“Judy Garland brought down the house in a London cabaret … Miss Garland opened with ‘I Belong To London,’ and received a standing ovation Monday from 1,200 patrons at the Talk of the Town.” – Uncredited review, 1968
December 31, 1924: Judy Garland’s (Frances Gumm) very first review was published in “The Herald-Review” of Grand Rapids, Minnesota (Judy’s birthplace and the Gumm family’s hometown), covering her December 26 debut:
Gumm Children Please
The three young daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Gumm delighted a large audience at the New Grand theater last Friday night with 20 minutes of singing and dancing … The work of Frances, the two-year-old baby, was a genuine surprise. The little girl spoke and sang so as to be heard by everyone in the house and she joined in the dancing both alone and with her older sisters. The audience expressed their appreciation of the work of all three girls by vigorous applause.
Apparently, even at two-and-a-half years of age, Judy was able to project her voice throughout a theater!
December 31, 1931: “The Gumm Family” performed at the Elks New Years’ Eve Ball in San Fernando, California.
December 31, 1938: This photo was taken of the massive Witch’s Castle Courtyard set in preparation for upcoming filming for The Wizard of Oz.
December 31, 1940: The second of two days of filming the “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” number for Ziegfeld Girl.
December 31, 1941: The official opening day for Babes on Broadway although according to newspaper ads the film opened in some theaters the night before.
December 31, 1941: Judy introduces the “snood.”
December 31, 1941: Judy was used as an example of “a smooth, soft complexion” thanks to her use of a powder base.
December 31, 1942: Judy had a fitting and rehearsal for Girl Crazy. Time called: 9 a.m.; dismissed: 3:30 p.m.
December 31, 1943: Thousands Cheer was one of the films promoted by MGM in the “Film Daily” trade paper.
December 31, 1944: The Los Angeles premiere of Meet Me In St. Louis took place in three theaters simultaneously, and also in Hartford, Connecticut.
December 31, 1944: Here is an article about musician Leonard Sues. Sues had first met Judy when they both were in Vaudeville. He ended up at MGM in the late 1930s and was part of Judy’s teen social group as well as appearing in small parts in various films including Babes in Arm and Strike Up The Band.
Photos: A rare 1936 snapshot of Judy with Doris Schafer, Ray Hirsch, and Leonard Sues; Judy and Leonard on the set of Strike Up The Band.
December 31, 1948: Words and Music went into general release around the country. Judy guest-starred as herself and duetted on “I Wish I Were In Love Again” with Mickey Rooney and encored with “Johnny One Note.” This was the final on-screen appearance of Judy and Mickey. He starred Lorenz Hart opposite Tom Drake (Judy’s “boy next door” in Meet Me In St. Louis) as Richard Rodgers in this highly fictionalized biopic about the songwriting duo. But no one cared. The real draw was all of the wonderful performances of the Rodgers and Hart songs by MGM’s stable of musical stars which was, as we know, second to none!
On a side note, after the film came out Mickey Rooney complained to MGM that in most of the advertisements Judy’s name was given prominent star billing even though she was a guest star. Erksine Johnson reported that Mickey was fighting with the studio as much for co-star Tom Drake as he was for himself.
Words and Music cost $2,799,970 to make and grossed over $4,552,000.
December 31, 1950: Swing into the New Year with MGM’s latest film hits, including Summer Stock.
December 31, 1950: According to a recent Gallup poll, Judy was one of America’s favorite singers.
December 31, 1952: Judy and Sid Luft rang in the new year at the luxury hotel, the Sherry-Netherland in New York. The private party was given by the “Friends of Charlie Cushing.” Guests included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The Duke and Judy harmonized at the piano.
Judy also sang at a party for Jack Warner’s (head of Warner Bros. Studios) daughter’s “coming out” party hosted by Elsa Maxwell at the St. Regis Hotel. This clipping from December 31, 1952, is from Hedda Hopper’s column. She seems to have combined the two parties reporting that the party for Warner’s daughter had already happened (perhaps on the 30th) while other reports state the Warner party took place on January 3, 1953. It’s possible Hopper was wrong, as she reported that Judy “planed” to New York when actual she and Sid and the rest of the Luft family took the Manhattan LImited (train) for NY on Christmas Day.
December 31, 1953: The last day of filming the “Gotta Have Me Go With You” number for A Star Is Born on location at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The number was shot it forty takes over two days (this day and the previous day) at the Shrine. Time started: 11 a.m.; finished: 3 p.m.
It’s also noted that scenes were shot on the “Interior Preview Theatre Balcony” and “Interior Box” sets. This could be incorrect, though, as it would have taken half of the day, or longer, to move the company back to the Warner Bros. lot for the shot of Judy inside the “Preview Theater.” Most likely, the only other footage shot this day was of the “Interior Box” which was the box inside the Shrine where “Lola Lavery” and “Oliver Niles” are seen watching the proceedings.
December 31, 1957: Judy returned to the stage at the Flamingo in Las Vegas. She had been out the previous four nights due to vocal problems. Unfortunately, the New Year’s Eve audience was rowdy and the management continued to serve drinks during the show, something that was not supposed to happen. After repeated attempts to quiet the crowd, Judy left the stage and canceled the rest of the engagement. Both parties sued, with Judy winning the case and being awarded $22,000. Oddly enough, Betty Hutton replaced her. Hutton had replaced Judy in MGM’s Annie Get Your Gun in 1949.
December 31, 1960: Judy and her family returned from London to the U.S., where they stayed at the Carlyle Hotel. While in New York, photos were taken of Judy, daughter Liza Minnelli and good friend Kay Thompson attending a performance of Broadway’s mega-hit “Gypsy” during her time in New York. Judy looks radiant and is having a blast.
The upcoming new year, 1961, proved to be one of the biggest of Judy’s life as her recently begun career renaissance reached new heights.
December 31, 1962: A statement was typed with this date saying that Judy and Sid Luft were filing taxes together, but that each would be responsible for his or her own taxes, as though filing separately. It was signed “Judy Garland Luft.”
Photo: Judy during her engagement at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, September 18 through October 29, 1962.
December 31, 1964: Judy appeared at the Actor’s Studio Benefit, accompanied by daughter Lorna, son Joey, and Mark Herron. No recording from the event is known to exist.
Photos provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!
December 31, 1965: Judy and her husband Mark Herron attended a New Year’s Eve party given by Pamela Mason.
Photo: Judy and Herron at the Sahara in Las Vegas, Nevada, in November 1965.
December 31, 1968: Judy’s opening at the “Talk of the Town” the night before was a huge success.
Newspapers reported on her triumph at the club as well as her triumph in the recent court case regarding the attempts by two businessmen to stop her from appearing at the club.
Performances from this engagement were finally restored, remastered, and put out on the wonderful CD “Swan Songs, First Flights” in 2014.
The photo above: Snapshot of Judy taken on December 31, 1968, outside the Ritz Hotel in London.