“Not your smart, adult-aping prodigy is this girl, but a youngster who had the divine instinct to be herself on stage, along with a talent for singing, a trick of rocking the spectators with rhythms, and a capacity for putting emotion into her performance that suggests what Bernhardt must have been at her age.” – W.E. Oliver, “The Los Angeles Evening Express,” 1934
December 8, 1934: Judy and her sisters (as “The Garland Trio”) appeared in the stage show “Irving Strouse’s Saturday Nite Vaudeville Frolics” at the Wilshire-Ebell Theater in Los Angeles.
This is the appearance that MGM director George Sidney saw and was later quoted: There was a theater here in Los Angeles called the Wilshire-Ebell. … They used to put on vaudeville acts on certain nights of the week. This little girl came out with her two sisters and her mother playing the piano. She did a little number with a baseball bat. We took her out to the studio and made a test on a soundstage…
Judy allegedly performed the baseball bat routine for the screen test. Sidney’s recollections have not been verified and the footage of this alleged test no longer exists. There are no surviving records from MGM of the test happening. His story was told decades later so it’s entirely possible that he was conflating different stories about a different performer.
The trio received great reviews for this performance. The “Los Angeles Times” noted that The Garland Sisters scored a hit, with the youngest member of the trio practically stopping the show with her singing.
W.E. Oliver of the “Los Angeles Evening Express” was especially smitten with Judy’s performance. The headline of his article read “12 Year Old Girl Is Sensation At Frolics.” Foreshadowing Judy’s future concert years and her effect on audiences, he said, “Little Frances … sang in a way that produced in the audience sensations that haven’t been equaled in years. Not your smart, adult-aping prodigy is this girl, but a youngster who had the divine instinct to be herself on stage, along with a talent for singing, a trick of rocking the spectators with rhythms, and a capacity for putting emotion into her performance that suggests what Bernhardt must have been at her age. It isn’t the cloying, heavy sentiment her elders so often strive for, but simple, sincere feeling that reaches the heart. The three girls together are an act anyone would want to see. Frances alone is a sensation, and last Saturday’s audience realized it by the way they encored. Much of her individual style of singing was culled by the little girl from her parent’s old act, although she must have the divine spark to be able to sing as she did … she would make any show.”
That’s quite the review for a little 12-year-old Vaudevillian!
December 8, 1937: Here is an amusing anecdote about Billie Burke on the set of the upcoming Everybody Sing (released in 1938). Included here is this local review of Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry as published in the “Press and Sun Bulletin” in Binghamton, New York.
December 8, 1939: Judy Garland dresses, and “Little Judy” dresses, just in time for Christmas!
December 8, 1940: The fantastic display in the first photo (courtesy of the Utah press) was created by the owners of the Utah Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the opening of Little Nellie Kelly in their theater on this day. The film was opening around the country while at the same time Strike Up The Band was still making the rounds. Judy’s star was definitely on the ascendant.
December 8, 1942: More rehearsals of the “I Got Rhythm” number and the “Cafe Number” for Girl Crazy. Time called 10 a.m.; dismissed: 4 p.m.
Photo provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!
December 8, 1943: This two-page ad appeared in the “Film Daily” trade paper.
On this day at MGM, Judy was filming “The Trolley Song” for Meet Me In St. Louis on the “Exterior Trolley Car” set which was not on the backlot as it was the day before, but on one of the MGM soundstages. Filming on the number lasted several days.
December 8, 1943: This blurb about Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine’s new “The Trolley Song” appeared in Harrison Carroll’s column.
December 8, 1945: Here is one of the earliest news blurbs regarding The Pirate. The film didn’t go into production until late 1946 after Judy had given birth to her first child, daughter, and future legend, Liza Minnelli.
December 8, 1947: The first of three days of filming on the “Interior Pastini’s Restaurant” for Easter Parade with co-star Fred Astaire. This included the “I Want To Go Back To Michigan” number.
December 8, 1951: Judy was still the toast of New York due to her legendary comeback at the Palace Theater.
December 8, 1953: A Star Is Born filming continued with the scene on the “Interior Norman’s Car” set. Time started: 10 a.m., finished: 5 p.m. Also on this day: “Color Test of wardrobe and color lights to be used at Shrine Auditorium.”
December 9, 1954: Judy helped Sammy Davis, Jr. celebrate his birthday. With her in the photo is Frank Sinatra and Sammy’s dad, Sammy Davis, Sr. This wasn’t long after Sammy’s car accident in which he lost one eye, the result of which was his famous conversion to Judaism.
December 8, 1958: The “Hollywood Reporter” columnist Mike Connolly reported that Judy’s forthcoming settlement with CBS called for a fifty-three-minute version of her “Born In A Trunk” number, to be sponsored by Chrysler. It never happened, possibly because Judy wanted three to six months of preparation time and CBS was only offering five.
It’s a shame it didn’t happen. An extended version of “Born In A Trunk” would have been something special.
Photo: The 1958 re-issue of the A Star Is Born soundtrack LP, “electronically re-channeled for stereo” which, of course, includes the original “Born In A Trunk.”
December 8, 1960: The upcoming TV showing of The Wizard of Oz was noted in these two ads. One for color TV sales and one with a really fun caricature of the cover of the MGM Records soundtrack album.
December 8, 1962: Judy made a personal appearance at the showings of Gay Purr-ee at the Randforce Theatre in Brooklyn, New York.
4:00 p.m. – The Walker Theatre on 18th Ave. & 64th Street
4:40 p.m. – The Savoy Theatre on Bedford Ave. & Lincoln Place
7:15 p.m. – The Maspeth Theatre in Maspeth
December 8, 1963: CBS-TV aired “Episode One” of “The Judy Garland Show.” The episode was the first to be taped, on June 24, 1963, but was not the first to air.
In the audience of that first taping were many stars including Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Natalie Wood, Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons, Agnes Morehead, Clint Eastwood, Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, and Van Heflin.
Judy’s guest for her first show was her old chum Mickey Rooney. Judy sang “Keep Your Sunny Side Up”; “When The Sun Comes Out”; “Exactly Like You”; “I Believe In You” (with Jerry Van Dyke who was her permanent sidekick on the show); “You’re So Right For Me” (with Mickey); and for her “Born In A Trunk” segment that would close each show, Judy sang “Too Late Now”; “Who Cares?”; and “Ol’ Man River.” The show closed with Judy singing “I Will Come Back.”
Judy also sang “Two Ladies In The Shade Of The Banana Tree” during the dress rehearsal on June 23, 1963, but by the taping the following night it was dropped.
The “Exactly Like You” song and sketch and the song “I Believe In You” would be cut before this broadcast date, and a new segment with Mickey that was taped on November 29, 1963, was added. A new opening song, “I Feel A Song Coming On” was taped on October 11, 1963. The deleted segments survived and have been released on DVD.
December 8, 1968: At about 1:30 a.m., Judy fell asleep. By 4:10 a.m. she was awake and it was clear she wanted attention, resenting John Meyer’s sleep which resulted in a confrontation. Judy told John that she thought it was too late, that she always drove people and way, and that he should save himself and leave now. He insisted that he could help make things different for her. A short time later, Judy was saying her prayers in front of him, which became Meyer’s “Prayer” song (aka “God Bless Johnny”) which she sang on Dick Cavett’s TV show less than a week later.
December 8, 2019: Meet Me In St. Louis returned to theaters on December 8 and December 11, as presented by Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies. This video was created to promote the event.