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Entries in Judy Garland (77)

Wednesday
Dec072016

Judy by the Numbers: "The Judy Garland Christmas Show"

Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

Full disclosure: I am in the middle of finals hell, wherein I have to write roughly 45 pages and grade exactly 48 exams before I can finally collapse at home for the holidays. So this episode is an especially selfish choice on my part. Since it's been a rocky year, I thought the best choice would be to post the entire episode, so that we could come together over a warm Christmas computer and spend the holidays with Judy.

The ShowThe Judy Garland Show Episode 15
The Songwriters: Various, arrangement by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Mel Torme, Liza Minnelli, directed by Dean Whitmore

The Story: Call me a sap (and I am), but I cannot watch Judy Garland sing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" while she and her children watch fake snow fall out of a studio set window. In a season that seems to demand yearly special televised events, The Judy Garland Christmas Show ranks as one of the most special Like every episode of The Judy Garland Show, there are some nasty rumors that have risen to the level of legend: that Judy and Mel were fighting, which caused her to flub his name and two song lyrics, that Judy refused to rehearse, that she was high, etc. But somehow the backstage antipathy doesn't diminish the near-camp joy of Judy and co. sitting around a mid-century fireplace singing the songs that she made famous. Much of it has to do with her kids: as the Luft siblings and Liza make appearances, their improvised bits may be stagey, but their affection for their mother is real. Gaffes, bad jokes, and creepy Santa dancers notwithstanding, The Judy Garland Christmas Show remains a classic staple of holiday television.

Wednesday
Nov302016

Judy by the Numbers: "I Like Men Medley"

 Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

So it may not look like it offhand, but today's episode marked another big shift in the rocky history of The Judy Garland Show. After producing seven episodes, firing most of the staff, kicking Jerry Van Dyke to the curb and reformatting the show, Norman Jewison exited as planned after the 13th taped episode. He would be replaced by Bill Colleran, a producer from Your Hit Parade.

The ShowThe Judy Garland Show Episode 13
The Songwriters: Various, arrangement by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, produced by Norman Jewison

The Story: (My favorite part is the surprise boas at 3:00.) Though Jewison wasn't able to improve the unsteady ratings of The Judy Garland Show, the episodes he produced would set the established characteristics of the show at its peak. More cinematic production, the movement away from sketch comedy, and an emphasis on music and a variety of guest stars all defined Jewison's tenure on the show. The Peggy Lee medley exemplifies all of these qualities, but also points towards the show under Colleran's stewardship: two cabaret singers belting standards. Colleran would transition the show towards a concert format. But before he could complete that transition, it was time for Christmas.

Wednesday
Nov232016

Judy by the Numbers: "Moon River"

 Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the simple things. This series (like TFE as a whole) has been a classic cinephile sanctuary for me this year. As the outside world has spun out, sped up, slammed down, and generally tossed us around, I’ve really enjoyed sharing music and tidbits of trivia with you all this week, and reading your reactions/stories/controversies – even when I haven’t been able to reply myself. So briefly, before we get to this beautiful solo number, I just want to thank Nathaniel & you, the TFE readers, for continuing to create a lively, loving community.

The ShowThe Judy Garland Show Episode 12
The Songwriters: Johnny Mercer (lyrics), Henry Mancini (music)
The Cast: Judy Garland, Vic Damone, Zina Bethune, George Jessel directed by Norman Jewison

The Story: I just realized that this is the first solo from The Judy Garland Show that I’ve featured on the series! Judy actually did several per show, but usually the highlight of the show was her duets and collaborations with odd guests, musical legends and nascent superstars. However, this version of “Moon River” is a good reminder of what made the show so good.

It’s not just the trivia or the name-that-guest throwback; it’s the genuine skill andoccasional artistry overlaid with real emotion. The number is comprised of two long takes, as the camera moves in and pulls away from Judy. The scene actually resembles the long take of “The Man That Got Away” from just a decade before. The camera dances through a shadowy set. Garland, bathed in spotlight, alternately moves with the camera and stands getting lost in the song, and adding wry humor to sweetly sad lyrics. Her quiet sweetness the emotional and cinematic complexity of her song.

Wednesday
Nov162016

Judy by the Numbers: "There's No Business Like Show Business"

Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

Sometimes, surprises happen. And sometimes those surprises are planted. I'm referring in this case to both the reappearance of Episode 9 on this series, and the "unplanned" appearance of Ethel Merman on the already-iconic show guest-starring Barbra Streisand. Though Merman's big reveal was first suggested as a way to placate both the surprise guest and her not-so-gracious host. Judy may have originally balked at the idea of her Tea for Two guest skipping the tea for some titanic trilling, but when the producers roped Barbra into the skit as well, it went from a battle of egos to a mammoth moment in musical history.

The Show: The Judy Garland Show Episode 9
The Songwriters: Various, arranged by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, The Smothers Brothers, surprise guest Ethel Merman directed by Norman Jewison

The Story: So, here's the thing. I've never been a great lover of Ethel Merman. I understand her importance in the musical canon, and some of the shows written for her rank in my Top 5 Favorite Musicals, but the Hostess with the Mostest tends to leave me cold. But even I am swayed by the sheer power of seeing the three greatest American Belting Broads belting out a song together. It's not even a passing of the torch as the Judy/Liza sketch had been. Instead, this feels very much like three old pros - well, two old pros and one new pro - sizing each other up, celebrating what they see, and cooperating. Though Merman would return later for a proper guest spot, nothing would capture the weird wonder of this trio scene. It's improvised, it's lively, and it's unlike anything else on The Judy Garland Show.

Wednesday
Nov092016

Judy by the Numbers: "Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again"

Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

Sometimes, magic happens. When the production team of The Judy Garland Show invited a budding Broadway star to film Episode 9, nobody could foresee the titanic future of the 21-year-old singer. With just one album under her belt - admittedly Billboard Top 10 album - she was perhaps slightly less famous than her co-guest stars, The Smothers Brothers. But when Barbra Streisand sat down to sing a duet with Judy Garland, it was impossible to ignore that something titanic was happening.

The Show: The Judy Garland Show Episode 9
The Songwriters: Various, arranged by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, The Smothers Brothers, directed by Norman Jewison

The Story: Barbra Streisand was invited on the show just as her star was rising. Already a well-loved New York cabaret singer, Streisand had stopped the show playing a put-upon secretary in her Broadway debut, I Can Get It For You Wholesale. That second-banana-star-turn brought her a Tony nomination and a lot of attention. Jule Styne started working on a musical for her, she recorded an album that charted, and her television dance card filled up as she made the rounds on a rotation of variety shows.

None was quite like The Judy Garland Show, though. Streisand has noted that Judy seemed nervous to perform, but onscreen that nervousness translated as excitement over the chance to share the stage with Streisand - a feeling that Streisand clearly shared. However, once they began singing together, the nervousness melted away. In its place was the musical meeting of giants - two of the greatest belters of the 20th century, singing signature standards together in harmony.

Look, there's a lot I wish I could write about this, but everything I say is going to fall short. Certain moments in music defy description. Aren't we lucky to have witnessed this one?