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Wednesday
May112016

Judy by the Numbers: "The Joint Is Really Jumpin' in Carnegie Hall"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Judy Garland was wrapping production on one movie and starting production on another when she filmed a cameo for the WWII wartime musical, Thousands Cheer. Despite the fact that Garland was one of MGM's biggest stars, this cameo with José Iturbi was the first Technicolor movie she had made since The Wizard of Oz four years previous. The films between Oz and Thousands Cheer, though large in spirit, were small in budget due to Great Depression constraints. However, the onset of World War II brought about an audience boom - everyone was going to the movies to catch a newsreel and escape the fears of the war. As a result, budgets were about to skyrocket as MGM began to give Judy Garland big and colorful sets, costumes, and scenery to match her big and colorful voice.

The Movie: Thousands Cheer (1943)
The Songwriters: Roger Edens, Ralph Blane, and Hugh Martin
The Players: Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly, Mary Astor, Jon Boles, directed by George Sidney

The Story: The man playing both jazz and classical music as Judy swings is (as previously mentioned) José Iturbi, a Spanish conductor and pianist. Surprisingly for a classical musician, Iturbi also started an improbably successful parallel career as a character actor in MGM movies of the 1940s. While composers and musicians would show up periodically in films to "class it up" (or "brass it up," depending on whether it was Bob Crosby or Oscar Levant), none was quite so prolific onscreen as Iturbi. From 1943 to 1949, Iturbi appeared in about a picture a year, with small but noticeable parts. After all, it's hard to find a pianist with enough personality to pleasantly play for a put out Judy Garland.

Select Previous Highlights:  "Dear Mr Gable" (1937), “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (1938), "Over the Rainbow" (1939), "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" (1941), "For Me and My Gal" (1942)

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Reader Comments (12)

I love Wednesday mornings on this site. Two thoughts: 1) I used to have vest like that--what the heck?; 2) Getting a serious Anne Hathaway-vibe. When is that biopic happening?

May 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I love these patriotic pageants which all the studios did for the war effort, Hollywood Canteen, Star Spangled Rhythm, Four Jills in a Jeep etc., loaded down with biggest stars of the day and the merest wisp of a narrative. Leave it to MGM to produce the only one in color.

Judy looks great, I love the color composition of the scene, very muted with that interesting knitted vest she's wearing standing out, I LOVE how the whole thing compliments the color of her hair!! The Metro glamour wheels turning diligently. Of course she sound heavenly kicking up her heels with a lively tune.

Of all the various musicians employed by the studios during this time Iturbi certainly was an unexpected choice to have somewhat of a successful acting career even though he almost always some version of a fictitious Jose Iturbi, including a romantic lead to Jeanette MacDonald in Three Daring Daughters. He was a gifted pianist and a pleasant fellow but hardly a matinee idol, perhaps he was cast with an eye towards the South American market as 20th Century Fox did with Carmen Miranda.

May 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Are you waiting till the end for I Could Go On Singing?

May 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

DAMN JUDY. That join is jumpin'. Such a great number. And Irtubi has so much fun with it.

Pam - me too. it's such a pick me up halfway through the week. Wednesdays was the perfect day for it.

/3rtful - anne-marie is going in chronological order so we can see the career grow and change as it goes.

May 11, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Was this number the inspiration for the Destiny's Child tune?

May 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

With rare exceptions I always love Judy's up tempo numbers. I assume it was to contrast with Kathryn Grayson, the stock soprano for the show. Gene Kelly is Miss Grayson's love interest which is SUCH a mismatch. It is clearly a WWII plot; sometimes MGM tried a little too hard. We are lucky to have Judy AND catch a young Lena Horne singing Honeysuckle Rose . When MGM did That's Entertainment" they could have devoted a whole movie to these inserted reviews and musical cameos. They were often the best part of the show.

May 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie19

Leslie19: Since this isn't "Lena by the Numbers" I couldn't include it, but since you brought it up: Lena Horne's version of Honeysuckle Rose is in itself a reason to watch this otherwise thoroughly mediocre movie. She's incredible!!

May 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

It's nice to see Judy do a jazzy uptempo number. It kind of reminds me of her earliest work. I mean I do think she's the best balladeer ever, but she's no slouch at swing.

PS am I allowed to link that aforementioned Lena Horne number? With subtitles even:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Haq_Wdbe9qk

PSS I made out with Kathryn Grayson's son once upon a time. I wonder whatever happened to him...

May 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Hollywood

In this number, she reminds me of her later self on her early '60s television show, which I know is weird, given the difference in the circumstances. Maybe it's the other way around. Maybe there are certain moments on The Judy Garland Show where this bright young thing flashes through.

May 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

@ Dave in Hollywood

Are you sure about that? Grayson only had one kid, a daughter named Patricia...

May 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I KNEW I should have demanded a DNA test at the time! :-) But even then I thought it would be such an obscure star to brag about. Just a deluded fan? If he had said he was Judy's grandson, I guess most people would have been suspicious, or asked him to start singing to prove it, or at least to call Liza.

May 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Hollywood

This is not only one of my favorite Judy numbers, it's one of my favorite songs, period. I've always liked the occasional 'hot vs. sweet' numbers Judy would do. There's Americana with Deanna Durbin, Opera vs. Swing in Babes in Arms, and Swing Mr Mendelssohn Swing in Everybody Sing.

I am sure part of it was Mr Mayer's pushing 'culture' on the youth of America (whether they wanted it or not), but it's hard to imagine any comparable effort succeeding today. And they were usually pretty fun songs. (Jose Iturbi seems to be enjoying himself.)

(As for the costume, I have always wondered if the crocheted vest was some kind of wartime simplicity, showing stars dressing down for the war effort, like regular folks. Cause otherwise it's hard to explain)

June 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterZZinDC

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