“It is ‘Get Happy’ that walks away with song honors. It’s the old, wonderful Garland who sells the tune.” – “Daily Variety” on “Summer Stock”, 1950
December 19, 1930: Judy and her sisters, as “The Gumm Sisters,” performed at the Hollywood Dance Studio Christmas Follies at the Old Soldier’s Home in Sawtelle, California.
December 19, 1935: Judy sang at the Elks Movie Star Benefit at the Rosemary Theater at Ocean Park in Venice, California (now part of Los Angeles). The event was billed as the “annual all-star stage, screen, radio show, and Hi-Jinks.”
It was a big deal. It rated a good-sized newspaper article a couple of days prior (December 16th), and an article the day after (both shown above). MGM sent several stars to take part in the event including Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and a young Mickey Rooney (fresh off his success in the Warner Bros. film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream). It was also broadcast over the local radio although no recording of that broadcast is known to exist.
The two articles that are shown here (both published by the Evening Vanguard, Venice, CA) are fascinating for a couple of reasons.
The December 16th article notes: “Judy Garland, 12-year-old sensation known on the vaudeville stage as the ‘Baby Nora Bayes’ has also offered her services.”
Then – and this is where it gets odd – two paragraphs later, that same article lists more scheduled acts. Included in the middle of that list is: “the Garland Sisters, Orpheum headliners now making an MGM picture…” This kind of mistake isn’t unusual for this time in Judy’s association with MGM. We know that the sisters had broken up the act that previous August and that Judy had been signed solo by MGM that previous September. The text MGM sent to the paper was probably a mixup of info from Judy’s studio file as it was in 1935.
Judy and her sisters were attached to the Universal project The Great Ziegfeld in late 1934 and early 1935. On January 29, 1935, “Variety” published an article about Vaudeville acts in the movies and mentioned that “Francis Garland” (Judy) “landed a part in Universal’s ‘Great Ziegfeld’.” Not long after, the property was sold to MGM and the involvement of the Garland Sisters was dropped. Later, on November 20, 1935, “Variety” published a short article about MGM producer Sam Katz looking for a story to star Judy. That article notes that Judy was contracted to Universal for the Ziegfeld film, and “went to Metro with the purchase of the story” (which is incorrect as the purchase of the Ziegfeld property predates Judy’s successful audition at MGM that September). That article also incorrectly noted that it was Universal who changed her name to Garland. In other words, MGM was probably just sending out info about “Garland” from their files without any regard for accuracy.
In the article the day after the event, there’s no mention of “the Garland Sisters” which makes sense as that article would be more accurate assuming the writer was actually at the event and able to provide a more complete list of the stars and acts. Included in that list are the “Mullane Sisters.” Could they have been mistakenly listed as “Garland” in the previous article? Judy was again singled out as: “Judy Garland, vaudeville’s ‘Baby Norah [sic] Bayes.”
It’s odd that there’s no mention of Judy being singed to MGM or being a part of MGM in any way (even though most of the talent came from MGM), excepting that random mention about the Garland Sisters making an MGM film. In the post-event article, Judy is again mentioned as “Vaudeville’s Baby Norah Bayes” and again with no mention of her association with MGM which is something the studio usually pointed out.
December 19, 1939: Here’s more about Judy’s visit to the little girl in the hospital. It’s unlikely that Judy would have worn her “Dorothy” costume to make this hospital visit since a photo of her with her sister at the hospital shows her in street clothes. But that photo is at the entrance. She might have changed inside before visiting the girl’s room.
On this night, Judy had her weekly appearance on the NBC-Radio show “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.” She sang this lovely rendition of “Silent Night.”
At this time in 1939, Judy was between pictures. Babes In Arms premiered that previous October and Judy wasn’t due for any movie work at MGM until late February 1940, when she began work on Andy Hardy Meets Debutante. Her only regular work was her weekly appearances on Bob Hope’s radio show. In fact, this was the last time she would have such a long period of little-to-no-work at MGM until she became pregnant with Liza in 1945.
December 19, 1941: This ad appeared in the “Film Daily” trade magazine promoting Babes on Broadway and other MGM films.
December 19, 1942: The “Showmen’s Trade Review” featured this article about the recent “Community Sing-Along” in Los Angeles as part of the promotion around For Me And My Gal. World War One style community sing-alongs had taken place in cities around the country thanks to MGM’s publicity department. Most were used to raise money (usually via the sale of war bonds) for the current war effort (World War Two). Published in this same issue was this MGM ad.
Also on this day, Judy was out sick from the production of Girl Crazy. She had been rehearsing the musical number “I Got Rhythm” and would return on December 21st.
December 19, 1943: These set photos were taken on the “Skip To My Lou” (Smith Family Home) and “Lower Hall” sets in preparation for the filming of the “Skip To My Lou” number and other scenes for Meet Me In St. Louis. No filming was done on this day.
December 19, 1947: The last day of filming, finally, on The Pirate. Retakes were done on the “Interior Manuela’s Balcony” set. Judy had a call to be in makeup at 7:00 a.m., on the set at 9:00 a.m. She arrived on the set at 9:53 a.m.; dismissed at 11:45 a.m.
December 19, 1948: This photo was published of Judy and husband Vincente Minnelli attending the recent Los Angeles premiere of the Laurence Olivier film, Hamlet.
December 19, 1948: Another ad for MGM’s latest composer(s) (Rodgers and Hart) biopic extravaganza, Words and Music at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The film premiered at Radio City on December 9th and went into general release on December 31st. It’s notable for its lavish production numbers as well as being the last big-screen appearance of Judy and Mickey Rooney in a brief scene and duetting on “I Wish I Were In Love Again” which was cut from their 1939 screen adaptation of the Rodgers & Hart stage hit, “Babes in Arms” because it was considered too “adult” for the teens at the time.
December 19, 1949: Filming on Summer Stock continued with scenes shot on the kitchen set (Jane Falbury’s Farm) with Marjorie Main and Gene Kelly in which Judy’s character, Jane Falbury, impersonates Kelly’s character, Joe Ross, while dancing. Stills were taken on the set of Judy with Kelly and director Chuck Walters.
December 19, 1949: Judy made the cover of “People Today.” I don’t have a copy of the article from inside the magazine. Also on this day, the local ABC radio affiliate in Newport News, Virginia, advertised a Christmas show featuring Judy. The ad might make one think that Judy was on the show, live, but in fact, the show consisted of playing records.
December 19, 1953: A Star Is Born filming continued with scenes shot on the “Interior Malibu Home” set. None of the footage from this day’s shooting was used nor does it survive. Judy did not like what she was wearing so the scenes were reshot in January 1954 with Judy wearing the infamous orange dress. Considering how unflattering that dress is, it’s anyone’s guess as to how bad the dress from this day’s shooting must have been!
December 19, 1963: An afternoon videotaping session for a new segment for the Bobby Darrin episode (“Episode Fourteen” taped November 30), of “The Judy Garland Show,” as that show’s “football” medley, was cut. The new segment was a “mini-concert” of the chorus singing “Sing, Sing, Sing” as an intro of Judy and the show followed by Judy singing “Hello, Bluebird”; “If Love Were All” and “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart.” Later that evening, Judy prerecorded the medley, which Capitol Records planned on releasing in April 1964, but that album never materialized. “Episode Fourteen” of “The Judy Garland Show” premiered on Sunday, March 1, 1964.
December 19, 1964: Judy returned to the U.S. for the first time since May 2, 1964, on a 6:30 p.m. flight for New York, staying at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue and 61st Street. Just before boarding, Judy told reporters in London that she would be doing another Jack Paar TV show and appearing at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe. Neither of these engagements happened although she did one final guest appearance on Parr’s show in 1967.
Upon arrival at Kennedy Airport, Judy, Mark Herron, and Peter and Chris Allen, were met by Judy’s daughter Liza Minnelli. Harrison Carroll interviewed Judy and she told him that she hadn’t decided whether to leave California to live in New York. She also said she would be opening at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe in February and might do concerts in San Francisco, Mexico City, and Honolulu. Louella Parsons reported that Judy would an “open” recording session at Carnegie Hall before returning to California. None of these projects happened. Lawrence Eisenberg was handling Judy’s press relations starting at this time (he first met Judy at the airport on this day), through 1966, although by 1965 her main publicist in California was Tom Green.
While in New York, “Judy’s Number One Fan” Wayne Martin taped a phone call he made with Judy to wish her a Merry Christmas. Judy noted that Sid Luft had “kidnapped the children.”
Listen to Martin’s taped phone call here:
While Judy was staying at the Regency Hotel in New York City, she hand wrote a letter (not dated) on the hotel stationary, to a New Jersey-based fan, Bill Fielding. Fielding had apparently been sick during that holiday season, and Judy was wonderful enough to send cheer his way, along with love to his mom. She concluded with a PSL “I’m sure we’ll meet someday. God Bless.”
Also on this day, the news hit the papers that on Friday, December 18, Judy had petitioned the court to allow her children to visit her for the holidays. She was in New York and the children (Lorna and Joe Luft) were in California. Luft told reporters that it was his first Christmas with his kids in years, most likely since the holidays of 1961, in Scarsdale, New York. However, he spoke too soon. The following week a judge gave Judy custody and ordered that the kids fly to meet their mother in New York on Christmas Day and returned to their father in California on January 2, 1965.
December 19, 1968: Judy taped her appearance on the Merv Griffin TV show. It didn’t air until January 2, 1969, and on January 5 in some markets.
Judy sang John A. Meyer’s “I’d Like To Hate Myself in the Morning” as well as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “The Trolley Song.” The latter was sung with the audience.
Listen to “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” here:
Listen to “The Trolley Song” here:
Unfortunately, the show hasn’t survived although there is some silent footage shot from aiming a home movie camera at a TV set (Garfans are nothing if not creative!). Merv Griffin himself stated that the shows from this time person were erased when he moved his show over to CBS-TV.
Photos: Judy with Totie Fields; two snapshots of Judy leaving the studios after the taping; a newspaper notice.