On This Day In Judy Garland’s Life And Career – December 23

Posted by

“Judy Garland … proves that she is a topnotch actress.  She has loads of personality and wholesome charm.  She goes through the picture without showing any signs of acting which is an ability that many a veteran tries to achieve without reaching that goal.” – Review of “Little Nellie Kelly,” 1940   

December 23, 1934:  The “Los Angeles Times” mentioned the Garland Sisters in their article about “The Irving Strouse Vaudeville Frolics” playing for one night only at the Hollywood Playhouse, then traveling up north to the Curran Theater in San Francisco opening on Christmas Day for an eight-day run.

It’s interesting to note that the sisters, especially Judy, were becoming well known enough for the paper to single them out and to assume readers knew what Judy doing “several solos” meant:  The three Garland sisters will sing new songs, and Francis [sic] Garland, the youngest, will again do several solos.

The third clipping (at the top right) is from the December 21, 1934, edition of the “LA Times” noting that the “Frolics” had moved from the Wilshire-Ebell Theatre to the Hollywood Playhouse for this one night only, and then would return to the Wilshire in a week (after the San Francisco engagement).

Contrary to what the Wilshire-Ebell now promotes, Judy was not “discovered” during this engagement at that theatre, and the engagement did not result in her getting an MGM contract.  She was already very well known on the west coast and had already been reviewed as someone to watch who would be a “sure bet for pictures [movies].”  Decades after the fact, director George Sidney claimed that he discovered Judy after seeing her perform during this engagement and that because of his efforts she was subsequently signed to a contract with MGM.  However, the real sequence of events (which is quite easy to verify) proves otherwise.  Judy did not successfully audition for MGM until September 1935 which was nine months later.  The sequence of events that led to that audition was quite different than the narrative put forth by Sidney and the theatre.  Many things happened in those nine months.  For example, Judy and her sisters were signed by Universal for a single picture deal to appear in The Great Ziegfeld.   When Universal sold the property to MGM, the involvement of the sisters was not included and that brief association with Universal ended.  More details can be found here.  Sidney also admitted that his memory might be faulty (he couldn’t recall if a baseball skit he remembered filming with Judy was a screen test or something filmed later – as no footage survives it’s unclear if that even happened), so he can be forgiven for mixing things up when he was much older.

There is no other information about the show or what the Garland Sisters sang, however, in his review of the San Francisco show, the “SF Chronicle’s” George C. Warren stated: The Garland Trio made a great hit last night, especially the small member of the three, called ‘little Francis’ [sic] on the program, but whose singing and action seem much more mature than the short frock and the bare legs indicate.  She is very clever whether she is young or old, and deserved the applause.  Apparently, Mr. Warren wasn’t convinced that Judy was a child!

The San Francisco Call-Bulletin noted:  Frances [has become] the talk of the town in no time at all … as much the sweetheart of the stage as Shirley Temple is of the screen, with less renown, and, naturally, with more maturity in her appeal, but no less charm.

December 23, 1937:  Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry was still making its way across the country.

December 23, 1938:  Filming continued on the extensive “Munchkinland” sequence for The Wizard of Oz.  On this date, this famous photo of Judy reading “Life” magazine was taken, with a trio of Munchkins in the background.

B&W version provided by Harper Collins Publishers.  The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion by William Stillman and Jay Scarfone. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; © 2013 by Author. Authors’ credit: Scarfone/Stillman Collection
Warner Bros Legal Line

Colorized version by Lamont Cranston.  Thanks, Lamont!

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

December 23, 1939:  The LA Times reported on a “Coliseum Christmas party” that took place the night before at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum the previous night.  Judy and Mickey Rooney were part of the lineup and received a separate paragraph in the article:

Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney brought a Hollywood Christmas greeting to the Coliseum gathering. Miss Garland, introduced by Santa Claus, sang “Silent Night” and then was joined by the audience in song.

Singing, dancing, comic and acrobatic groups of children from the Ethel Meglin studios next held the spotlight on the large outdoor stage and mirth then gave way to solemnity as the Los Angeles Community Chorus presented a Christmas choralog.

I wonder what Judy thought, if anything, seeing her “alma mater” (Meglin Kiddies) perform on a bill in which she was one of the top stars?

No other information about this appearance/performance is available.

Photo:  Judy and Mickey in New York, August 16, 1939.

December 23, 1939:  In the latest issue of the trade magazine “Motion Picture Herald,” an Oz theater display in Inglewood, California was one of several included in the magazine’s regular spotlight on theater displays around the country.

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.

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

December 23, 1939:  A couple of items from the trade magazine “Motion Picture Herald.”  A four-page ad placed by MGM, and a spread about the top moneymakers of 1939.

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 23, 1939:  Also from that same issue of the “Motion Picture Herald” is this feedback from theatre managers/owners in the “What The Picture Did For Me” regular feature.

Babes in Arms
E.A. Reynolds of the Strand Theatre in Princeton, Minnesota said:
An O.K. picture from this pair.  Personally didn’t see so awfully much in it.  However, the paying patrons like it and that’s that.  Rooney’s impersonation very clever and Garland’s voice again scores.

The Wizard of Oz
Horn and Morgan, Inc., of the Star Theatre in Hay Springs, Nebraska said:
Here’s a picture which really surprised us.  We expected it to do some extra business but not as much as it really did.  And if fully satisfied grownups as well as the children.  Coloring was beautiful, occasioning many enthusiastic remarks from our patrons.  The story was not too much for the kids.

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 23, 1940:  Here is a great review of Little Nellie Kelly published in the “Honolulu Star-Bulletin.”  “P.F.” really enjoyed the film!

Also on this day, the “Film Daily” trade paper noted the top stars at the box office.  Bette Davis led in the actress category, followed by Judy in second place.

Check out The Judy Room’s Filmography Pages on Little Nellie Kelly here.

December 23, 1941:  Judy appeared on the NBC Radio show “Treasury Hour” the “Millions For Defense” episode.  She sang “Abe Lincoln Had Just One Country.”

You can listen to, and download, the song here:

The song is available on the 2010 4-CD boxed set “Lost Tracks 1929-1959.”

More Garland radio performances can be heard and downloaded at The Judy Room’s “Judy Sings! On The Radio” page.

December 23, 1942:  Pre-recording session for Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra for Girl Crazy.  Judy was not a part of this session, but I’m including it here because it’s Gershwin played by the great Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra.  Sublime.

Listen to “Embraceable You (Reprise)” here:

Listen to “Boy! What Love Has Done For Me” here:


On this day, Judy did not have any work for Girl Crazy.  The assistant director’s notes state that Judy “rehearsed for XMAS show.”  She took part in a pre-recorded Christmas radio show that was broadcast on December 25th.  No recording of the show is known to exist although it’s been reported that “Judy had a dramatic spot with Bob Hope that lasted 10 minutes, 48 seconds.”

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

December 23, 1943:  Thousands Cheer is listed as one of MGM’s hits in this 2-page studio holiday ad from the “Film Daily” trade paper.  Included are a few newspaper ads and a review of the film.

December 23, 1943:  Here’s an ad for shoppers to think about getting some record albums as last-minute gift ideas.  Included is the Decca Records album “Christmas Candle.”  The album was a compilation of holiday songs by artists under contract to Decca and included Judy’s two Christmas songs recorded on July 20, 1941, “The Birthday of a King” and “Star of the East.”

Listen to “The Birthday Of A King” here:

Listen to “The Star Of The East” here:

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

December 23, 1944:  MGM’s biggest hit of the year, Meet Me In St. Louis, is listed in this ad promoting their recent release Music For Millions, and their big hits of the year.

December 23, 1944:  Here’s a page from the trade magazine “Motion Picture Herald” that mentions Meet Me In St. Louis, as one of the biggest grossing films of the season.

December 23, 1947:  Easter Parade filming continued with scenes shot on the “Exterior Drug Store” and “Exterior Alleyway (Amsterdam Theater)” sets.  Judy was in makeup at 7:00 a.m.; on the set at 9 a.m.; dismissed: 4:40 p.m.

These scenes were shot on MGM’s Lot 2, the “New York Streets” section.  For more details, check out The Judy Room’s “Judy Garland on the MGM Backlot” section here.

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

December 23, 1948:  Filming continued on In The Good Old Summertime, specifically the scenes featuring Judy’s character, Veronica Fisher, staying home due to being (love) sick.  Van Johnson’s character, Veronica’s co-worker Andrew Larkin, comes to check on her.

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


December 23, 1953:  Retakes for A Star Is Born consisted of the scene on the “Interior Norman’s Dressing Room” set.  Time started: 10 a.m.; finished: 4:50 p.m.

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


December 23, 1955:  This uncredited article titled “Famous Personalities Tell of Memorable Christmases” featured various celebrities relaying their favorite Christmases.  Judy was included.

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


December 23, 1961:  Here’s a good article about the mild controversy over Judgment at Nuremberg.

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

December 23, 1968:  Judy’s last TV appearance in the U.S.  She videotaped her guest hostess stint on “The Merv Griffin Show” in New York, which was broadcast in color on January 6, 1969.  Merv’s other guests were: Margaret Hamilton, Arthur Treacher, Moms Mabley, Van Johnson, Rex Reed, and The Ohio Express.

Judy sang “If You Were The Only Girls In The World” with Treacher and soloed on “Just In Time.”

The original footage of the show has been lost. Only some silent color footage, taken from filming a television set, and an audio recording, are known to exist.  Griffin later stated that the footage was not in his vaults since the material was erased after his series went to CBS in 1969 although his show was already on CBS at this time.

Listen to the show here:

After the taping, John Meyer again went to the Hilton and played for Mickey Deans some of the arrangements on a couple of the songs Deans would need to know for the London engagement.  Also later that night – or possibly one night the last week of December – Judy and Deans attended a nightclub performance of a Hollywood girl singer at the Plaza’s Persian Room, with Judy wearing a wide-brimmed black hat trimmed with coq feathers, apparently one of her own creations.

Photos:  Judy with Margaret Hamilton on the show; Judy with Deans after the taping; Judy with Deans at the studio.

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


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.