“I’d love to do it, but I’m a little frightened. Do you think they’ll like me?” – Judy Garland to Louella Parsons when talking about her recent offer to play London’s Palladium, 1948
December 12, 1926: Judy and her sisters (as “The Gumm Sisters”) were a part of the Meglin Kiddies and were currently appearing at Loew’s State in Los Angeles, California. They were part of the stage entertainment between showings of Colleen Moore’s latest film, Twinkletoes. The engagement lasted from December 10 through December 16.
December 12, 1931: Frances (Judy) and mom Ehtel (at the piano) performed for the Easter Star Sunshine Chapter Meeting at the Eastern Star Lodge in their hometown of Lancaster, California. This event has also been given as happening on December 21.
December 12, 1935: Judy sang at the “Los Angeles Examiner’s” Christmas Benefit at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.
December 12, 1939: Judy’s weekly appearance on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope” on NBC Radio broadcast out of Hollywood. Judy sang “Are You Having Any Fun?”
Listen to Judy’s performance of “Are You Having Any Fun?” here:
December 12, 1939: Here’s a local review and ad for Babes in Arms. This time out of Staunton, Virginia.
December 12, 1943: Judy and Alan Ladd co-starred in the CBS-Radio series “Silver Theater” in a play titled “Musically Inclined” (not “Ringside Table” as erroneously reported). The show was directed by Conrad Nagel with the musical direction provided by Felix Mills.
The plot concerned Ladd as an FB agent impersonating a playboy in order to follow an NYC nightclub manager suspected of being an enemy agent. Judy played the singer in the nightclub.
A recording of the show is alleged to exist, although it’s never surfaced.
December 12, 1943: “Our Judy” is as American as ice cream and cake!
December 12, 1946: Early work on The Pirate consisted of wardrobe tests, including the gorgeous wedding dress.
December 12, 1948: Louella Parsons’s latest column was all about Judy. The clipping shown here is cut off but the following is the complete text from another printing of that article that didn’t have this fabulous photo. Parsons refers to Judy being “the fat girl” during filming on The Wizard of Oz! Judy talked about “lost tunes” and an offer from the London Palladium to perform live, and how she was going to beg MGM to let her go. She finally made it, but not until after she left the studio.
Judy Garland, who sometimes looks so sad out of those big brown eyes, often surprises me with her unexpected flashes of humor.
She and I had a long talk when she sang her famous “Over The Rainbow” song for me on my broadcast.
She perched on the arm of my chair, and to the confusion of Leslie Peterson, the MGM representative, who joined us, started ridiculing the title of her next picture, “Good Old Summertime.”
The more fussed the MGM lad got, the more Judy put on her act, winking at me when he wasn’t looking.
“‘Good Old Summertime’ – good old nothing! That’s the worst title I’ve ever heard. It has to be changed,” she said. “I’ll insist.”
I played along with her, saying I was forced to disagree with her. I doubted it would be changed because I’d hear a large sum of money was paid for the rights to the song.
Judy is going to sing “In the Old Summertime” [sic], the popular ballad of many years ago. I told her the reason she doesn’t like the title is because it rings no bells of her memory for her. But it does bring nostalgia to many other people.
Judy’s God-given voice seems to improve with the years. After her fun with the MGM gentleman, she talked with dignity. I couldn’t help but remember the little fat girl I first met on the set of “The Wizard of Oz,” when she and Mickey Rooney were the cut-ups of the studio.
She was so embarrassed about her plumpness then and did everything to disguise it. Today, she constantly tries to gain weight, drinks milk and eats everything the doctor orders to try to gain weight.
Somehow our conversation drifted to music which was natural as we were discussing “Words and Music,” the life story of Richard Rodgers, and all his beautiful tunes. It is by far the best musical MGM has ever made, and certainly one that will be remembered as long as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”
I thought “Easter Parade” and Judy were tops, but “Words and Music” is even topper.
“What was your favorite tune in ‘Words and Music’?” I asked her.
She laughed and said, “A lost tune.”
“A lost tune?” I asked. “What on earth is that?”
So she explained that it was a tune she didn’t even sing and that it was only as background music.
“It was called ‘Nothing But You’,” she told me. “I loved it. But I doubt that it will ever be any more than a background tune unless you say something about it in y our column and the public discovers it.
“You know that happens to some of the best song numbers that are not discovered until a long time after they are introduced.”
“What other numbers for instance?” I asked.
“Well, ‘Night and Day’ was ignored at first. ‘Begin the Beguine’ is another tune that at first seemed destined to be forgotten. In ‘Meet Me In St. Louis,’ I liked ‘The Boy Next Door,’ but it was ‘The Trolley Song’ that was the hit of the picture.”
“Judy, you are amazing, who else would have thought of a lost tune?”
“I’d like to start a campaign,” she said, “to publicize the good songs that the public completely ignores.”
The day I saw her, she was excited over an offer she had received to open at the Palladium in London after she finishes “Annie Get Your Gun.”
“I’d love to do it, but I’m a little frightened. Do you think they’ll like me? she asked. “I’ve heard that the British can be very quiet if they don’t go for an actress.”
I told her that London would adore her. Anyone who can entertain, and particularly an actress or actor who can sing, gets a rousing welcome.
“The only thing is I hate to leas Miss Liza Minnelli. But I have never been to Europe, and I’m going to beg MGM to let me go. It would mean so much to me.”
Also on this day in 1948: This fun article about how Judy was going to start a campaign to make less popular songs more popular. This is typical studio-generated fiction meant to keep a performer’s name in the news as well as the latest MGM films.
December 12, 1951: Columnist Erksine Johnson reported that former MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer was planning on making his first independent film, The Judy Garland Story and that Judy was set to star in it. That would have been interesting.
The revised schedule for Judy’s continued engagement at The Palace was published on this day. Check out those prices!
December 12, 1954: The recent brawl between Frank Sinatra and press agent James Byron that took place in the early morning hours of December 10 was in the news again after Sinatra gave a statement about what happened. On Saturday, December 10th, Sinatra stated that the cause of his anger was Byron referring to Judy as a “broad.” “I resented his calling Judy a ‘broad.’ I gave him a left hook and knocked him on his fanny.”
December 12, 1955: Hedda Hopper listed Judy as one of the stars who was rallying around the sick Dottie Ponedel. Dottie was Judy’s (and other stars’) makeup artist for years, providing her special brand of makeup and more than that, being a friend and confidant.
Check out Meredith Ponedel’s recent wonderful book about Dottie. Purchase it on Amazon here.
December 12, 1956: Here’s an ad for the recent re-release of Decca’s “Cast Album” of songs from The Wizard of Oz, no doubt timed to take advantage of the film’s recent TV premiere and paired with songs from Disney’s Pinocchio.
Also of note in the ad, for all you Christmas music lovers, is the LP “Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. It’s a fantastic album with a good mix of serious and very funny Christmas songs. It only just came out on CD a year ago. It’s worth getting (click here).
December 12, 1960: Here is a review of Judy’s concert in Amsterdam the night before. Here’s the translation:
Judy Garland’s succes in Amsterdam
In the night of Saturday, Judy Garland gave a one-woman-show of over two-and-a-half hours at the Tuschinski-Theater in Amsterdam for almost 1700 people (the tickets sold out). For one-and-a-half hours her voice sounded across the room — sometimes soft, sometimes loud — and almost half an hour was applause that sounded again and again, during her number, as well as afterwards.
At exactly half past midnight, after Jos Cleber had handed over his Cosmopolitain orchestra to the English conductor Norrie Paramor, Judy Garland entered the stage, dressed in a black dress and a short jacket in blue. Her first numbers “I happen to like this town”, “Almost like being in Love” and “Do it Again” reaped enormous enthusiasm from the audience, who applauded throughout the numbers. It wasn’t until after the fifteenth song that she retreated to her dressing room for a short intermission.
After the intermission Judy Garland came on clad in pants and a shiny, silver jacket and she had swapped her stilettos for ballet flats, so she could dance and leap across the stage. Sometimes she would swing both legs up in the air at the same time and walk across the stage so fast that the spotlights couldn’t keep up with her. After more than thirty songs her show came to an end. After hearty and prolonged applause and stomping of feet, the audience commanded several encores, for which the songs “San Francisco” and “Zing went the strings of my heart” were repeated. When she disappeared behind the curtain, where her husband Sid Luft was waiting for her, a little before three in the morning, she said: “I hope to return soon.” The radio listeners missed the most important thing: her fascinating stage persona.
December 12, 1961: Judy, along with director Stanley Kramer and co-stars Maximillian Schell and Richard Widmark, arrived in Berlin, West Germany, for the premiere of Judgment at Nuremberg. Judy was immediately interviewed for the Armed Forces Radio Network.
Photos provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!
December 12, 1965: “The Agony of the Child Star.” The new book, “The Child Stars” by Norman Zierold, was the first major book to delve into the story of the child stars of old Hollywood, including Judy.
The Judy section:
Everybody knows what Hollywood did to Judy Garland. Starved to keep her weight down, drugged when she could not sleep, pushed beyond endurance, the girl soon needed psychiatric help.
To Judy, the director was known as “the man with the bullwhip.” Hedda Hopper tells of watching the girl plead for rest before a dance routine.
“I’m too hungry,” she said.
“Get in with it, and you won’t feel hungry,” the director told her.
In her thirties, she found she had been working for more than three years with a case of virulent hepatitis, and – medically speaking – should have been an invalid all that time.
December 12, 1965, & 1966: Liza Minnelli’s career was on the rise with each year. Here are two articles published on this date in 1965 & 1966. During this time almost all articles about Liza mentioned that she was Judy’s daughter. Now, of course, she’s a living legend in her own right.
December 12, 1968: While Judy’s companion John Meyer met with his lawyer David Grossberg to finalize Judy’s new recording contract, friend Annie took Judy to her dentist, Dr. Pact on West 57th Street (New York City), because a chipped tooth in the middle of her uppers was turning brown.
While in the lobby, Judy met Sid Luft briefly, who was having root canal work done at another dentist in the same building. It was the last time Judy and Sid were to see each other.
Meyer met Sid in his dentist’s office, and arrange to have a drink with him at 6:30 that night, at the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis hotel. At their meeting, Sid admitted that he had Judy’s orchestrations, that they were “safe with me.” He also said if Judy could pay the storage costs for the last year and a half, she could have the furniture. Meyer left Luft to meet Judy at the Hilton hotel where Merv Griffin had arranged for a two-room suite; He also had flowers sent over, had a piano moved in, and even $250 in cash, with a note saying “just some mad money.”
Years later, Luft confirmed with Garland historian Lawrence Schulman that this was the last time he saw Judy alive. He remarked that she “looked terrible.”
Photo: Judy in 1968