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Entries in Judy by the Numbers (48)

Wednesday
Jun 15 2016

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

Anne Marieis 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 Story:Till The Clouds Roll Byis 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 musicalSally.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.

Wednesday
Jun 08 2016

Judy by the Numbers: "A Great Lady Has An Interview"

Anne Marieis tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Our time travelling comes to an end this week with a movie that was filmed beforeThe Harvey Girlsbut,due to expensive reshoots,wasn't released until months later.Ziegfeld Follies(not to be confused withZiegfeld Girl) is a plotless series of excuses for MGM to throw its considerable stable of talent into a series of comic and musical sketches tailor made to show off the stars - and the studio - at their finest.

The Movie:
Ziegfeld Follies(1946)
The Songwriters:Kay Thompson (lyrics),Roger Edens (music)
The Players:Judy Garland,Gene Kelly,Fred Astaire,William Powell,Esther Williams,directed by Vincente Minnelli

The Story: According to rumor,originally this enjoyable little slip of a number was designed for Greer Garson.However,when Garson backed out,it became a numberaboutGarson,lampooning her accent,image,and Oscar-bait dramatic roles.However,the satire was all in good fun,in large part due to the lyrics by Kay Thompson.

Though this was Thompson's first credit on a Judy Garland performance,she had been working with Garland since befriending the young starlet on a radio show in 1939.On top of a successful nightclub career,Thompson would become MGM's top vocal arranger and vocal coach,working with Judy Garland,Fred Astaire,June Allyson,and more.But more than Thompson's vocal control rubbed off on Judy.Watch this clip with Audrey Hepburn,and compare the physicality - from poses to gestures,between Kay and Judy.

While Kay Thompson would remain close friends with Judy Garland,eventually even lending Liza a hand,her own movie career never took off.Instead,Thompson would become world famous for another career: as the creator and writer of the children's seriesEloise.

Wednesday
Jun 01 2016

Judy by the Numbers: "On The Atchison Topeka And The Santa Fe"

Anne Marieis tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Though we last left Judy Garlandin 1944 crooning from a trolleyand cementing a (troubled) place in Hollywood history,this week we must catapult two years into the future to rejoin our musical heroine.The reason has to do with the odd nature of the Studio System in general and this series in specific.Judy Garland actually shot two movies between 1944 and 1945,but because one was delayed due to reshoots (therefore getting bumped to next week) and the other was a straight drama (therefore not fitting a series focused on musical numbers),we must travel through the end of WW2 and the beginning of Judy Garland's marriage to Vincente Minnelli.Thus,in 1946 we arrive in...the Old West?

The Movie:
TheHarvey Girls(1946)
The Songwriters:Johnny Mercer (lyrics),Harry Warren (music)
The Players:Judy Garland,Angela Lansbury,Ray Bolger,Cyd Charisse,& John Hodiak,directed by George Sidney

The Story: In 1946,Judy Garland hopped off the trolley and onto a train for a Western-style musical entitledThe Harvey Girls.I have to admit,while this is by no means Judy Garland's best musical,it remains a personal favorite for three reasons:

1) Judy Garland sings on atrain.
2) It's a musical western genre mashup that missesOklahoma!by three years and and one saloon fight.
3) Angela Lansbury plays a chorus girl/prostitute named Em.In fact,the movie is a veritable Who's Who of MGM & the Freed Unit,since it also stars baby Cyd Charisse,the return of former Scarecrow Ray Bolger,deadpan alto Virginia O'Brien,and the delightful dulcet tones of Marjorie Main and Chill Wills!

More importantly for Judy,though,this movie shows the Freed Unit's ability to find a winning formula for its tiny Technicolor titan and stick to it.LikeMeet Me in St.Louisbefore it (and many Freed films after it),The Harvey Girlswas a musical that leaned heavily on nostalgia;a period piece mixing authentic songs - conveniently taken from the MGM catalogue - with new insta-classics provided by a rotating stable of songwriters.The plots of each of these movies revolves around Judy meeting,loathing,then learning to love a confounded-but-charismatic man;providing ample opportunity for musical numbers,slapstick,and a brightly-colored battle of the sexes.Though this decision may seem limiting,it also further defined Judy Garland at MGM: Judy's image would embrace the tension between modern stardom and nostalgic Americana,a potent symbol of post-war America.

Wednesday
May 25 2016

Judy by the Numbers: "The Trolley Song"

Anne Marieis tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

It's difficult to overstate the importance ofMeet Me in St.Louisto the myth that is Judy Garland.The Wizard of Ozguaranteed Judy immortality at age 17,but the 1944 Freed musical would be the first Garland product to assemble the pieces of her myth beyond her larger-than-life talent.ThoughMeet Me in St.Louisis usually known as arguably the best "adult"performance by Judy Garland in an MGM musical,this time the alternately exciting and exhausting events offscreen would be as important to her image as her sparkling turn in Technicolor as Esther Smith.

The Movie:
Meet Me In St.Louis(1944)
The Songwriters:Hugh Martin (lyrics),Ralph Blane (music)
The Players:Judy Garland,Mary Astor,Margaret O'Brien,Lucille Bremer,Leon Ames,directed by Vincente Minnelli

The Story: Long after the completion ofMeet Me In St.Louis,Judy Garland would state that she never felt more beautiful than when she was on that film.Look closely during the number and you'll see why.Look past her inner glow and you'll notice some small cosmetic changes: her teeth are crooked and her nose isn't.Though MGM had capped Judy's teeth duringThe Wizard of Ozand put her through dozens of makeup and wardrobe changes in order to make Garland a more typical MGM girl,director Vincente Minnelli and makeup designer Dorothy Ponedel hit on the truth: Judy Garlandwasn'ta typical MGM girl.Ponedel and Minnelli's secrets were well-placed blush,an appreciation for color design,and the knowledge that Judy's imperfections were as winning as her talents.

Of course,Judy's inner glow could have been from the other big news in her life: she was in love with Vincente Minnelli.The 21-year-old was working on her first divorce (from musician David Rose),and found Minnelli's mind,and the way he made her feel she looked,absolutely glamorous.For many reasons - his sexuality,her increasing problems,their incredible daughter - this is Garland's most famous marriage.However,the relationship is also famous for the problems it created.

One problem Minnelli couldn't create but did witness onset was the beginning of Judy's difficulties.Though it was originally scheduled for 58 days,Meet Me In St.Louisdidn't wrap for 70 days.This was blamed,in part,on Judy's tardiness.Exhausted from a mandatory war bonds tour and initially dissatisfied with playing another teenager,Judy snuck out of rehearsals,began showing up late,and outright skipped 13 days of shooting.At the time,it may have seemed like petulant childishness or diva-like drama.Unfortunately,it would become a pattern that would eventually kill her career.In some ways,Meet Me In St.Louiswas Judy Garland's peak at MGM.From 1945 onward,she would never make the studio as much money - or be as carefree - as she had while singing on that trolley.

Wednesday
May 18 2016

Judy by the Numbers: "Embraceable You"

Anne Marieis tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Throughout the 1930s,Mickey and Judy had been one of America's favorite musical duos.With Mickey in the lead and Judy providing musical support,the two young teenagers - with the help of the Freed Unit - dominated the box office,regularly grossing $1 million even during the Depression.However,by the beginning of the 1940s,both 21-year-old Judy and 23-year-old Mickey had grown past the simple comedies in which they'd made their names.While both continued to pull in the same amount at the box office,Mickey was moving into more serious roles - though he still had a few moreAndy Hardymovies in his contract - and Judy was dropping her hems and trading in her hair ribbons for hats.So,at the end of 1943,Mickey and Judy starred in their last musical together.

The Movie:Girl Crazy(1943)
The Songwriters:George Gershwin (music) & Ira Gershwin (lyrics)
The Players:Judy Garland,Mickey Rooney,June Allyson,directed by Busby Berkeley and Norman Taurog

The Story:  This transition affected their partnership inGirl Crazyas well.While before,Judy had been Mickey's sidekick,now she was her own force to be reckoned with.Director Busby Berkeley gave 3 musical numbers to Judy alone,while Mickey appeared with her in 2 more (and also was dubbed on piano for one number).While the plot still mostly fell on Mickey's shoulders,the musical was entirely Judy's.In fact,she got two more iconic hits from it: "Embraceable You,"and "But Not For Me."

Though Mickey and Judy would continue to be friends (and perform together - once more in a movie and again later on her TV show),their onscreen partnership had run its course.And though Judy couldn't have anticipated it,right around the corner was another movie that would change her life forever.

Previous Related Highlights:
"Our Love Affair,""Good Morning,""Got a New Pair of Shoes"

Wednesday
May 11 2016

Judy by the Numbers: "The Joint Is Really Jumpin' in Carnegie Hall"

Anne Marieis tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Judy Garland was wrapping production on one movie and starting production on another when she filmed a cameo for the WWII wartime musical,Thousands Cheer.Despite the fact that Garland was one of MGM's biggest stars,this cameo with José Iturbi was the first Technicolor movie she had made sinceThe Wizard of Ozfour years previous.The films betweenOzandThousands Cheer,though large in spirit,were small in budget due to Great Depression constraints.However,the onset of World War II brought about an audience boom - everyone was going to the movies to catch a newsreel and escape the fears of the war.As a result,budgets were about to skyrocket as MGM began to give Judy Garland big and colorful sets,costumes,and scenery to match her big and colorful voice.

The Movie:Thousands Cheer(1943)
The Songwriters:Roger Edens,Ralph Blane,and Hugh Martin
The Players:Kathryn Grayson,Gene Kelly,Mary Astor,Jon Boles,directed by George Sidney

The Story:The man playing both jazz and classical music as Judy swings is (as previously mentioned) José Iturbi,a Spanish conductor and pianist.Surprisingly for a classical musician,Iturbi also started an improbably successful parallel career as a character actor in MGM movies of the 1940s.While composers and musicians would show up periodically in films to "class it up"(or "brass it up,"depending on whether it was Bob Crosby or Oscar Levant),none was quite so prolific onscreen as Iturbi.From 1943 to 1949,Iturbi appeared in about a picture a year,with small but noticeable parts.After all,it's hard to find a pianist with enough personality to pleasantly play for a put out Judy Garland.

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)

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