I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy, prosperous new year!
December 25, 1927: “The Gumm Sisters” was the holiday act at their father’s theater, The Valley Theater, in Lancaster, California.
December 25, 1935: The first night of a week-long engagement for Judy and her sister at the Curran Theater in San Francisco, California. The trio was part of the “Irving Strouse’s January Vaudeville Frolics” show (which included 60 members) that had traveled up to San Fran from Los Angeles. Judy and her sisters were billed as “Frances Garland and her Sisters” as well as the “Frances Garland Trio.”
The “Frolics” show with Judy and her sisters had previously played in December 1934 at the Wilshire-Ebell Theater (Los Angeles) and the Hollywood Playhouse (Hollywood).
Accolades from the press for these engagements included:
“The Garland Sisters scored a hit, with the youngest member of the trio practically stopping the who with her singing” (Los Angeles Times)
“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.” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Judy would play the Curran again in her post-MGM Concert Years when she took her Palace show on the road. The final show of that 1952 Curran engagement, on June 22nd, was recorded and released on the 1993 CD “Judy Garland in Concert: The Beginning and the End.
Listen to “A Couple of Swells” here:
Photos: Two ads from December 23, 1935, promoting the show; Judy backstage at the Curran in June 1952. The original caption to the 1952 photo reads:
June 1952, San Francisco, California, USA — Stage and screen star Judy Garland relaxes backstage as she tells reporters about her surprise marriage to her manager Sid Luft at Hollister, California. Actress Lynn Bari’s attorney has threatened Luft, Miss Bari’s former husband, with a suit for increased support because his marriage to Miss Garland made him “at least half a millionaire.
December 25, 1937: This photo appeared in papers around the country. It was taken while Judy was filming the MGM Christmas Trailer for 1937, in which she sang “Silent Night” backed by the Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church Choristers of Long Beach, California. The short was recorded and filmed November 6 through 8, 1937.
December 25, 1938: The Sunday insert of many newspapers featured this “Interview with a Stage-Struck Star” by Grace Wilcox which was part of the “For Women Only” section. So men, don’t read it!
December 25, 1939: MGM’s holiday broadcast, “Christmas with the Hardy Family” which featured Judy singing “Silent Night.” That performance was most likely the prerecording that Judy made for MGM in 1937 (see the entry above). The show was most likely a pre-recorded radio disc sent out by MGM to be played at the discretion of the radio stations, on this (the 25th) and other days during the holiday season.
The Christmas bill at the King Theater in Honolulu, Hawaii, was Everybody Sing.
December 25, 1942: Judy took part in the CBS Radio show “Elgin Christmas Day Canteen.” 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.” I don’t know where that very specific quote came from. It’s highly unlikely that the show wouldn’t have had Judy sing at least one song.
December 25, 1942: The “Chicago Tribune” published this review of For Me And My Gal by Mae Tinee. Ms. Tinee makes note of Judy’s thin appearance and the fact that Judy had become “an emotional actress of scope and power.”
‘For Me and My Gal’ Is Perfect Christmas Gift
By Mae Tinee
DON’T S-SH! Be sure to tell EVERY one that vaudeville’s back again! And gee, doesn’t it seem GOOD . . . !
“For Me and My Gal” is dedicated to it. To . . . ‘the man with the baggy pants, the clown, the disappearing rabbit …” The story opens some time before the first World war and carries its characters thru the armistice.
The phrase “human document” has been greatly overworked but that’s just what “For Me and My Gal” is. It digs right down into the hearts of folks and shows ‘em up for what they really are, the while giving you one thrilling vaudeville show after another, loads of beloved old songs, picturesque costumes of days not long gone by, and as touching a love story as has ever been staged or screened.
Judy Garland and George Murphy are a small time singing and dancing team as the action opens . . . Then George loses Judy to Gene Kelly, a handsome ham, smart enough to recognize the fact that clever little Jo Hayden is what he needs to help him along.
You spend about three-fourths of the picture hating young Mr. Kelly and longing to push in the leering empty face of the egotistical opportunist Harry Palmer, who, however, thru Kelly’s shrewd acting, shows flashes of real feeling that awaken a reluctantly responsive chord in you . . . The last reels witness, by benefit of war, the translation of a heel into a hero and the finale proves again that the heart, after all, usually speaks the truth. [Not that I wouldn’t have liked to see Mr. Murphy win Miss Garland. But I’ll take things as they are – for if he HAD, he’d have been the heel and – me no like.]
Judy Garland has gone a long was since she was just a little girl singing. She has developed into an emotional actress of scope and power. But there’s something about it all that bothered me. She’s too thin, too finely drawn. Slow down, Judy!
George Murphy you like better and better as time goes on. He is the perfect friend as well as dancer in this number . . . Other intuitive characterizations are those of Marta Eggert and Ben Blue.
Situations are unexpected and full of punch. Final scenes will carry you back to the days when Elsie Janis and her gang entertained and made happy the boys overseas.
“For Me and My Gal” is a right gorgeous Christmas present from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to us, for which let us return thanks.
See you tomorrow.
December 25, 1943: “Stars Helping To Win The War” published in various newspapers around the world.
Young Judy’s sparkling personality and delightful singing have made her one of the most popular stars on camp tours. On her first tour, she gave so many performances and sang so vigorously that her throat was seriously affected – a condition which for some months caused grave concert at MGM studios. While recuperating, Judy spent all her spare time working at the Hollywood Canteen, and as soon as she had fully recovered insisted on continuing with the camp tours.
December 25, 1945: Judy appeared on the “Command Performance” Christmas show for the second year in a row. She sang “Long Ago, And Far Away” and “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.” The recording of this show was made on September 15, 1945. Bob Hope was the host. The following stars also appeared on the two-hour program: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Herbert Marshall, Jimmy Durante, Ginny Simms, Johnny Mercer, the Pied Pipers, Frances Langford, Harry James, Kay Kyser, and Cass Daily.
Listen to the full show here:
Listen to “Long Ago, And Far Away” here:
Listen to “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” here:
Listen to “Comedy Sketch” here:
December 25, 1948: The “Showmen’s Trade Review” listed Judy in their list of major stars of the year.
December 25, 1949: The current (and first) re-release of The Wizard of Oz was still in theaters and no doubt was a Christmas Day favorite.
December 25, 1950: Judy recreated her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz for CBS Radio’s show “The Lux Radio Theater” broadcast from Los Angeles from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. It was the only time that Judy ever recreated her most famous film role. As the attached contract for the show dated December 18, 1950, states, Judy was paid $5,000.
Listen to the show here:
December 25, 1951: According to Louella Parsons, on this Christmas Day Judy received a pearl necklace from daughter Liza.
December 25, 1952: Here’s an amusing Christmas column from Leonard Lyons in which he reports on a couple of anecdotal Garland holiday stories.
On this day, the Luft family (Judy, Sid Luft, his son John) boarded the Manhattan Limited for New York as guests of Jack Warner (head of the Warner Bros. studios). Judy had agreed to sing, as a personal favor, for his daughter Barbara’s coming-out party at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City in early January 1953. While in New York the Lufts stayed at the Waldorf.
December 25, 1955: The current re-release of The Wizard of Oz was still in theaters and no doubt was a Christmas Day favorite, as it was during its first re-release in 1949.
December 25, 1956: Judy spent Christmas in New York City (she was still playing the Palace). She attended a party given by the theatrical impresario, Gilbert Miller. This is where Judy first met Dirk Bogarde. They became friends and, five years later, costars.
December 25, 1960: Judy and the kids celebrated Christmas.
December 25, 1964: The first of nine days of a reunion between Judy and her two children, Lorna and Joe Luft. The children arrived from California after a judge granted Judy temporary custody on December 22nd. Judy told reporters, “None of our presents have been opened yet … We’ve been waiting for them … We’re going to do the town, go to shows, go shopping, all the things you want to do at this time of year.”
December 25, 1965: Judy, Mark Herron, Lorna & Joe Luft, flew to Liza’s opening at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, where Judy had just played. Judy developed a minor ear boil and had to be driven back home to Los Angeles in her limo, while Mark flew home with Lorna and Joe, after taking them to see “Hello, Dolly!” at the Riviera.
December 25, 1967: Judy appeared with daughter Lorna and son Joe at the Felt Forum, Madison Square Garden, New York.
Judy was scheduled at the Forum through December 31st but only played through the 27th, canceling the remaining nights due to laryngitis. She grossed $75,000 and would have garnered another $75,000 if she had completed the run.