DON'T MISS THIS!
Oscar History
Welcome

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, or by a member of our amazing team as noted.

Like The Film Experience on Facebook

Powered by Squarespace
What'cha Looking For?
Comment Fun

Comment(s) Du Jour
Absolutely Fabulous

"I love the TV series but this one is a complete misfire." - Jans

"It's held together by scotch tape and gumption, but I haven't laughed so hard in ages." - Tom

Keep TFE Strong

 

LOVE THE SITE? DONATE 

Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference to The Film Experience in terms of stability and budget to dream bigger. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience

THANKS IN ADVANCE

For those who can't commit to a dime a day, consider a one time donation for an article or a series you are glad you didn't have to live without.

Subscribe

Entries in Judy Garland (57)

Wednesday
Jul272016

Judy by the Numbers: "The Man That Got Away"

When Judy Garland and George Cukor made A Star Is Born for Warner Bros, both Judy and the industry were changing. The Paramount Case and The De Havilland ruling had weakened the paternalistic power of the studio system by forcing studios to sell their theaters and release their stars, while widescreen technology changed the shape of the movies. Similarly, Judy's previously squeaky-clean MGM image had transformed. In the early 1950s, she divorced Vincente Minnelli, married Sidney Luft, survived a suicide attempt and rehab and launched a successful concert series and an even more successful concert album. It was no coincidence that in the middle of this maelstrom Judy Garland's comeback vehicle was a remake of a 1937 Technicolor classic.

The Movie: A Star is Born (Warner Bros 1954)
The Songwriter: Harold Arlen (music), Ira Gershwin (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Charles Bickford, directed by George Cukor

I'm breaking with tradition slightly, but today I want to show you three versions of Judy's famous version of "The Man That Got Away."

In the first, the restaurant is too brightly lit with too many patrons, though the number more closely resembles the MGM Judy Garland numbers that inspired it.

In the second clip, colors and lighting are more muted, but Judy blends in to the background and the band in her brown dress.

The final version is the one used in the film - Judy stands almost alone in the spotlight, belting a mournful song and somehow rejoicing in it.

It's easy to read into the success of A Star Is Born in tapping into Judy Garland's star persona. With her private life so publically on display, the story of Judy Garland lays neatly on top of the story of Vicky Lester as a meta text: when Vicky battles Norman's alcoholism, Judy could be fighting her own demons externalized. However, these three alternate takes show how carefully this image is constructed from well-placed lights, new staging, and one incredible performance.

No matter how iconic the scene was, as a movie A Star is Born was not the comeback vehicle Judy had hoped. Warner Bros heavily edited the film for runtime, and ultimately the movie didn't make much of a profit. At the 1955 Academy Awards, Judy Garland lost the Oscar to Grace Kelly. Judy would stay away from movies for another 5 years after that, but her career was about to get much more interesting.

Wednesday
Jul202016

Judy by the Numbers: "Get Happy"

In 'Judy by the Numbers' Anne Marie looks back at Garland's career through key songs

By the time Judy Garland turned 28, her entire adult life and her entire star persona had been a product of MGM. In 1950, Judy Garland's image - as cultivated by MGM and the Freed Unit - was of an exuberant talent, small in stature but big in heart and voice; a buoyant box office sensation. However, the reality was different. In the 13 months between the release of In The Good Old Summertime and Summer Stock, Judy Garland fought drug addiction, rehab, an increasingly strained marriage, an unsympathetic studio, and a suicide attempt that made headlines worldwide. Filmed before her attempt but released two months after it, Summer Stock is a record of the conflict between the image of Judy Garland and the reality of Frances Gumm.

The Movie: Summer Stock (1950)
The Songwriters: Harold Arlen (music), Mack Gordon (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Eddie Bracken, Gloria de Haven, directed by Charles Walters 

The Story: "Get Happy" is the number that shouldn't be from the movie that shouldn't exist. Neither Judy Garland nor Gene Kelly was supposed to be in Summer Stock.  Judy had just dropped from Annie Get Your Gun and entered rehab, and Gene's star was rising with Arthur Freed. However, Joe Pasternak coaxed them into another picture, a return to form based on the old Rooney/Garland "let's put on a show!" model. Though it was intended to be a triumphant return, ultimately Judy lags through much of Summer Stock, which needs her energy to carry through a plodding plot. She looks and sounds a little slower, though sources disagree on why - either she was recovering from rehab or further spiralling into addiction. 

In this context - and even out of it - "Get Happy" is a shock. Filmed months later at Judy's insistence, with design and directorial help from husband Vincente Minnelli, the number shows Judy shining like she hasn't in a while. She's sexy, she's witty, she's beaming, and she's urbane in a way that sticks out from her nostalgia-laced image. Even without the maelstrom of malady surrounding her, this would be a defining number for Judy. With this backstory, "Get Happy" takes on another meaning too - the "fix." If Summer Stock is the movie where Judy Garland's facade slipped, then "Get Happy" is the number that restored it, at least temporarily. Don't worry about the exhaustion! Judy's back, and better than ever. Forget your troubles!

The fix was a public one only. Though Summer Stock was a success, Judy and MGM parted ways in 1951. Divorced from the studio that had raised her, Judy Garland would find the 1950s to be both happy and heartbreaking. She would live out private struggles in public, and her image would change from child star to musical maiden to something more complicated. For some stars, the tragedies of their lives become as image-defining as their successes.

Wednesday
Jul132016

Judy by the Numbers: "I Don't Care"

Though nobody foresaw it at the time, 1948 was a major turning point in what would be Judy Garland’s last few years at MGM. After the one-two Freed Unit punch of Easter Parade and Words and Music at the beginning of 1948, Judy was supposed to head straight into her third Arthur Freed film,The Barkleys of Broadway. With Fred Astaire coaxed out of retirement, the duo of Astaire and Garland looked to be a new box office guarantee. Unfortunately, what wasn’t a guarantee was Judy’s health. After two months of rehearsal, Judy backed out of The Barkleys of Broadway, to be replaced by Ginger Rogers. This decision sounded the death knell for her partnership with Arthur Freed, the producer who had created the Judy Garland formula. Judy was too tired, too thin, and too weak to go on filming, until another producer from her past swooped back into the picture: Joe Pasternak.

The Movie: In The Good Old Summertime (1949, MGM)
The Songwriter: George Evans (music), Ren Shields (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Van Johnson, Buster Keaton, S.Z. Sakall, Spring Byington, directed by Robert Z. Leonard 

The Story: Joe Pasternak would end up producing what would be Judy Garland’s last two pictures at MGM. The first was In The Good Old Summertime. Pasternak used many of the Freed Unit tricks, including recycled music and a recycled plot, this time from the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner (which would also be remade again into a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks comedy and a Broadway musical that was revived just this year). Despite the title, In The Good Old Summertime was shot in Fall and set during Christmas. Such is Hollywood. It teamed Judy with the affable black hole of charisma Van Johnson, the (at the time) nearly forgotten Buster Keaton, and a cameo by three-year-old Liza Minnelli. This movie also gave us Judy Garland’s single most gif-able song.

There’s a lot to love about this number. Judy is healthy, smiling and sassy. With less focus on footwork, we get some great Judy gestures and a lot of broad comedy from the diminutive diva. (The foot kick is my personal favorite.) As is so often the case during these high-energy numbers, Judy looks like she’s having a lot of fun and by all reports that was really the case, because Joe Pasternak did one thing very different from Arthur Freed: he refused to overtax his star. No more pressure, no more forced slimdowns. And it worked! Judy finished the shoot incident-free. Unfortunately, MGM took this as a sign that her health and ability had returned, and immediately cast her in Annie Get Your Gun. Judy wouldn’t complete that picture, though the film she made after would add another iconic performance and sad chapter to the Judy Garland legacy.

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), "The Trolley Song" (1944), "On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe" (1946), "I Love a Piano" (1948),  "Johnny One Note" (1948)

Wednesday
Jul062016

Judy by the Numbers: "Johnny One Note"

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

There's a musical number I should be showing you for this week's post. It's the last musical duet between Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland captured on film, as part of her guest appearance in the Rogers & Hart biopic Words and Music. It's a fun but slightly awkward number. Despite the joy of seeing Mickey & Judy reunited after half a decade apart, there's also a sense that they're almost too mature for their mugging. They're still sweet together, but the frenetic energy of youth has been replaced by practice. Contemporary audience must have agreed to some extent, since the Judy Garland number that made a hit off this movie was not her nostalgic reunion but rather a signature brassy belter.

The Movie: Words and Music (MGM, 1948)
The Songwriter: Richard Rogers (music) and Lorenz Hart (lyrics)
The Players: Mickey Rooney, Tom Drake, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Janet Leigh directed by Norman Taurog

The Story: Full confession: I have a selfish reason for choosing "Johnny One Note" this week. It has been (improbably) the most requested song outside of "Over The Rainbow." It even tops "The Man That Got Away"! The Rogers & Hart belter may have been cut from the movie verson of Babes in Arms, but nine years later it landed Judy another solid hit. And why not? It's Judy at her best - big presence, big joy, big voice!

Though Judy probably didn't know it at the time, 1948 was her zenith at MGM. Her relationship with MGM was souring rapidly. The story would become familiar too quickly: marriage on the rocks, trouble with pills, and too many missed shoot days. Over the next three years, she would make only three more films with MGM and the Freed Unit. Her talent was undeniable, but soon her problems were as well.

Wednesday
Jun292016

Judy by the Numbers: "I Love A Piano"

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

Easter Parade has becomea perrenial holiday favorite. Inevitably, the lighthearted musical appears on TCM Easter Sunday marathons, sandwiched between Ben Hur (1959) and King of Kings (1961). However, despite the annual dominance of this Judy Garland/Irving Berlin musical, the movie nearly stopped before it began. A combination of bad luck, souring relationships, and weak ankles nearly prevented the production from getting off the ground. Fans of the film have one person to thank for its resurrection: Fred Astaire.

The Movie: Easter Parade (1948)
The Songwriter: Irving Berlin (music & lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Ann Miller, Peter Lawford, directed by Charles Walters

The Story: The production of Easter Parade was plagued from the start. Though Irving Berlin enthusiastically agreed to expand upon his hit Holiday Inn for a new Judy Garland vehicle, the rest of the cast and crew was harder to secure. Originally, MGM sought to replicate the Freed unit partnerships that had already been proven box office success: Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, directed by Vincente Minnelli. But Judy and Minnelli were fighting, so she demanded that he be replaced with Charles Walters, a choreographer-turned-director on his second feature film. Then, Kelly broke his ankle playing football. Then Cyd Charisse broke her ankle. With two of three stars out of commission and a neophyte director at the helm, Easter Parade needed a big win. Then out of retirement waltzed Fred Astaire.

While the replacement of Gene Kelly with Fred Astaire saved the film, it also provides a window into how well-tailored numbers were tailored to their musical stars. Though "I Love A Piano" starts with the now old familiar standby of Judy Garland standing by a piano and singing to her beaux, it also moves into the high-energy, bright dancing style of Gene Kelly. Adapted to Fred Astaire, this dancing style loses none of its energy, but shows hints of ballroom influence in the lifts and mirrored taps of two partners arm in arm. Astaire doesn't simply stand in for Kelly; he makes the film his own. As a result, Astaire's retirement would turn out to be temporary; he kept on dancing for another 20 years.

Wednesday
Jun222016

Judy by the Numbers: "Be A Clown"

Just as there are films that shine bright in a star's history, there are also films whose histories are controversial at best. The Pirate is an odd contradiction of a movie. As one of Judy Garland's most expensive films, it was also her first MGM bust. Released two years after childrearing had put Judy on hiatus, it was nonetheless stuck in preproduction for five years before that. While it landed Judy another hit song, the knockoff written four years later would become a classic. Though The Pirate was the loudest, brightest movie Judy had made to date, its most interesting sequences were left on the cutting room floor. What to do with The Pirate?

The Movie: The Pirate (1948, MGM) 
The Songwriter: Cole Porter
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, The Nicholas Brothers, directed by Vincente Minnelli

The Story: The Pirate must have seemed cursed from the start. By the time Vincente Minnelli started filming, it had already been stuck in pre-production hell since 1943. This meant that even though Minnelli tried to keep costs down, enough money had already been sunk into it that the budget ballooned to almost $5 million. Judy wasn't helping either - she reported sick to work 99 times. Then there was the issue of reshoots. The song "Voodoo" apparently enraged Mayer so much that he ordered the nitrate negative burned. The ending was a mess and had to be reshot. Then that ending got the boot in the South because it featured black men tapdancing

All of these production problems took their toll, and the resulting movie is a little bit of a beautiful mess. Nonetheless, there are three reasons to see this movie:

  1. It's the first A Movie appearance of the Nicholas Brothers
  2. Vincente Minnelli makes really beautiful color movies
  3. Judy Garland throws china like a red-haired Bucky Walters 

However, the scene that would make the film famous was "Be A Clown." As previously mentioned, it would become a modest hit for Judy, but the real hit came four years later when Judy's friend Donald O'Connor sang "Make 'Em Laugh" in Singin' in the Rain. Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed whipped up the song while trying to find a number for O'Connor. Luckily for them, Cole Porter was under MGM contract and wasn't feeling particularly litigious. While Judy would continue to sing the original throughout her career, ultimately Singin' in the Rain made Freed's version more popular. Even great talent couldn't keep The Pirate from sinking.

Wednesday
Jun152016

Judy by the Numbers: "Look For The Silver Lining"

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

Believe it or not, 1946 actually represented a change of pace in Judy Garland's career. Judy only had three credits to her name that year: one starring role (The Harvey Girls), one cameo delayed by reshoots (Ziegfeld Follies), and one appearance in a biopic (Till The Clouds Roll By). In fact, this change of pace was a conscious choice on the part of Mr. & Mrs. Minnelli. If Judy looks like she's glowing a bit more than usual under those arclights, that's because Judy Garland was pregnant.

 
 
The Movie:
 Till The Clouds Roll By (1946)
The Songwriter: Jerome Kern (music), Buddy G. DeSylva (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Robert Walker, Van Heflin, June Allyson, Lucille Bremer, directed by Richard Whorf & Vincente Minnelli 

The StoryTill The Clouds Roll By is a Jerome Kern biopic, which (in the true MGM style) fabricates or glosses over nearly all of the composer's life in favor of a Technicolor musical extravaganza. Judy plays Marilyn Miller, a megawatt Ziegfeld Follies star whose heyday was encompassed the 1920s. At her peak, Miller had had musicals and songs written for her on Broadway, including "Look For The Silver Lining," from Kern's musical Sally. Miller was even beginning to break into Hollywood when illness, substance abuse, and alcoholism forced her into retirement in the early 1930s. Marilyn Miller died in 1936 at age 37, another sad showbusiness story. None of this makes it into the movie, though. Besides, Judy was so focused on the upcoming birth that she may have missed the all-to-prescient warning of the woman she portrayed.

When Garland filmed her two songs for the Jerome Kern biopic, she was already four months pregnant. MGM covered up the pregnancy by fitting her clothes a little looser, and inserting a sink, some dishes (and some dancers' hands) between Judy and the camera. Five months later (nine months before the movie was released) Judy and Vincente welcomed into the world a bouncing baby talent: Liza May Minnelli.