If you’re a ‘boomer’ or older, you probably remember Judy Garland. Judging from Pinterest and YouTube, you could be much younger and still be a fan. In her time, and even today, she is a unique phenomenon. If you Google her name, you get close to 2M hits but if you switch your search to videos, that number increases to almost 5M. On Pinterest, I have about 1500 pictures of her and almost every day people are repinning dozens of them. That and my ‘The Kennedys” board are my most popular.
There’s a bit of irony in that. Judy and President Kennedy were friends. Along with other big Hollywood stars, she campaigned for him, even flying to Germany to entertain the troops and ask for their votes. There are many photos of her on the dais with him for various fund-raisers and others of her in the oval office with him and Danny Kaye. The children of the Kennedy clan played with her children in the summer of 1961 at Hyannis Port where Liza (age 16) apprenticed in the Cape Cod Melody Tent. For the TV show following his death, Judy wanted to dedicate her whole show to him but the network said “no”. (The network rep reportedly said the President would be forgotten within a week. Can’t remember who he was.) So instead, she dedicated the final song to him: Battle Hymn of the Republic. It got a huge standing ovation from her audience on Friday night’s taping session but when it aired on the Sunday night, the network had cut her introduction, “This one’s for you, Jack.” She did the number again several weeks later because there were so many letters and calls about it. My favourite version is one edited by Buzz Stephens for The Judy Garland Experience that cuts back and forth to pictures of the President beginning with a baby picture. It’s incredibly moving, especially if you’re someone who knows where you were when he was assassinated.
If you’re a fan, you know her signature songs: Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz (it almost got cut from the movie in editing), The Man That Got Away from A Star Is Born (which earned her an Oscar nomination), and Rock-a-bye Your Baby (there are at least 8 versions of it). You can watch these and many more clips of her with her guests and her solo numbers online from her TV show (1963-4), as well as many complete concerts. You can watch her TV special with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in its entirety. Also, her performance in 1965 at the London Palladium with Liza Minnelli (her daughter).
Perhaps something you don’t know is that in addition to being a fabulous singer and dancer (watch her in movies with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly), she was a marvelous story teller and had a great, self-deprecating humour. My favourite story is the one ‘How I lost the Oscar‘; she got more mileage out of losing it to Grace Kelly than she would have had she won it. She also told great stories on the Jack Paar Show. In 1964, she appeared with him in London, England, at the Prince Charles Theatre and told hilarious stories including a famous one about Marlene Dietrich. You have to watch the version that’s in 2 parts because it includes the singing of her opening number (thoroughly tongue-in-cheek; had to be), “Never, Never Will I Marry“, but it separates her story in the middle so make sure you watch part 2. You can also find her stories strung together in about 15 min. segments where you’ll find “Happy Harry” and “The Limo Driver” which are up there with my favourites.
I Could Go On Singing (which I find to be incredibly autobiographical for her; she and Dirk Bogarde rewrote most of the screenplay themselves) is available free online and A Child Is Waiting, an amazing movie about children with mental handicaps (a subject which Judy felt very strongly about) is also available but it is divided into seven parts. One of her funniest pieces is called Madame Crematante (or A Great Lady Gives an Interview) which was shot for Ziegfield Follies; she vamps and raps (way before anyone else did it) like you’ve never seen before. There’s so much more. Follow my links or Google for yourself to see a wealth of videos featuring this amazing lady. Here’s a clip of the piece she sang with José Iturbi in the movie Thousands Cheer.