June 24, 2019

"Judy Garland's career was marked by a compulsive quality that displayed itself even during her first performance at the age of 30 months at the New Grand Theater in Grand Rapids, Minn."

"Here, the story is told, Frances Gumm--both her parents were vaudeville players--sang 'Jingle Bells' on a Christmas program. She responded so favorably to the footlights that her father was forced to remove her after she had repeated the song seven times. The other side of the compulsively vibrant, exhausting performances that were her stage hallmark was a seemingly unquenchable need for her audiences to respond with acclaim and affection. And often they did, screaming, 'We love you, Judy--we love you.'... Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the career of Judy Garland was that she was able to continue as long as she did--long after her voice had failed and long after her physical reserves had been spent in various illnesses that might have left a less tenacious woman an invalid."

From "Judy Garland, 47, Star of Stage and Screen, Is Found Dead in Her London Home" (NYT, June 23, 1969), which I'm reading this morning after seeing my son John's Facebook post, "Judy Garland died 50 years ago today, on June 22, 1969, at age 47." (I know today is the 24th. Sorry to miss the exact 50 year anniversary day.)

25 comments:

Mike Sylwester said...

A couple years ago I read Mel Tormé's book The Other Side of the Rainbow: Behind the Scenes on the Judy Garland Television Series. Garland convinced Tormé to work as the musical director of her weekly TV show, which was broadcast from September 1963 into March 1964.

During that time, Garland was erratic, unreliable and intoxicated -- and worse and worse and worse.

She had promised Tormé that he would be able to perform a certain, small number of times on the show. She did not keep her promise, and she did not pay him all the money he was supposed to pay him.

He thought about suing her, but he figured that she was broke and would not be able to pay him anything anyway.

This book was Tormé's way of getting even with her.

Danno said...

I have been in Grand Rapids several times, but not to see Judy Garland stuff. It is the terminus of the Mesabi Trail, which is one of the longest paved bike trails around.

Her stolen slippers from the Wizard of Oz are back I believe.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

Interesting. The Wizard of Oz was the most amazing movie of my childhood. I watched it every year when it came on TV once a year. After that, I discovered her in the Andy Hardy movies and other venues. Yesterday, not in the context of the anniversary of her death but in comparison to some other musician whose name I don't recall, a TV commenter recalled Frank Sinatra's statement that Garland died a little every time she performed due to putting so much into every performance.

gspencer said...

Well, I'll drink to that.

tcrosse said...

Here she is at the very peak of her powers, and at her most histrionic, from A Star is Born (1954):
The Man That Got Away

traditionalguy said...

She loved the audience's love so much she performed non-stop with high energy to give them what they wanted. Now who does that remind us of?

Maybe we could appreciate her for what she delivered and not resent her for having a unfair share of talent.

wildswan said...

After Althouse mentioned her plan about looking at the movies she saw on their first run, I looked up the movies I saw first run and the consecutive list was quite interesting - to me anyhow. Naturally I couldn't see The Wizard of Oz first run but it was established as a childhood classic along with various Disney movies from the Thirties and Forties - Snow White, Dumbo, Bambi, Pinocchio - all of which I saw. But I didn't see The Wizard of Oz as a child because the movie was banned under my parents' Movie Code: 1. because of Judy Garland's problems which were notorious by 1950 and 2. because the book was better so money should not be wasted on the movie. I read the book and disliked it. But in the 60's when I was in college, the phrase "we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto" and other references such "somewhere over the rainbow" became so common, I went to the movie just to keep up. I didn't like the movie either, I thought it was clunky and Judy Garland insipid. But the actual story aside from any literary or movie style stays with you. It is, just as they say, an utterly American story from the encounter with a natural disaster (the tornado) to the trip based on everyone's need to improve their personalities to the weird little group that pulls together against the "wicked witch" to the unmasking of the "wizard" as an little man behind a curtain faking it. Things happen like that and things like that happen, in America; you have to know that. Too bad Judy Garland stayed a believer in Oz. Anyhow, I guess The Wizard of Oz is always going to be a popular movie just the way the Platte River. because of the topography of the Great Plains, is always going to be river that's a mile wide and an inch deep as long as it's a river at all.

traditionalguy said...

FTR: There was not a fake bone in Judy Garland's body. Like Marilyn Monroe, she gave what the show bus bosses wanted until they ran her into the ground.

Wince said...

Do you see any parallels in this 1969 account of Garland's demise with the effects of rapid changes in social media technology on childhood development? Only now it's occurring on a much broader scale than the advent of motion pictures with child prodigies.

Miss Garland's early success was firmly rooted in an extraordinary talent. She was an instinctive actress and comedienne with a sweet singing voice that had a kind of brassy edge to it, which made her something of an anachronism: a music hall performer in an era in which music halls were obsolete.

In an earlier era, or in another society, she might have grown up slowly, developing her talent as she disciplined it
, and gone on like other, tougher performers to enjoy a long and profitable career.

Instead, Judy became a star at 15 in the relentless world of motion pictures. Movies--which are put together in bits and pieces--do not particularly require rigid discipline, and she therefore never had a chance to acquire the quality that could have sustained her talent over the years.

tcrosse said...

Lorna Luft, her other daughter, toured in Guys and Dolls in the 90s. Once or twice she would let fly with a note which sounded just like her Mom, and the crowd would go nuts. She couldn't sustain it, but then neither could Mom.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Judy Garland was my mother's favorite. We would sing many of her songs in the car while driving across country in the 1950's. (no radio reception) As I child I could belt out many of her standards. My mother had an excellent singing voice too!

Watch Judy Garland at Carneigie Hall in 1961 ...IF you can find any clips of it. I vaguely recall watching some about that time. Her performance was enthralling, masterful and slightly horrific int he manic way she punished her voice and body to thrill the crowd. Even at the end when she was thoroughly exhausted and her voice cracking, she gave it her all.

What a talent. So abused by people she trusted and by life.

I still have my mother's album somewhere. Now all I need is a record player.

wild chicken said...

I blame drugs. She was a normal and cute! teenager who soon got too chunky for film and so of course the Studio was right there with the dietary "help." Take this.

And so the weight yo-yoing began, her metabolism went whack, and she never really got control of herself. And here's this great talent.

But then I see drugs behind everything these days.

Wilbur said...

When I was a child, Judy Garland would occasionally appear on TV and always sang to great audience and host reaction. I remember wondering - much like I wondered about Ethel Merman - why anybody thought this overwrought woman could sing at all. She was a far cry from the Judy Garland of The Wizard of Oz by then.

Fernandistein said...

I've always wondered what became of her flying monkeys.

Sydney said...

I am surprised to read she was only 47. I assumed she was in her 60’s when she died.

rcocean said...

Too bad she was boinkers. She made Micky Rooney look like Mr. Normal. Pills, Booze, drugs, uppers, downers, pills to go to sleep, pills to keep awake pills, etc. Plus, lots of useless therapy.

Of course, she had bad doctors who prescribed a lot of that crap. So did M. Monroe.
But she made lots of good movies before she died.

rcocean said...

Wizard of Oz, Meet me in St. Louis, Easter Parade, The Pirate, A Star is Born, Babes on Broadway.

Jay Vogt said...

Garland, Dylan and Jessica Lange . . . . rangers all.
But it was Jeno Paulluci who would turn out to be the most consequential of all the Northlanders. He invented the pizza roll.

Doug said...

Your son doing a post on Judy Garland. What are the chances of THAT?

Ralph L said...

I remember wondering - much like I wondered about Ethel Merman - why anybody thought this overwrought woman could sing at all.

My mother drove Ethel from her hotel to the Kennedy Center a few months before she died. Two people had to drag her out of the car and wheel her to the backstage. But when they put on her high heels, she came alive and went and belted out a number.

tcrosse said...

I remember wondering - much like I wondered about Ethel Merman - why anybody thought this overwrought woman could sing at all.

She was at her peak in the 30's-60's, when it was said that she could hold a note longer than the Chase Bank. When Toscanini heard her, he said she sounded like a castrato, in that it was a high voice supported by burly musculature. She kept on performing long after her voice deteriorated, just like an aging rock star.

Openidname said...

A miraculously talented actress and singer, but a horrible human being.

MadisonMan said...

What Sydney said. She seemed super old to me when she died. Now I'm 10+ years past her age at death.

AZ Bob said...

Maria Callas died young. She gave everything to her performances too. She didn’t burn out on drugs or alcohol, however. Applause is the drug.

Michael K said...

I wondered about Ethel Merman - why anybody thought this overwrought woman could sing at all.

Cole Porter said she (Merman) sounded like a band going by and wrote a lot music for her.