released as a single in July 1936. These are considered to be Judy’s first “official” recordings made for Decca but according to the label, that session and single release did not result in a contract. It has always seemed odd that Decca would have Judy record two songs, release them, and still not put her under contract. It’s also odd that considering his apparent previous enthusiasm (1935) for Judy and then his later enthusiasm (1937) Kapp wasn’t enthusiastic about her in the interim when she was in New York recording at their studios (1936). Maybe he was out of town.
What might explain this anomaly is that her contract from November 1935 was “per-side” (per-song) but for whatever reason, she didn’t record anything until June 1936. If Decca had created a six-month contract with Judy in late November 1935, that contract would have expired before those June recordings were made, unless she had been signed per side of which that 1936 single might have been the fulfillment of that contract.
It’s also possible that from late November 1935 through August 1937, Judy was actually still associated with the label either through a succession of now-lost contracts for a number of per-side recordings or now-lost time-constrained contract(s). Considering what else has been lost, especially from those early years (Decca was still a young company), this is a very likely scenario.
After the signing of that 1937 contract, Judy stayed with the label for a full decade, recording her last singes on November 15, 1947.
For more information about Judy’s Decca recordings, check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s Decca Records section.
November 27, 1940: More for Little Nellie Kelly.
November 27, 1941: This ad promoting the upcoming release of Babes on Broadway was published in the “Film Daily” trade paper. Inside was the following blurb:
Metro Shifts Tradeshow Date for “Babes” to Dec. 5
Metro announces that “Babes on Broadway” will be tradeshown nationally on Dec. 5 instead of Dec. 9, as previously announced. In New York the new Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musical will be screened on Dec. 2.
The New York screenings, at the Film Center, 640 9th Ave., for Dec. 2 follow: 9:30 a.m. – “Dr. Kildare’s Victory” and “The Vanishing Virginian”; 1:30 p.m. – “Babes on Broadway.”
November 27, 1942: Judy was getting great reviews around the nation for her triumphant performance in her first adult role in For Me And My Gal. Here are a few (text for three below, the fourth is readable in the image).
Judy Garland Delights in Movie Of Old Vaudeville, War Days
By GEORGE L. DAVID
THERE is no young player on the screen who possesses more wholesome charm than Judy Garland, and few who mater her in varied talents and showmanship. Now she comes forth for the first time bearing the main star burden, and, with the tiptop aid of numerous others, makes “For Me and My Gal” a pretty consistent delight.
The old-timers undoubtedly will relish this picture, for it has as its background, and a deal of it foreground, vaudeville when that brand of entertainment was flourishing back in the late ‘teens. The vaudeville flavor and atmosphere have been recaptured effectively, and so too have the styles of the two-a-day and three-a-day performers. The fans of the old variety shows will find it all quite nostalgic.
News of the offering is that a film newcomer makes a quite emphatic impression in his debut. He is Gene Kelly, a young actor drafted from Broadway, where he came to notice only two seasons ago in the George Abbott musical. He has a strong, likable personality that registered immediately, and he displays ability not only as an actor, but also as a stepper and singer. He pairs in capital style with Miss Garland as a vaudeville team, and he is decidedly effective in his characterization and their romance. He plays a chap who has a good bit of the heel about him, but who has this knocked out of him by the smacking blow and then fully redeems himself in France in 1918.
George Murphy turns in a pleasing job as the loyal and Kindly “other man,” and Marta Eggerth is another new to our screen – a Hungarian importation – who glitters as a star and sings with a soprano of appealing quality and in excellent style. She is seen as the “other woman,” and she will be worth seeing again. Ben Blue, Richard Quine, Keenan Wynn and other provide good support. Wynn has a few telling moments, and Blue always is helpful in the right spots.
Against the vaudeville background is unfolded a story of ambitious young talent and romance and its crisis in a triangle. Then the action shifts to war settings in France. Jo Hayden (Miss Garland) is in the act of Jimmy Metcalfe (Murphy), who is fond of her. They are playing the Midwest “small time” towns before the first World War. Jo, who is helping to send her brother, Danny, through medical school, is eager to reach the “big time” and the renowned Palace in New York, as are all of the minor vaudevillians of the time.
At a small stop she meets a bumptious young ham, Harry Palmer (Kelly), and freezes him at first. But he has written a song and persuades her to try it out with him. They do some steps, too. She is convinced that she and Harry would make a winning team. Jimmy agrees and generously releases her. She and Harry perfect their act, win favor and she falls deeply in love with him. Then the shimmering Eve Minard (Miss Eggerth), a star, fascinates him, and Jo is sad as Harry turns from her when not in the theater. Then he realized that he loves Jo and she is elated. They plan to marry as soon as they reach the Palace.
Danny has gone across in the army, and before long Jo gets word of his death in action. This news arrives soon after notice that their act has been booked into the Palace. Suddenly Harry is notified to report for army examination; he is indignant, seeing his ambition and romance both thwarted. Deliberately he injures one of his hands badly and gets deferment. Jo denounces him for this and sends him away in scorn. The rest of the story is unfolded at army camps and YMCA huts in France, where Harry finally proves he has good stuff in him – except the finish, which takes place back at the Palace in New York.
May of the favorite old vaudeville songs of that period and the popular war ballads are sung by Miss Garland and others, and they get over mighty well.
Also on Loew’s new bill is “Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood,” in which the doughty Chester Morris appears again, with the fetching Constance Worth opposite.
BOYD MARTIN Reviews Holiday Theater Offerings
‘For Me and My Gal’ Wins Oscar As Best of Eight New Features
By 8 o’clock last night all the down-town motion picture theaters were selling standing room only all over the house. Lines of eager patrons were in long queues waiting patiently for a change of luck. They were lined up on the sidewalks, apparently unmindful of the chill breeze which swept down Fourth Street, for they were entertained by the rah, rah of the high school students still celebrated a Manual victory on the gridiron.
Our choice for the week’s Oscar among the eight new features offered would be “For Me and My Gal,” a highly entertaining picture which heads Loew’s bill. This film is reminiscent of the palmy days of vaudeville when the Palace Theater in New York was the mecca for all vaudeville performers. It also might be a story of Elsie Janis, one of the top-notch vaudeville performers who graduated to the highest rank in musical comedy and served her country well in organizing and heading a unit to entertain the boys of the A.E.F. during the last World War.
Judy Plays With Flare.
For the heroine of this sentimental and nostalgic musical is a vaudeville entertainer who, when war breaks out, goes overseas and there is re-united with her former partner who, in the meantime, has become a hero while servicing with the Y.M.C.A.
Judy Garland, as slim and as an undernourished string bean, plays the role of this little vaudevillian with great flair, not only because of her singing of the old songs, which are many, but because of the emotional quality which she gives the playing.
There is a screen newcomer in Gene Kelly, the “Pal Joey” of the play of that name, who plays her partner, an ambitious performer who is willing to cripple his hand to keep from being drafted when he thinks it is going to ruin his chances of keeping the much coveted engagement at the Palace.
Story One of Frustration.
Of course the story is one of frustration, but happily hero and heroine are able to start afresh, after the war, with a clearer understanding of duty and life’s complexes.
“For me and My Gal” is Kelly’s first picture but it won’t be his last. Playing something of a heel he is nevertheless ingratiating and he gains a lot of sympathy for the character by his straightforward portrait. He is an able dancer, white a mimic and altogether delightful.
It is needless to say that Miss Garland is fresh and active and that she puts over a song better than most of her contemporaries with vastly more experience.
A new Lone Wolf melodrama which deals with the steering of planes by the Nazi, eventually tracked down and captured by the hero is “Counter-Espionage,” which is Loew’s second feature. Warren William is still the Lone Wolf and Eric Blore again plays his comical assistant.
Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and George Murphy Appear in Screen Hit Now Showing Here
Judy Garland and clever players of today carry audiences back to the glories of vaudeville of yesterday, in a vivid romance with the varieties as a glittering background, in “For Me and My Gal,” now showing at the Victoria Theatre. The picture serves to introduce to the screen Gene Kelly, New York stage sensation in “Pal Joey,” as her latest partner. Miss Garland plays her first adult role and aside from intriguing song and dance appearances has poignant dramatic episodes which she handles compellingly.
The story opens in small time vaudeville in 1915, with Miss Garland as a young singer, Kelly as a clown juggler. They find a song hit, become partners, fall in love, and vow to marry when they achieve that ambition of all vaudevillians, and play the Palace Theatre in New York.
Their courtship is amid various vaudeville acts in various theatres. Then the World War starts, and Kelly is called on the eve of their triumph, a Palace engagement. Desperate, he tries to delay the call by injuring his hand; is renounced by Miss Garland, whose brother has been killed in France, and finally redeems himself overseas, where she has gone as an entertainer, by an act of supplement heroism.
The vaudeville sequences bring to new life such famous vaudeville songs as “For Me and My Gal,” “Oh, You Beautiful Doll,” “After You’ve Gone,” “How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm?” “Ballin’ the Jack” and many others. Marta Eggerth, glamorous star from Europe, making her American screen debut, sings a Strauss medley with a ballet of dancing violinists in an elaborate spectacle. Miss Garland and Kelly figure in some whirlwind dancing and singing numbers.
Other principals are George Murphy, Ben Blue, Lucille Norman, Richard Quine, Keenan Wynn and Horace McNally. William Daniels embellished the story with beautiful photography, and George Still handled the musical direction with fidelity to vaudeville in its heyday.
November 27, 1942: Some news blurbs about Judy. The mention that Judy and her husband David Rose might be expecting is notable in light of what we know now about Judy being convinced to have an abortion during the marriage. Also of note is the mention of Betty Asher, who ingratiated herself to Judy as a “friend” only to be revealed as an MGM spy who reported Judy’s actions back to the studio. When Judy found out she was crushed.
Photo: Judy on her first USO tour of Army camps, which is the only known photo of Judy with Betty Asher who is directly in front of her. The photo was taken on September 10, 1943, in Boston.
November 27, 1943: Judy had a rare two days off from MGM, at least from filming Meet Me In St. Louis. There are no records as to what, if anything, Judy was required to do at the studio during these two days. Hopefully, she got some rest!
November 27, 1944: Judy arrived in New York for the NYC premiere of Meet Me In St. Louis at the Astor Theater.
November 27, 1946: Judy’s guest appearance on the “Philco Radio Time/The Bing Crosby Show – Thanksgiving Special” radio show aired on ABC-Radio. The show had been prerecorded on November 12th. Crosby always prerecorded his show about two weeks in advance and happily most of them have survived.
Here is the complete show, remastered:
Judy sang “Liza” in honor of the recent birth of her daughter, Liza Minnelli. Judy and Bing also performed a comedy skit followed by “Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie.”
Listen to “Liza” here:
Listen to “Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie” here:
November 27, 1947: Judy had a rare four days off from her work on Easter Parade. She returned to the studio on December 2nd for retakes for The Pirate, missing a scheduled day of retakes on December 1st.
November 27, 1953: Filming on A Star Is Born continued with scenes on the “Interior Oliver Nile’s Office.” Time started: 10 a.m.; finished: 6:10 p.m. It’s also noted that Judy prerecorded some dialog for the film although which dialog is not noted.
Photos provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!
November 27, 1957: The Luft family returned to New York via ship having left England on November 21st. The photo above, dated on this day, was circulated to papers by the AP Wirephoto service and printed beginning November 28. The family immediately boarded a train to Chicago where they spent Thanksgiving Day (November 28) leaving that evening for California (via train), arriving home on November 30, 1957.
The text reads:
A GARLAND OF LOVE — Judy Garland embraces her two children, Lorna, 5, and Joseph, 2, on the family trio’s arrival from London aboard the liner Queen Mary. Miss Garland spent five weeks in England, during which she appeared in a command performance before the queen and the royal family. Producer Sidney Luft, Miss Garland’s husband and father of the youngsters, completed the family circle on the return voyage.
More photos and press coverage:
November 27, 1968: Leonard Lyons reported on the recent (November 17) tribute to Harold Arlen at the Lincoln Center in New York City. Imagine being in the room as Judy casually warmed up her voice while Richard Rodgers accompanied her!
Judy was in fine form for that event, and sang “The Man That Got Away”; “It’s A New World”; “Get Happy”; and “Over the Rainbow.”
Listen to the entire performance here:
Judy’s performance was restored and remastered in 2016 and released on the JSP 2-CD set “Judy Garland Sings Harold Arlen” this past February. Check out the link to The Judy Garland Online Discography’s “Judy Garland Sings Harold Arlen” for details.