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Entries in Judy Garland (82)

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?

Thursday
Nov032016

Cecil B DeMille 4 Meryl Streep

by Nathaniel R

For those craving their dose of La Streep this awards season, rest easy: even if she isn't Oscar nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins in an already highly competitive Best Actress race, she'll at least grace the Golden Globes. She's a shoo-in for a Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical category for her off-key diva and she'll also be this year's Cecil B DeMille Honoree. Remember that every year at some point during the broadcast they stop handing out awards and celebrate a whole career with clips and speeches. On Sunday January 8th, 2017, that section of the night belongs to Meryl...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Nov022016

Judy by the Numbers: "Country Medley"

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

Despite the upheaval caused by firing most of the crew only a few weeks before, change was slow to come to The Judy Garland Show. Producer Norman Jewison made incremental changes, first giving writers free reign to make jokes about Judy, then bumping up the presence of guests and side acts, before eventually dialing them back. This show was one of the last to feature Jerry Van Dyke, Dick Van Dyke's younger brother who had acted as comic relief for the first few episodes but was critically panned for poking fun at Garland. Already a third of the way through its eventual 26 episodes, The Judy Garland Show was still very much a work in progress.

The Show: The Judy Garland Show Episode 8
The Songwriters: Various, arranged by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Jerry Van Dyke, George Maharis, The Dillards, directed by Bill Hobin 

The Story: All of this experimentation meant strange and wonderful things appeared on the show. For instance, who would look at Judy Garland's career and think, "needs more bluegrass?" Yet, the eighth episode guest stars were bluegrass group The Dillards, best known for their recurring role as The Darlings on The Andy Griffith Show. While this episode heavily featured The Dillards playing on their own, Judy and the rest of the cast joined them for a large production number near the end of the show which blended - sometimes well, sometimes uneasily - bluegrass, big band, jazz, and folk music. No matter how many changes were pushed through, The Judy Garland Show was never dull.

previously on Judy by the Numbers

Wednesday
Oct192016

Judy by the Numbers: "Just Imagine"

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

By episode 6, The Judy Garland Show was in trouble and it hadn’t even aired yet. CBS, still spooked by the Bonanza’s killer ratings, wanted The Judy Garland Show to be more, well, everything: More Hollywood glamour, more slapstick, more music, more ratings. With that in mind, after Tony Bennett fizzled and a planned episode with Nat King Cole fell through, the network fired most of the writers and producers by Episode 6. TV wunderkind Norman Jewison – who’d directed the original special – was brought on to save the show before it even got a chance to fail. Jewison’s first directives: More guests, more duets, and let’s knock Judy off that Hollywood high horse...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct122016

Judy by the Numbers: "Lena Horne Medley"

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

If you watch the full Judy Garland Show from start to finish in the order in which it was filmed rather than the order in which it was broadcast - which is what we're doing in miniature - a few patterns emerge early on. First, there is the legendary talent that crowds the first episodes: besides Judy herself, we've seen Garland reunited with Mickey Rooney, swinging with Count Basie, introducing her daughter Liza, and now she's belting Lena Horne numbers to Lena Horne herself. For any midcentury music geek, this show is the gift that keeps on giving. However, if you push past the fabulous talent to watch the format itself, you'll notice something else: for a variety programme, The Judy Garland Show doesn't have much variety.

The Show: The Judy Garland Show Episode 4
The Songwriters: Various, arranged by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Terry-Thomas, directed by Bill Hobin

The Story: Only four episodes in, The Judy Garland Show had already fallen into something of a rut. The basic format never wavered - Judy sang first and introduced the guest(s), the guest(s) performed, star and guest(s) chatted, star and guest(s) performed, then Judy wrapped everything up with "Born in a Trunk." CBS execs had noticed - as had Judy Garland. By episode 4 her bad behavior had resurfaced, causing Lena Horne to reportedly lose her cool after Judy missed every rehearsal day.

Despite that conflict - or maybe because of it - Lena performs sparklingly on the show. In variety and expression, she even outperforms Judy. (Lena's references to Louis Armstrong during "Meet Me In St Louis" especially charm.) Nonetheless, missed rehearsals or no Judy Garland can carry a number, and the overall musical montage works well, even when a beat or two is missed. Unfortunately, the next week's show would not be so kind.

previously on Judy by the Numbers

Wednesday
Oct052016

Judy by the Numbers: "Together Wherever We Go"

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

Episode 3 of The Judy Garland Show (which would eventually air in its eighth week) was an episode of personal importance for Judy. Her oldest daughter, Liza Minnelli, was joining her for a family-themed show. Liza was only 16 at the time, but she'd already begun building an entertainment resume. While in high school (or rather, while skipping high school) Liza appeared on a Gene Kelly TV special, The Jack Paar Program, Talent Scouts, her mother's London Palladium concert, and was in rehearsals for her Off-Broadway debut in Best Foot Forward. However, young Liza somehow found time in her every-busier schedule to put on a family act.

The Show: The Judy Garland Show Episode 3
The Songwriters: Jule Styne (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics)
The Cast: Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, directed by Bill Hobin

The Story: Two observations stand out watching this clip: 1) These are two talented women who love to perform and 2) These are two talented women who love to perform together. There's something delightfully meta-textual about their decision to sing a song from Broadway's most dysfunctionally overbearing stage mom. As Judy watches Liza, Garland exudes nothing but pride and excitement to share the stage with her daughter. Likewise, teenage Liza - not yet fully confident in her own overwhelming talent - takes her cue from her mother.

Though they're both polished and skilled performers, this song does not come off as a professional production number. Every improvised forehead touch, handhold, or giggle renders a public performance into a personal mother/daughter moment, exposing that vein of reckless vulnerability that made both women incomparable performers. Anyone who grew up in a musical household will recognize this kind of musical intimacy. This is a mother and a daughter goofing off around the piano at home, or belting showtunes in the car on the way to school. Liza and Judy sing together with real affection and private joy. It just happens a TV camera caught it on tape.

Thursday
Sep292016

It's More Than Just National Coffee Day Today

First things first. And coffee is always first. Coffee is life. Did you know that up to 60% of the human body is made of coffee? Huh--oh, that's water? You sure it's not water filtered through ground coffee beans? 

But beyond coffee there are other things to celebrate on September 29th. Happy Special day to any reader who arrived on this very day and to the following important events in Cinephile history, Judy Garland lore, and Oscar and Emmy winners...

Click to read more ...