On This Day In Judy Garland’s Life And Career – December 10

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“It’s children, not furniture, that make the home.” – Judy Garland, 1956





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December 10, 1926:  Judy and her sisters (“The Gumm Sisters”) began a six-night engagement at Loew’s State Theater in Los Angeles.  The sisters performed as part of the Meglin Kiddie group, “100 of California’s Cleverest Children” in the “Twinkletoe Kiddie Revue.”



December 10, 1934:  The “Los Angeles Herald-Express” published this stellar review of Judy and her Sisters’ recent show at the Wilshire-Ebell Theatre:

If the godfathers of the new vaudeville can discover one personality a month of the caliber of a little, 12-year-old girl who appeared this last weekend in the Frolics at the Wilshire-Ebell theater, their anew born ward will soon be up and flourishing as it was on the days before the talking picture dealt it a lethal blow.

This young maid is Frances Garland, of the three Garland sisters.  Besides appearing with her two sisters, little Frances sat on a piano with her other accompanying, [and] sang in a way that produced in the audience sensations that haven’t been equaled for years.

Not your smart adult-aping prodigy is this girl, but a youngster who had the divine instinct to be herself on the stage, along with a talent for singing, a trick of rocking the spectators with rhythms, and a capacity for putting emotions into her performance that suggest what [actress Sarah] Bernhardt must have been at her age.  It isn’t the cloying, heavy sentiment that her elders so often strive for, but simple, sincere feeling that reaches the heart.

The three girls together are an act that 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 parents’ old act, although she must have the divine spark to be able to sing as she did.

Take a tip and see this little Frances Gumm if you want to experience a thrill.  She would make any show.

This is the show that later led to misinformation about the details of Judy’s successful audition at MGM in 1935.  To date, the Wilshire Ebel claims that Judy was “discovered” at their theatre and that this discovery led to her MGM contract.  That is untrue.  The theatre is obviously wanting to be a bigger part of the Garland legend than they really are.

Almost six decades after the fact, MGM director George Sidney claimed to have “discovered” Judy in 1934 at the Wilshire Ebell and to have filmed a screen test of her performing “Casey at the Bat” with her mom Ethel at the piano.  In 1934, Sidney was the studio’s main director of screen tests.  In December 1934, MGM writer/producer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz took Sidney and MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer’s secretary, Ida Koverman, to the Wilshire Ebell Theatre to see Judy perform.  Decades later Sidney said, “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 hat.  We took her out to the studio and made a test on a soundstage…”  Some people assume this resulted in an MGM screen test for Judy and her two sisters, but there are no known records to support that theory nor the theory that Judy was tested again at MGM, this time solo, in early 1935.  It’s also been claimed that at this alleged second audition Mayer himself took Judy around the entire studio and made her sing for everyone.  It’s preposterous to think that Mayer would have had the time to take Judy all over MGM and then not sign her.

MGM kept very detailed records to the extent that it’s inconceivable that all of the records (and film footage) of two separate Judy Garland auditions and/or screen tests would have become lost.  If Sidney’s claim were true, it would have resulted in a completely different sequence of events in Judy’s life and career than what actually happened between December 1934 and September 1935.  Sidney can’t be faulted too much.  When he gave the interview he was much older and obviously was mixing up events.



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December 10, 1938:  This news blurb appeared in various papers, sent out by MGM via the Associated Press.  It notes Judy’s upcoming starring role in The Wizard of Oz as well as the fact that her first big film assignment was at Fox and not MGM with Pigskin Parade.

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Also on this day in 1938, Judy was in the final days of shooting scenes on the “Witch’s Castle” set.  Then, on December 14th & 15th, she had pre-recording sessions for the “Munchkinland Musical Sequence” followed by the filming of those scenes.

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

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



December 10, 1939:  Babes in Arms was still playing in theaters around the country.  These ads and a review are from the “The Times” newspaper in Munster, Indiana.

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.



December 10, 1941:  Columnist Jimmie Fidler made note of Judy dying her hair black.  This is more fiction for the fans as any hair dying would have been done by, and at, MGM.



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December 10, 1942:  Another day of rehearsals on the “I Got Rhythm” and “Cafe” numbers for Girl Crazy.  Time called 10 a.m.; dismissed: 12:00 p.m.

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



December 10, 1943:  Another day of filming the “The Trolley Song” number for Meet Me In St. Louis on the “Interior Trolley” and “Exterior Trolley” sets.  Time called: 10 a.m.; dismissed: 6 p.m.

Check out The Judy Room’s Spotlight on Meet Me In St. Louis here.



December 10, 1944:  Thanks to the fact that Meet Me In St. Louis was such a huge mega-hit and the fact that it solidified her status as one of the top adult stars in Hollywood, Judy was featured in columns by three of the biggest columnists at the time, Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons, and Jimmie Fidler, all published on this day.

A GARLAND FOR JUDY – by Hedda Hopper

The odds were thousands to one against a stocky, freckle-faced blues singer who came here nine years ago for a career.

Today, Judy Garland is one of our top box office pets.  She could put aside her songs and go dramatic any day in the week.  She could, but I sure would be mad at her.

Heres in no Cinderella story.  No stardom overnight for Baby Frances Gumm, “the little girl with the great big voice,” as she was billed in vaudeville.

From the day she was 3 she worked, and worked some more.

Long before Judy or her two sisters, Virginia and Sue were born, Frank and Ethel Gumm toured vaudeville circuits as “Jack and Virginia Lee, sweet southern singers.”  When the Gumm sister arrived they settled in Grand Rapids, Minn.

Greasepaint was put aside for the nonce and Frank Gumm took over the New Grand theater as manager.  It was there, at the age of 3, that Judy made her debut.  Her two sisters, with mother at the piano, were on the stage.  Judy had been told to sit quietly in the dressing room.  She had her own ideas – she still has.  She wanted to sing, too, and sing she did.  Before anyone knew it she was standing in front of the audience singing five choruses of “Jingle Bells” – one right after the other.  From then on Judy was part of the act.

Shortly after that, the Gumms left for California.  In other words, they worked their way out.  Jobs were scarce.  Some night appearances netted them not more than 50 cents apiece.  Joining the Meglin Kiddies helped a little, but they finally decided to move to Lancaster, Cal., where the local theater was crying for a new manager.  For nine years the Gumms lived there.  Winter found the girls studying hard in school.  Summer found them working hard on the road.  They played every theater up and down the west coast that would take them.  It wasn’t easy.  Audiences walked out.  Managers and critics panned them.  One newspaperman dubbed Judy “the leather-lunged blues singer.”  Youngsters in the front row threw box lunches at them.  One Christmas found the girls and their mother eating tortillas at a drug store near the theater.

It took lots of courage to tackle a trip to Chicago.  But they did it.  Mother and the three girls piled into the family car and worked their way to the Windy City.  They were in demand when they got there – for benefits.  Then fortune smiled.  They were booked into the Oriental Theater.  That night marked the end of the Gum Sisters.  Up until now, they had been billed as “the Crumb Sisters,” “the Bum Sisters,” but this was too much.  The marquee read, “the GLUM Sisters.”  George Jessel changed their name to Garland, and Frances switched hers to Judy.  

Change of name didn’t mean change of luck, tho.  A spot at the world’s fair, where they worked three weeks, paid off in promised.  The family larder boasted one egg and a loaf of moldy bread.  When Judy asked how one egg could be stretched four ways her mother answered simply, “Scramble it!”  Then their one and only set of costumes was stolen.  That’s when they decided to go home.  Jobs along the road barely covered expenses.

Then Virginia and Sue decided to marry.  That meant that what was laughingly called their act would split up.  For sentiment’s sake, they had one last fling.  They sang at the Lodge at Lake Tahoe.  A talent scout spotted Judy and in three weeks she was signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  

Even then she waited around a year, but finally got an assignment – a two-reeler with Deanna Durbin called “Every Sunday.”  Then Durbin was grabbed by Universal and started getting the reaks.  But Judy got nothing except bits and heartbreak, even with such things as “Pigskin Parade,” “Everybody Sing,” an “Listen, Darling.”  None of these caused Judy to shine or even glimmer.  But her first role with Mickey Rooney broke the ice.  A couple of scenes in “Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry” led to writing a part for her in “Love Finds Andy Hardy.”  And Betsy Booth was born.  But that was after Ida Koverman became her guardian angel and kept putting in those good words for her.

For “The Wizard of Oz” Judy received the Academy Award for the outstanding juvenile performance of the year.  Then came “Babes in Arms” and a series of Rooney-Garland musicals that spelled box-office dynamite.

“Yeah, but how good will she be without Rooney?” the cynics questioned.  Judy answered them with “Little Nellie Kelly,” “Presenting Lily Mars,” and “For Me And My Gal.”

Then suddenly the girl they called “the ugly duckling” lost her baby fat; her freckles and pug nose no longer mattered.  Judy Garland emerged into a lovely young thing.  That’s not such a phenomenon if you think about it.  Here’s a girl who actually grew up within the walls of a Hollywood studio.  She was taking tips from dress designers, makeup experts, hair stylists when most kids were sneaking lipsticks out of their high school lockers.  

I’ll never forget the night Judy wore her first Adrian dress.  She was with Rooney, and they put their footprints into the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese theater.  I was standing with Ida Koverman when Judy caught sight of her, rushed over, kissed her, and said, “I’ve got you to thank for all of this, Kay!” – then rushed back to Mickey.

It seems a far cry from one-night stands in East Alhambra to the Philadelphia Symphony, but Judy was the girl who made it.  Last summer she broke the record at Robin Hood Dell when accompanied by Andre Kostelanetz and a hundred piece symphony orchestra, she appeared there in a summer concert.

One amazing thing about Judy is her extreme versatility.  She could jump from Mickey’s teenage sweetheart in “Babes on Broadway” to the mature role with Gene Kelly in “For Me And My Gal.”  Then back with Mickey in “Girl Crazy.”  Now she’s bridging the widest gap of all.  With the Technicolor musical “Meet Me In St. Louis” finished, Judy’s done her first straight dramatic role in “The Clock.”  The story by Pauline Gallico was adapted for the screen by Robert Nathan.  It’s sheer poetry, and for her leading man, Judy has Robert Walker.

Judy has no desire to jump into drama and stay there.  After “The Clock” she hopes to do another musical.  One of her ideas is to incorporate music into one of the famous plays, Sam Behrman’s “Serena Blandish” or the memorable “Good Fairy.”  Then one day she hopes to realize her dream of dreams – do a show on Broadway.  

A few weeks ago Judy celebrated her 22nd birthday; a mature young woman who had achieved everything she set out to do.  At a party given in her honor of the occasion a record was played – a record that brought forth a nostalgic picture of Judy, stocky, freckle-faced, and pug-nosed, singing hesitantly to her favorite star.

It was a recording made by Clark Gable of a poem written to Judy on her birthday by Robert Nathan.  Underneath Gable’s narration, the soft melody of “You Made Me Love You” could be heard.  There were tears in Judy’s eyes when Gable began: “A long time ago, Judy, you stood up on a sound stage and sang a song to me on my birthday.  Today you’re 22, and I want to return that tribute.”  You could almost read the thoughts on every face:  “Yes-she’s come of age, and she’s come such a long, long way.  Let’s hope she’ll keep right on going and stay the same – saucy and not too sophisticated – as time goes by.  

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Rare Privilege – A Tender Moment With Movie Star – by Earl Wilson

Miss Judy Garland has been allowing me privileges of a highly personal nature.  For example – she had her arm in mine.  It was a tender, loving moment.  Not more than a couple hundred people around, packed in close.  A photographer was taking our picture and that’s why she had her arm in mine because she wanted to be nice.  Suddenly she stuck out her and, and the glass that was in it.  “Do you want me to hold it?” I asked.  “Maybe you’d better,” she said, for some movie companies don’t like their stars to admit the existence of stimulants.  Well, there you are, there’s one privilege.  Then at the Copacabana, where she was dancing with Don Loper, I was also privileged to light her cigarettes.  As usual, I got an internationally important scoop about her – that she bought six John Frederics hats while here.  At $25 each, that would come to $210.  “I will have to go on K rations,” she said; I guess she meant kaviar.  

Judy went to the Copa to hear comedian Joe E. Lewis and went away quoting his lines.  She liked his remark, “I’m working under a terrible handicap tonight; I have no talent.”  And also his crack to a sleepy, nodding drunk, “You’d better get out of here before life sets in.”  Also: “In conclusion ladings and gentlemen, always be kind enough to your neighbor, because he may live right next door to you.”

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Louella O. Parsons In Hollywood

[Excerpt] In “The Clock” you will see a little poodle running around just exactly in imitation of hurrying train catchers during the big station scene.  His name is Chou-Chou and he belongs to Judy Garland who is very proud of him.

“It’s not everybody who is smart enough to crash pictures by writing his own scene,” Judy says, with Chou-Chou snuggled up under her arm.  “He came on the set – saw everybody looking terribly excited and running around – so he hopped in and started running in circles, too – with nary a script to guide him!”



December 10, 1945:  This four-page ad promoting MGM’s current and upcoming drop of film, including The Harvey Girls appeared in the “Film Daily” trade magazine.  Also published on this day was this notice about some early casting for one of producer Arthur Freed’s pet projects, a re-make of the film adaptation of “Show Boat.”  Judy’s name was almost always mentioned, usually for the role of the tragic “Julie.”

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



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December 10, 1947:  Another day of filming on the “Interior Pastini’s Cafe” set for Easter Parade.  Judy was in makeup at 7 a.m.; she arrived on set at 9 a.m.; dismissed: 5:05 p.m.  This day marked the completion of the filming of the “I Want To Go Back To Michigan” number.

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



December 10, 1948:  Words and Music was the featured film on the bill of the Christmas program at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.



December 10, 1949:  Columnist Harrison Carroll gave a very detailed account of the filming of the scene in In The Good Old Summertime in which Judy and Van Johnson’s characters first meet with amusingly disastrous results, choreographed by comedy legend Buster Keaton, who also played a supporting role in the film.

Check out The Judy Room’s Filmography Pages on In The Good Old Summertime here.



December 10, 1951:  Two Judys!  MGM capitalized on Judy’s current success at The Palace Theater in New York by re-releasing some of her films.  In this case, In The Good Old Summertime and Words and Music were shown in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.



December 10, 1953:  More filming on the “Interior Motel Room” set for A Star Is Born.  Time called: 10 a.m.; finished: 5:10 p.m.  This marked the last day of filming the motel room scenes.

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



December 10, 1954:  The newly released soundtrack to Judy’s triumphant return to films, A Star Is Born, was popular with record collectors and, of course, Garland fans.

A Star Is Born 1954 soundtrack LP starring Judy Garland

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



December 10, 1954:  The news about Judy being a witness to a late-night brawl by Frank Sinatra hit the papers.  Judy was Sinatra’s companion at a party at the home of Sammy Davis, Jr., who had just lost an eye in a car accident.  Afterward, they went to Mel Torme’s show at the Crescendo and when closing time came at 2 a.m., the group apparently tried to hide their drinks under their coats!  Publicist Jim Byron walked up to the group and asked who Bob Neal’s date was (Neal was an oilman who was part of the group and had model Cindy Bayes as his companion).  Things escalated quickly when an angry Sinatra asked “Who is this guy?” and told him to “step outside.”  Parking lot attendants had to separate the two after they had exchanged blows, while Judy sat waiting in Sinatra’s Cadillac.”

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



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December 10, 1960:  Judy’s now-famous (at least to Garland fans) concert in Amsterdam.

At midnight on Saturday, December 10, 1960, Judy gave a knockout concert at the Tuschinski Theater in Amsterdam, Holland.  The concert was broadcast live on AVRO (Algemene Vereniging Radio Omroep [General Association of Radio Broadcasting]).  Because the concert started at such a late hour, it was re-broadcast the following Tuesday (December 13th) from 8 – 10:30 p.m.  The concert has always been popular with Garland fans as it’s almost identical to 1961’s legendary “Judy at Carnegie Hall.”  It’s also one of the few audio documents that preserve a time in Garland’s career when she was enjoying a meteoric rise to new heights as a singer, performer, and legend.

The concert first appeared on bootleg records in the 1970s, and then on a 1996 budget release.  Neither of these was complete (they neglected to include “Over the Rainbow”!) nor were they derived from the original tapes.

The complete concert was finally remastered and released in 2012 by First Hand Records, see The Judy Garland Online Discography’s page about this release here.

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

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December 10, 1960:  Here’s another short blurb about Judy’s classic Capitol LP “That’s Entertainment!” which is one of her best albums for the label.

Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s “That’s Entertainment!” pages for details about the various releases of the album.



December 10, 1960:  We tend to think of audio remastering as something that began in the 1980s when CDs came along.  However, as this article shows, labels were touting new records that had been given a “hi-fi” upgrade in the early 1960s.  This was the time when stereo record players were replacing mono players.  Many labels release separate stereo and mono pressings of their albums due to the differences in the needles used as the styluses of the different players.

Decca’s series of albums featuring songs from the previous decades were touted as featuring songs that their “expert sound engineers have taken away the scratches on the original shellacs and given them a booster that almost puts them in the hi-fi grade.”

Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s “The Forties” page here.



December 10, 1961:  The annual showing of The Wizard of Oz was aired on CBS-TV with Dick Van Dyke and his three children as the hosts of the telecast.  It was the third year in a row and the fourth overall (it was originally broadcast in 1956 but wasn’t telecast again until 1959 which was the first of the annual showings).

At that time the film wasn’t trimmed as it would be in later years so to make up the extra time (shows began and ended as they usually do now, on the hour or half-hour), hosts were brought in.  This was Van Dyke’s first to years as host of the broadcast.  He was preceded by Red Skelton and Richard Boone and succeeded by Danny Kaye.

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



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December 10, 1968:  This photo was taken of Judy with her new attorney, Ben Freeman. Judy was in the Boston area during the summer of 1968, living with Freeman and his wife.  From September through Tuesday, December 10, 1968, Judy rented an apartment at The Prudential Center (the Fairfield building) in Boston, although she spent a lot of time in New York City with John Meyer and his family.

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





4 comments

  1. Now that is very intriguing, the shot of Judy in “Summertime,” as if the film had been shot in widescreen. That’s the one disappointing thing about the pre-1954 MGM musicals, that they don’t fill the screen of a big tv.
    I just watched “Brigadoon,” in CinemaScope, and it was SUMPTUOUS to view. Luckily we do have ASIB and ICGOS and “Puree,” though.

    The Judy-meets-Van scene has always tickled me. What comic timing! What great chemistry between those two! A real side-splitter, IMHO. Matched only by the big reveal at the end (“Newspickle?!” LOL LOL LOL!!!)

    Ah, MGM………

    1. I’m glad you noticed that! I created that “widescreen” image using screenshots from the film as it panned, and picked up Judy, from right to left. It creates a widescreen look and also shows off the size of the sets, in this case MGM’s backlot, the New York Streets section.

      I don’t remember where I read it, or perhaps it was said in a documentary, that just when the movies were becoming widescreen and in stereo was the same time that musicals were on the decline. 🙁

  2. I just watched “Summertime” yesterday (this and “St. Louis” are MUSTS for me during the Christmas holidays). One thing I noticed yesterday (after, what, 2, 456 viewings?!) is that first scene, where Van bumps into Judy and destroys her outfit, was shot with multiple cameras (like “I Love Lucy” was filmed). Very smart. There was no way they could’ve gotten perfect “matches” by shooting the close-up and medium shot separately. A delightful film, from beginning to end.

    I always adjust my TV to “normal” to get side bars for pre-1954 musicals. Believe me, they look much better in their standard format than stretched unnaturally to fill big screen. And in the case of Blu-Rays they do it FOR you, so you don’t have to adjust the TV screen size. I’m used to the side bars and don’t mind them. It’s no different than letter-box, which has the bars at the top and bottom.

    1. I absolutely despise the way TVs stretch out the 4:3 ratio. I had to fix my Dad’s TV. Everyone looks fatter and shorter than they should! It makes no sense to do that at all. The bars on the sides are, like you mentioned, not any worse than at the top and bottom. It’s so dumb. 🙂

      That scene in Summertime is a minor classic of slapstick. Thank you B​uster Keaton! And yes, I always watch that and Louis during the holidays. Usually more than once. 🙂

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