“I like TV better than any of the other jobs I’ve had in the past. It’s hard work, but we’ve got it down to a pretty good routine now.” – Judy Garland, 1963
December 15, 1926: Judy and her sisters (as “The Gumm Sisters”) continued their engagement at Loew’s State Theatre in Los Angeles, California. This was their penultimate night of the engagement. The sisters were part of the Meglin Kiddie act which in turn performed as part of the “Twinkletoe Kiddie Revue” (as “100 Clever Children”) in conjunction with the latest Colleen Moore film, Twinkletoes.
December 15, 1934: This notice ran in the “Oakland Tribune” (Oakland, California) about the upcoming Christmas Day “Frolics” show produced by Irving Strouse and playing at San Francisco’s Curran Theater. Judy is noted as one of the highlights, “Francis [sic] Garland, a recent discovery.” Judy and her sisters, as “The Garland Sisters” and currently going by the “Frances Garland Trio,” were associated with Strouse at this time, appearing in several of his “Frolics” shows, most of them in Los Angeles, California.
December 15, 1936: This ad for MGM’s “Love On The Run” featured a notice about the MGM short Every Sunday that played with the film.
December 15, 1937: The second of four installments in the story of Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry as published in “The Boston Globe.”
December 15, 1938: One of my favorite photos of the young Judy. I think she looks quite lovely.
December 15, 1939: Wizard of Oz coloring contest out of Melbourne, Australia.
December 15, 1940: Little Nellie Kelly still playing at a theater near you.
December 15, 1941: Judy appeared on the radio program “Motion Picture Industry Community Chest Drive” broadcast by KFWB from the Biltmore Bowl in Los Angeles. She sang a new Jerome Kern song, “Abe Lincoln Had Just One Country.”
Listen to Judy’s performance here:
December 15, 1941: Here is the MGM “Air Trailer” for Babes on Broadway, dated December 15, 1941. Air trailers were audio movie trailers for play on the radio. Sometimes the trailers featured songs (or snippets of songs) and dialog that ended up as outtakes in the final films.
Listen to this air trailer here:
Label image from the John Newton Collection. Thanks, John!
December 15, 1941: Here is MGM’s confirmation of Judy’s receipt of payment for her December 7, 1941, appearance on the “Chase and Sandborn Hour.” The studio was paid $5k for Judy’s services of which Judy received $2,500. That’s $47,270.07 in 2021 dollars!!
December 15, 1943: Meet Me In St. Louis filming continued with scenes shot on the “Interior Esther and Rose’s Room” and “Interior Master Bedroom” sets. Time called: 10 a.m.; dismissed: 6 p.m. The scenes on the “Interior Master Bedroom” set were cut from the film and the footage no longer exists. Photos do, and they show Judy’s “Esther” helping her mother, played by Mary Astor, get ready to go out leaving the house to the young folks for their party.
Later that evening Judy appeared on the CBS Radio show “Christmas Program” hosted by fellow MGM star Robert Young. No records exist of what songs Judy sang, nor does any recording of the show survive.
December 15, 1944: Here’s a Decca Records ad that lists Judy’s recent hit, “The Trolley Song,” “as sung by the lovely Judy Garland.” The B side featured Judy’s single version of the song “Meet Me In St. Louis.”
Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s “Decca Records” pages for details about all of Judy’s recordings for the label.
Label image from the Rick Smith Collection. Thanks, Rick!
December 15, 1946: Here is a short blurb about the Decca Records Christmas album, “Christmastime” which featured Judys two Christmas songs recorded on July 26, 1941, “The Birthday of a King” and “The Star of the East.”
December 15, 1946: The “Des Moines Register” (Des Moine, Iowa), included this photo of Judy and Van Heflin as an example of a “typical Hollywood love scene.” The photo accompanied Priscilla Wayne’s column asking “Are all men wolves?” The photo is an MGM publicity pic for 1943’s Presenting Lily Mars.
December 15, 1946: Here’s a fun blurb (written on the 14th but published on the 15th) about Judy’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, not even a year old yet, stopping traffic in front of the MGM Studios as she waved goodbye to her mom as she went to work.
Of interest here is the note about Fred Astaire’s recent retirement. It took a call from MGM and the prospect of working with Judy Garland a year later to lure him out of his very short “retirement.” See below.
December 15, 1947: Judy a year after the blurb above was printed, columnist Sheilah Graham noted Fred Astaire’s return to films to replace Gene Kelly in Easter Parade. Graham also notes that Judy would probably follow that film with The Belle of New York. That was a title that producer Arthur Freed had wanted to make for quite some time. He finally made it, in 1952 after Judy had left the studio, with Astaire co-starring with Vera-Ellen.
Check out The Judy Room’s “Films That Got Away” pages for info about all of the film projects Judy was considered for and those that she was unable to complete.
December 15, 1947: Judy recorded the second, improved arrangement of “Mack the Black” for The Pirate. Time called: 2 p.m.; dismissed: 4:17 p.m.
Test screenings of the film in October and November necessitated several revisions. As a result, Judy spent parts of November and December pulling double duty on retakes for the film while also filming Easter Parade.
Listen to Take 4 here:
This take has previously been noted as “Take 12” although according to the Daily Music Report no “Take 12” was printed.
Listen to Take 10 here:
Listen to the final version here:
Judy filmed the new version of “Mack the Black” just two days after this recording session, on December 17th & 18th. Its placement in the film was switched from the opening scene to replace the now deleted “Voodoo” number.
December 15, 1950: Here’s an order form for the latest MGM Records releases, including the soundtrack album to Summer Stock.
December 15, 1953: Filming on A Star Is Born continued with scenes on the “Interior Coconut Grove” set which was the pivotal “Academy Awards” segment of the film. Filming of these scenes lasted for three days.
Some photos were provided by Kim Lundgreen (and “Life” magazine). Thanks, Kim & “Life”!
December 15, 1956: “Is Hollywood Committing Suicide?” This article by Lloyd Shearer poses the question of what the recent sales of pre-1947 Hollywood films would mean to the studios’ bottom line with new releases. As Clark Gable mentioned, the fear of some stars was that the public wouldn’t want to see their new films if they could see them for free in their older films on TV.
The numbers for the recent premiere broadcast of The Wizard of Oz was mentioned:
The big networks also have begun to try films themselves. You may have been one of the estimated 45 million Americans who watched Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz on a recent Saturday over CBS. Coast to coast, this 17-year-old film won a Trendex rating almost twice that of its closest competitor on another network and three times those of two other rivals.
December 15, 1963: “Episode Five” of “The Judy Garland Show” aired on CBS-TV. The show was taped on July 30, 1963.
Judy’s guests were Tony Bennett and Dick Shawn, plus her regular “second banana” Jerry Van Dyke.
Judy sang: “If Love Were All” (cut before broadcast); “Yes, Indeed” (with Bennett and Shawn); “Garland-Bennett Medley”; “My Buddy” (with Shawn); “and “Stormy Weather.”
Taped but also cut before broadcast: A talk with Van Dyke before his duet with Shawn and a “Tea for Two” segment that was taped with Steve Allen. It was such a success that Allen was signed to be a “full-fledged” guest star for a later episode.
A July 30, 1963 “Daily Variety” article by Dave Kaufman noted that negotiations were in progress to obtain the following guest stars, although none would make it: Rock Hudson, Marlon Brando, Peter Sellers, Bing Crosby, James Garner, Charleton Heston, Gene Kelly, and Dean Martin.
December 15, 1963: This insightful article by Lloyd Shearer about Judy and her TV series was published in papers around the country. It addresses everything that’s become legends of the series including the format issues, the time slot, even the “issue” of Judy touching the guests too much. Shearer also points out that Judy was not to blame for the issues the show was currently having.
JUDY GARLAND: 97 POUNDS OF HEART
By LLOYD SHEARER
Each Friday night at 9:30 a little left-handed lady with large luminous brown eyes and a throaty, vibrant voice, larger than life, slithers onto stage 41 at the CBS-TV studios here.
For an hour and a half, she sings, reminisces, sips tea, chats lightly and cavorts with such guest stars as Lena Horne, Count Basie, Mickey Rooney, Mel Torre, Barbra Streisand and, on occasion, her own children
From these carryings-on, her producer and editor put together 62 minutes of videotape eventually telecast on Sundays as the Judy Garland Show. For this one-hour package, sometimes stirring and memorable, other times mediocre and old hat, Judy Garland is paid $150,000 – or about half of what CBS gets for the time and program.
Of her $150,000, Judy pays her cast and crew approximately $100,000, sometimes more. This leaves a tiny singer (5 feet tall, 97 pounds) with $30,000 to $50,000 each week, making her, along with Danny Kaye, probably the most highly paid star in TV.
Judy’s basic deal with CBS calls for her company, Kingsrow Productions, to turn over to the network 30 one-hour shows at $150,000 per show. In addition, the network guarantees to re-run 8 of these shows at $75,000 each.
“The best part of Judy’s deal, however,” explains agent Freddie Fields, who negotiated it, “is that Judy owns the tapes, and they’re worth at least three to four million. She can release them over and over again. She can sell the syndication rights, the foreign rights, anything she wants. For once in her hectic life, this little dynamo is going to be financially secure. And it’s about time.”
“Judy,” he goes on feelingly, “is 41. She’s done everything there is to do in show business, from vaudeville to one-night stands. She’s earned fortunes for other people, but she’s been victimized over and over again. Before we made this deal with CBS, she was practically broke. But television is going to give her what it’s given others much less talented than she – security. These shows are going to bring in money so that she doesn’t have to sing her guts out in concerts night after night to support her kids.”
A STORM IS BREWING
Judy puts it more gently. “It’s nice to think,” she says, “that these shows will make me rich.”
Even nicer to see is Judy Garland – after all the professional and domestic crises she’s weathered – happy, healthy, relaxed and seemingly at peace with the world, especially while a storm brews ‘round her lovely head.
This storm concerns the Judy Garland Show. Through no fault of her own, Judy’s is not a commercially successful television program.
At this writing, it has a Nielsen rating of 18, which means that of the 50,000,000 television families in America, approximately 18 percent, or 9,000,000 families, watch the Judy Garland Show on Sunday nights. Admittedly that’s a large number of families. But Bonanza, slotted by NBC against Judy at the same time, has a Nielsen rating of 35, which means that twice as many families prefer watching the Western to viewing Garland. Also opposite Judy on Sunday nights is a third program, Arrest and Trial, telecast by ABC. Arrest and Trial also has an 18 rating. In fact, its rating is a fraction higher than the Judy Garland Show, so as of this moment, Judy’s show is running last in a race of three.
In a sentence, the Judy Garland Show is in trouble.
The fault is not Judy’s, and she knows nothing about this rating abracadabra. The man who goofed in this particular case is Jim Aubrey, the CBS chief who placed the show into the Sunday night 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. time slot opposite Bonanza.
He made the judgement, and the audience figures have proved him wrong.
Judy Garland – and this is the opinion of the men who have produced her show (she has had 3 producers to date) – should be spotted on Monday nights from 10:00 to 11:00, or even on Sunday nights from 10:00 to 11:00.
“She is basically,” says Norman Jewison, who produced 8 of her shows, “a sophisticated performer who appeals to sophisticated, intelligent and literate people. She is definitely not the girl next door. She will never attract themes meat-and-potatoes audience that Bonanza does, and it’s foolish even to let her try.”
George Schlatter, a talented producer who was removed by CBS from Judy’s program after he had done the first five shows, operated on the following concept: “Judy Garland is someone special, one of the great, electric, incomparable talents of our time. I can’t tell you,” Schlatter says, “how co-operative Judy was when I worked with her. She did everything I asked, and more. She was prompt, tireless, painstaking. She worked like a Trojan. All this baloney about her being temperamental and high-strung – she showed none of that.”
Television is primarily an advertising medium, and only those shows which prove profitable to a sponsor remain on the air in prime time (7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., with minor variations).
For an advertiser, the Judy Garland Show is reputedly one of the most expensive programs in television. Before it went on the air this past September, the show had 6 commercial minutes to sell. CBS sold them to 4 sponsors for $56,000 a minute.
The 4 sponsors who shelled out $336,000 for the time and talent on the Judy Garland Show were led to believe by their advertising agencies that this was a good buy, a wise purchase, that the show would attract a tremendous audience. It does not do so in terms of cost.
Unless CBS lowers its asking price from $56,000 a minute to something like $20,000 or makes other concessions, Judy’s sponsors will probably cancel. The current word in advertising circles is that CBS has already lowered its asking price drastically. Thus, the Judy Garland Show continues, but the $64,000,000 question is: for how long?
“In her first five shows – and these haven’t been telecast in sequence – feel that what Judy’s show needs to gain a wider audience is a family of regulars such as Garry Moore offers. They feel strongly that the show should have two or three performers who appear every week.
Judy, who knows relatively little about television, is willing to listen to anyone. She went back to New York a few weeks ago and was advised by network executives that she must stop touching her guest stars, that people complained about such physical intimacy; so she has stopped. She was also told that she must talk to TV editors throughout the United States, so she has arranged an elaborate setup of long-distance conference calls whereby she talks simultaneously to 10 or 12 reporters throughout the country.
I was at her house one recent afternoon – a one-story mode 8-room Brentwood job worth $250,000, pool included – when she was giving out with such an interview.
Here are some of the questions and answers:
Q. How do you like TV compared to other media you’ve worked in?
A. I like TV better than any of the other jobs I’ve had in the past. It’s hard work, but we’ve got it down to a pretty good routine now. I work four days a week and have Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off. It’s inspiriting and fun and not too much work.
Q. I thought your television show was supposed to originate in New York. That was the original announcement.
A. I know, but we decided it would be better to do it from out here. After all, it gets so hot in New York during the summer. I would have had to take an apartment in Manhattan and my children would have had to be out on Long Island. This way we are all together. And besides, I have such a pretty new house. Oh, yes, my children watch the show. They come to the studio on Fridays when I tape it, and I must tell you this. The other week they were sitting down front, and they fell asleep while I was doing the show. My daughter, Liza – yes, she’s out here, in fact, she’s so busy I have to make an appointment to see her – I’ve done one show with her, and I’m doing the Christmas show with my other children, too.
Q. Is it true that CBS didn’t like the first concept of your program and is now changing it?
A. Well, they’re thinking along the family concept right now, that I should have a group of regulars, a Judy Garland family of performers so that the program doesn’t look like a spectacular each week.
Q. Judy, I’ve heard some people say that you look like a little old lady on television.
A. Well, I am a little old lady.
Q. Is it true that you won’t allow people to watch you in your dress rehearsal?
A. I don’t like a lot of people sitting in the audience during rehearsals because I’m too hammy and I wind up singing to them. I entertain the visitors, and then when it comes time for me to tape the show I’m dead.
Q. All the girls in my office want to know how you managed to diet so much – you must have lost 100 pounds.
A. That’s my secret. Seriously, I just stay away from food. I drink tea.
Q. What do you do when you’re not working?
A. I stay at home with my children. I play a little golf. I wait around for Tuesday and work to begin.
As all her fans know – and most of them are 30 or over – Judy Garland has not lived a particularly happy life to date. Child movie-star, poor picker of husbands and lovers, bedeviled and bewildered by agents and advisers, wracked by illnesses physical and mental, this great talent, this living legend, has somehow managed to generate from her own essence enough fortitude, enough determination, to fight herself out of life’s defeats.
It is ironic at this point, when she is healthier and happier than she’s been for years, that Madison Avenue and the advertising fraternity should interpret Judy and her show in the light of disappointment.
Heretofore, Judy Garland has never failed in any avenue of show business. If her weekly TV series ends in statistical failure because it has been incorrectly targeted by network masterminds, at least Judy will have the satisfaction of winning up with three or four million dollars to balm her low Nielsen.