“Once a vaudeville trouper herself, Judy is now a mature actress of unlimited versatility, and to her well-known singing talents she adds an amazing dancing ability.” – 1942 review of “For Me And My Gal”
December 26, 1924: Judy Garland’s official stage debut, age two-and-a-half, at her father’s movie house, “The New Grand Theater,” in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, during the evening performance.
The debut had been announced two days before, on December 24, 1924, by “The Grand Rapids Herald-Review” newspaper when they noted the appearance of “Baby Frances, two years of age.”
Judy’s segment opened with “When My Sugar Walks Down The Street,” a tap dance routine during a three-song segment with her sisters, and then her solo of “Jingle Bells.” The legends are true, Judy kept singing “Jingle Bells” over and over until her father carried her off the stage. Backstage she exclaimed, “I wanna sing some more!” Judy would later talk about how her love affair with audiences began at that point.
December 26, 1928: Judy and her sisters (“The Gumm Sisters”) continued their stage engagement at the Loew’s State Theater in Los Angeles, as part of the Meglin Kiddies troupe. The show was a special Christmas Show featuring 115 of Meglin’s “kiddies.” Frances Gumm (Judy) played cupid and regularly stopped the show singing “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”
December 26, 1936: Pigskin Parade was featured several times in this edition of the trade magazine, “Motion Picture Herald.” It was listed as one of the “Box Office Champs for November” (the month the film was released. A local theater display in Bisbee, Arizona, was featured as was a note about a contest held by the management of the Paramount Theater in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Finally, in the “What The Picture Did For Me” weekly feature, A.E. Hancock of the Columbia Theater in Columbia City, Indiana, noted of the film, “Good football musical, some swell numbers and catchy tunes, with a new little star, Miss Judy Garland. Freckle-faced, a miniature Huck Finn of the opposite sex, and has she a singing voice! She put over two swell numbers and has remarkable power to her voice for so mall a lady. From the reaction of our public, she has more on the ball than Simon, at least we received more comments about her than have on the French girl. My money of the two would be on Judy.”
December 26, 1939: Judy appeared on “The Pepsodent Show starring Bob Hope” on NBC Radio broadcast out of Hollywood. She sang a rare solo version of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead.”
Listen to “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” here:
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 26, 1940: This Dolly Tree costume sketch features the dress that Judy wore in the party scene (“Singin’ In The Rain”) in Little Nellie Kelly. It’s quite obvious that the costume was originally planned for Greta Garbo to wear, as that’s definitely Garbo’s profile and not Judy’s! The original sketch has notes written at the top left (not shown here) that read, “Nellys Change #14 … Policemans Ball.” There’s no info as to what Garbo film the costume was originally planned for.
December 26, 1940: “Full of Good Things!” MGM promotes their upcoming 1941 releases, including Ziegfeld Girl in the Film Daily trade paper.
December 26, 1941: Judy and Bette Davis were the only women to make the list of the Top Ten movie stars of 1940. Davis placed eighth and Judy placed tenth.
December 26, 1942: More accolades for For Me And My Gal. There are notices and articles (big and small) on a daily basis at this time of the year in 1942.
Here is an uncredited article (possibly sent out by MGM) that sings Judy’s praises, rightfully so!
Judy Garland Hit Said To Be Peak Of Singing Career
“For Me And My Gal” is an established hit before it plays even one theater. That’s the consensus of the trade which has seen it at special exhibitor screenings. The feature is due in Eugene [Oregon] Thursday at the McDonald.
“For Me and My Gal” is more than a music . . . it is a great musical cavalcade! Its story is one of great drama and joyous comedy, too. The lives and struggle of the folks who trouped on vaudeville circuits throughout the country afford an enthralling picture of their hopes and ambitions . . . with New York’s famous Palace Theater the coveted goal of even the lowliest. Their heartbreaks and good breaks, golden opportunities and missed chances, all make for a phase of show business that has never been adequately covered by the screen.
As the star of “For Me and My Gal,” Judy Garland attains the all-time peak of her career to date. Once a vaudeville trouper herself, Judy is now a mature actress of unlimited versatility, and to her well – known singing talents she adds an amazing dancing ability, displayed in five spectacular numbers. Judy sings the popular war songs of 1918 which are quite like to become the war songs of today when she gets through delivering them.
A potent new screen personality is introduced for the first time in the person of Gene Kelly, sensational dancing star who recently skyrocketed to fame in the title role of the Broadway musical hit, “Pal Joey.” Young Kelly is a brand new and unique type of screen hero, and the ladies are going to have a field day “discovering” him in his first motion picture role.
Vying with Kelly for the romantic spot opposite Judy is George Murphy, one of the screen’s top dancing favorites. The three join in a number of routines that would stop any show. Murphy, as always, acquits himself expertly in his dramatic and comedy role.
Marta Eggerth is another who makes her debut in “For Me and My Gal” but it is a debut only insofar as American films are concerned. The glamorous continental singing star was the toast of all Europe in happier pre-war days, and her new Hollywood career is destined for equal success.
December 26, 1943: The first of two days that Judy was in the hospital, per MGM’s records. It’s not noted what Judy was being treated for, although it was probably exhaustion. Judy did not go back to work on Meet Me In St. Louis (currently in production) until January 3, 1944.
December 26, 1943: Girl Crazy and Thousands Cheer were both keeping Judy’s name in the public consciousness. Note that although both Judy and Mickey had guest spots, they were listed above the film’s leads, Kathryn Grayson and Kene Kelly.
December 26, 1944: Judy appeared on the Dick Haymes show, “Everything for the Boys” on NBC Radio. She spoke with servicemen from the Pacific and sang “The Trolley Song.”
Listen to Judy’s segment of the show here:
This is a rare instance of Judy singing the chorus part in the middle of the song (“The day was bright, the air was sweet…”)
Also on this date, this blurb was published in various papers reporting that Judy gifted her hairdresser, Helen Young, a wedding dress. Young was married on December 10. There’s no word about whether Judy attended the ceremony or not.
December 26, 1955: Judy and Sid Luft attended the premiere of Frank Sinatra’s film, The Man With The Golden Arm in Hollywood. Judy was interviewed for “The Tonight Show” on NBC-TV broadcast out of Los Angeles, via a mobile hookup from the premiere. No footage exists.
December 26, 1957: Judy opened a scheduled three-week engagement at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Judy was scheduled to receive $40,000 per week. She ended the engagement on New Year’s Eve and after legal actions, she was awarded $22,000. Over the five nights, Judy introduced a new “My Fair Lady” medley and several numbers with dancer Bobby Van (including the Irving Berlin duet “You’re Just In Love”). Other songs included “I Feel A Song Coming On” and “How About Me?”
December 26, 1967: The opening night reviews of Judy’s appearance at the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day were less than stellar.
December 26, 1968: Judy had Stan Freeman and John Meyer over to rehearse at the Hilton (New York City), where she chose Freeman’s “I Belong To London” (written overnight) as her opener, over John’s “I’m Back In Business.” John still stayed and played “London,” as well as “Who?”; “The Darktown Strutter’s Ball”; and “It’s a New World.” Also: in this date’s edition of “Variety,” it was reported that a new book on Judy had just been finished and was making the rounds of the publishing houses through the project’s agent, Dick Irving Hyland. The writers were Sid Luft with Leo Guild, and the title was “Good Girl, Bad Girl.” It was never published.
Photo: Judy just a few days later, on December 31, 1968.