“With the firm conviction that she wanted to be a motion picture actress, Judy Garland walked onto the [MGM] lot one day and announced to all and sundry that she was looking for a job. she got it. She was twelve years old at the time.” – From the fictional story of how Judy got her MGM contract which was sent out to newspapers by the studio, 1937
December 24, 1924: “The Grand Rapids Herald-Review” announced the upcoming debut of Baby Frances Gumm (Judy) in her parent’s show at her father’s theater, “The New Grand Theater” in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The paper noted the appearance of “Baby Frances, two years of age. The debut happened on December 26, 1924.
December 24, 1925: “The Gumm Sisters” (Judy and her sisters) performed at the father’s theater, “The New Grand Theater” in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
December 24, 1931: Scott Schechter’s book, “Judy Garland – The Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Legend” lists Judy (as Frances) being a part of “Maurice L. Kusell’s All-Star Kiddie Revue” at the Warner Brothers Downtown Hollywood Theater, in Hollywood, California, and singing with Jess Stafford and His Orchestra. However, on December 20th a very detailed blurb (see above left) noted that Judy would be at the Warner Brothers Theater in Hollywood as “Baby Gumm,” not “Frances,” and lists her as being from the Kusell studio but not any Kusell show. The rest of the ads for the week only list Stafford and various vaudeville programs (see above right) with just one listing an “All-Star Kiddie Revue.”
“Baby Gumm” wasn’t listed in any of the advertisements although a very interesting sounding kid was, at least for the first two nights of the week, “Four Year Old Jackie Merkle – The Mental Marvel.” That sounds like the kind of act about which Judy would make a hysterical story to tell later, and maybe she did but it just was never captured on camera.
December 24, 1937: In theaters over the holidays, Broadway Melody of 1938 and Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry.
December 24, 1940: Judy appeared on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope” on NBC Radio. Judy sang “Silent Night.” It’s also noted (but not verified) that Judy sang “I’m Nobody’s Baby,” “It’s A Great Day For The Irish,” and “FDR Jones.”
In theaters, Little Nellie Kelly. Also published was a note about MGM negotiating the rights to “Strange Things Can Happen in Brooklyn” as a vehicle for Judy.
December 24, 1941: The Film Daily trade paper carried this two-page ad promoting the upcoming new Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney musical, Babes on Broadway.
December 24, 1942: For Me And My Gal was still a hit in theaters. Here are a nice review and advertisements for the film’s upcoming engagement in Havre, Montana.
December 24, 1943: Judy appeared on the two-hour CBS Radio program “Christmas Variety Show” with a slew of other stars including Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Carmen Miranda, Lena Horne, Cass Daily, Jack Benny, and more. No recording of the show is known to exist.
December 24, 1943: Judy had two big hits playing around the country: Thousands Cheer and Girl Crazy.
December 24, 1944: Judy participated in the “Command Performance All-Star Christmas Show.”
The two-hour extravaganza featured many stars of the day giving their all for the troops overseas. The emcee was Bob Hope, the stars were: Xavier Cugat, Jerry Colonna, Virginia O’Brien, Spike Jones, Ginny Simms, Jimmy Durante, Dinah Shore, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Kay Kyser, Frances Langford, Dorothy Lamour, Johnny Mercer, Danny Kaye, W.C. Fields, Spencer Tracy and of course, Judy Garland!
Judy gets to solo on “The Trolley Song” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” The latter was part of a long medley of Christmas carols performed by Dinah Shore, Judy, Ginny Simms, Virginia O’Brien, Dorothy Lamour, and Frances Langford. All of these ladies sing “Silent Night” in the finale
Listen to the entire show:
Listen to “The Trolley Song” (intro by Bob Hope) here:
Listen to “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” (intro by Dinah Shore) here:
Listen to “Silent Night” (Judy, Dinah Shore, Ginny Simms, Virginia O’Brien, Dorothy Lamour, and Frances Langford) here:
Photos: Judy with W.C. Fields, Fred Allen, Dinah Shore and Danny Kaye; Judy with Danny Kaye, Dorothy Lamour, and director Mervyn LeRoy
December 24, 1944: This photo of Judy wrapping a present was one of many promotional photos sent out by MGM (and other studios) to promote the holiday season and their big stars. Judy is in costume for The Clock as this photo was taken on the set of the film.
I haven’t seen any high-quality versions of this image, and don’t you wonder what (if anything) was in that package? I say “if anything” as this was a posed photo strictly for promotional purposes.
December 24, 1944: In the curio department is this blurb about Judy being shot between the eyes – figuratively of course!
December 24, 1949: Movie fans had the chance to enjoy The Wizard of Oz over the holidays, thanks to the recent (and first) theatrical re-release. It was a great holiday movie choice – and still is.
MGM humorously created an ad campaign, including the trailer above, marketed toward adults and their irritable spouses.
December 24, 1952: Radio station KWNO out of Winona, Wisconsin, broadcast albums all day in celebration of Christmas Eve. Decca’s “Christmastime” album which included two Garland songs was part of the lineup. Radio stations playing records was nothing new and this is not unusual, but it’s a fun ad.
December 24, 1954: A Star Is Born made for a great holiday movie, in spite of the recent cuts which are addressed in the review above. It turns out that people still wanted to see the full version they had heard so much about.
December 24, 1961: Here’s a treat for TV viewers in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The local TV station repeated the December 10th broadcast of The Wizard of Oz as a Christmas gift for its customers. This is a good example of the random broadcasts that fans who were children at this time remembered in later years, “I distinctly remember seeing the film at Christmas.”
December 24, 1963: CBS execs were mum about rumors that the 26th episode of “The Judy Garland Show” would be the last. In fact, it was was the last.
December 24, 1968: The news about the announcement of Judy’s upcoming marriage to Mickey Deans swept the papers.