MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
A few weeks ago, we celebrated the centennial of American icon Judy Garland with an overview of her entire singing career. This week on the show, I want to continue that celebration with a closer look at her work on film. Garland appeared in over 40 films between 1929 and 1963, and introduced or created iconic performances of the most indelible songs in the American Songbook, including “Over The Rainbow,” “The Trolley Song” and “The Man That Got Away.” I’ll feature some of these performances this hour.
It’s Judy At The Movies, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “NOBODY”
From the 1940 MGM film musical Strike Up The Band, directed by Busby Berkeley and co-starring Mickey Rooney, that was Judy Garland and the song “Nobody” written by one of MGM’s music directors Roger Edens.
MUSIC CLIP - AL BOWLLY AND RAY NOBLE, “DOWN SUNNYSIDE LANE”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re exploring the extensive film career of the great Judy Garland, focusing on the dozens of songs she performed on the silver screen.
Judy Garland appeared in 34 feature length films, an average of over one per year, and in the vast majority of these films, her incredible singing voice was on display. Garland practically grew up on film. When she was only four years old, her family settled in California, largely so Judy and her two sisters could pursue a career in the budding film and entertainment industry. Her parents were vaudevillians and theater managers, so Judy’s knack for performing was practically genetic.
At this time, her name wasn’t even Judy Garland—it was Frances (aka “Baby”) Gumm. And her first performance on film was in 1929, when the Gumm Sisters made an appearance in the one-reel short The Big Revue, singing the song “That’s The Good Old Sunny South.” But even then, the seven-year-old “Baby” was clearly the star, hamming it up and belting out high notes over her older sisters.
MUSIC CLIP - BENNY GOODMAN & HIS ORCHESTRA, “HONEYSUCKLE ROSE”
By 1936, “Baby” (now going by the stage name “Judy Garland”) was signed to the biggest studio in Hollywood, MGM, basically by the strength of her singing voice alone. Even at just 14 years old, Judy sounded like an older woman. She had a deep, expressive voice with a rhythmic drive. Her sound was fresh and exciting, and fit comfortably within the new swing style emerging in American music.
Her first role for the studio was another short called Every Sunday, where the young Judy showed off her swing music chops against the operatic voice of her fellow young MGM recruit Deanna Durbin.
Judy was so impressive in this role that studio head Louis B. Mayer ended up dropping Durbin and betting on Garland. Her star didn’t immediately rise. It wasn’t until at a studio party a few years later, when she sang a love song to MGM star Clark Gable, that the studio realized her expressive potential.
MUSIC CLIP - JUDY GARLAND, “DEAR MR. GABLE / YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU”
She ended up singing this same song in the film Broadway Melody of 1938, an all-star extravaganza that also featured Sophie Tucker. Garland’s performance was well-received and it helped solidify her career.
Let’s hear a different song that she performed in that film now. This is Judy Garland, and Decca single from 1937 with the song “Everybody Sing,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “EVERYBODY SING”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “IN BETWEEN”
Judy Garland with a song that kind of defined her on screen “kid sister” persona for many years, the song “In Between.” That comes from the 1938 film Love Finds Andy Hardy, starring Mickey Rooney as the loveable scamp Andy Hardy, and Judy Garland as the loveless sidekick Betsy Booth. Rooney and Garland would co-star in three Andy Hardy films in total.
Before that, we heard a song from one of Garland’s first big on screen appearances. That was “Everybody Sing” from the MGM film Broadway Melody of 1938. MGM reused that song title as the title of another film in 1938 also starring Judy Garland.
In that same year, 1938, the sixteen-year-old Judy Garland was chosen to star in one of MGM’s biggest blockbusters to date, the children’s film The Wizard Of Oz. She actually wasn’t the first choice: Shirley Temple was approached, as was Garland’s one-time screen rival Deanna Durbin. However, Judy eventually became the studio’s choice, which was especially appropriate when they decided on adding Broadway-style musical ballads to the show. The songs, by composer Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, are classics today. Although it wasn’t so clear at the time. Studio execs nearly cut one of the ballads from the opening scene in Kansas, thinking it was too slow. It’s a good thing they changed their mind, because the tune would go on to become, arguably, the most memorable song in cinematic history. Let’s hear it now.
This is Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale from the 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz with “Over The Rainbow,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “OVER THE RAINBOW”
From the 1939 MGM film The Wizard Of Oz, that was a seventeen-year-old Judy Garland singing the classic “Over The Rainbow.”
The Wizard Of Oz was the film that made Judy Garland a mega star, and she rightfully earned lots of praise for the film. But believe it or not, it wasn’t as big of a success at the time that you might imagine. A combination of an over bloated budget and ticket sales that mostly went at a discount to kids, The Wizard Of Oz actually lost money for the studio in its initial run. The bigger hit for the studio that year was another Judy Garland film Babes In Arms, which was based on a Rodgers and Hart stage musical and co-starred (yet again) Mickey Rooney. In this film, directed by Busby Berkeley, Mickey and Judy star as two kids who find themselves in a financial pickle, and the only way to get out of it is by putting on an old-fashioned show.
Babes In Arms was such a success for MGM that the studio basically rehashed the plot of the film three more times with Judy and Mickey in the lead, following it up with Strike Up The Band in 1940, Babes On Broadway in 1941, and Girl Crazy in 1943.
Let’s hear a song written for the film version of Babes In Arms by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. This is Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney with “Good Morning,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND AND MICKEY ROONEY, “GOOD MORNING”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “BUT NOT FOR ME”
From the 1943 film Girl Crazy, that was Judy Garland with the George and Ira Gershwin song “But Not For Me.” Before that, a song you probably know from the 1952 film Singin’ In The Rain, but a song that was written originally for Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney to sing in the 1939 film Babes In Arms. That was the Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown song “Good Morning.”
After years of playing the sidekick, the girl next door, but never the love interest, the mid 1940s was a turning point for Judy Garland. Now in her 20s, she was being cast in more adult roles, including the World War I film For Me And My Gal, alongside Gene Kelly…
MUSIC CLIP - JUDY GARLAND, “FOR ME AND MY GAL”
… as well as her glamorous turn in the 1943 musical Presenting Lily Mars. The next role she was offered, the 17-year-old Esther Smith in 1944’s Meet Me In St. Louis, seemed like a step backwards for her on paper. And she even initially declined the role. After some story rewrites, she reluctantly agreed. Over the course of the production, Garland struggled with addiction, but also fell in love with the director Vincent Minelli. In the end, Meet Me In St. Louis ended up being a huge hit for MGM, and Garland was praised for her work, introducing new songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.
Let’s hear one now. This is Judy Garland with “The Trolley Song,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “THE TROLLEY SONG”
Judy Garland with Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane’s “The Trolley Song,” a song she introduced to the world in the 1944 MGM film musical Meet Me In St. Louis. [1:30]
MUSIC CLIP - BLOSSOM DEARIE, “THE BOY NEXT DOOR [INSTRUMENTAL]”
We’ll have more film songs from the great Judy Garland in just a bit.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - GLENN MILLER AND HIS ORCHESTRA, “DING-DONG! THE WITCH IS DEAD”
MUSIC CLIP - LOU LEVY, “THE TROLLEY SONG”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring some of the songs Judy Garland performed on film this hour. And where we left off, she had just secured one of biggest hits to date, the film Meet Me In St. Louis. The success of this film led to a series of hits for Garland and MGM continuing through the end of the 1940s.
Her next big film musical was The Harvey Girls in 1946, a film that follows a group of waitresses in Arizona in the 1890s and was MGM’s western-themed answer to the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma. Garland’s work as an actor, singer, and much-beloved screen presence was praised yet again, as were the new songs written by composer Harry Warren and Garland’s former paramore Johnny Mercer. The songwriters even won an Academy Award for this next song.
Here is Judy Garland and the vocal group The Merry Macs with their Decca single version of the song “On The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “ON THE ATCHISON, TOPEKA, AND SANTA FE”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING”
Judy Garland with Jerome Kern’s “Look For The Silver Lining.” She performed that song, while pregnant with her daughter Liza Minelli, in the 1946 film Til The Clouds Roll By, a biopic about Kern, who passed away the previous year. Before that, we heard her with Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer’s “On The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe,” a song she performed in the 1946 film The Harvey Girls.
In the late 1940s, Garland’s film career was hitting a snag. She was still a huge box office draw, and she could still deliver on screen, but behind the scenes she was becoming increasingly unreliable. Burdened with exhaustion from years of being overworked, postpartum depression, and a growing addiction to pills, Garland suffered a nervous breakdown on the set of the 1948 film The Pirate. She was then cut completely from the production of two different films around this time—The Barkleys of Broadway and Annie Get Your Gun, replaced by Ginger Rodgers and Betty Hutton, respectively. Garland was at her lowest: she attempted suicide, and she and her husband Vincent Minelli had split. And to add insult to injury, she was dropped by MGM in 1950, after working for the studio for 15 years, more than half of her life.
Yet, despite all of that, some of her most memorable performances on film took place during these years, and we’ll hear a few now.
We’ll begin with a song from the 1948 film Easter Parade, co-starring Fred Astaire, with songs by Irving Berlin. Here is Judy Garland and Fred Astaire with “We’re A Couple of Swells,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND AND FRED ASTAIRE, “WE’RE A COUPLE OF SWELLS”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND AND MICKEY ROONEY, “I WISH I WERE IN LOVE AGAIN”
Old pals Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney teaming up for their final time in the 1948 film Words And Music, a biopic about the partnership between Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. That was the Rodgers and Hart song “I Wish I Were In Love Again.” Before that, we heard Garland teaming up with Fred Astaire in the 1948 film Easter Parade, performing a song written for the two of them by Irving Berlin, “A Couple Of Swells.”
When the 1950s began, Judy Garland’s film career was basically over. She had spent 15 years with MGM, becoming one of the most recognizable movie stars on the planet, and now, no movie studio would hire her. She spent the next several years building up a performing career on stage, and by 1954, she was ready to return to the silver screen.
Producing a Judy Garland film was a gamble, but luckily for her, her husband at the time Sid Luft decided to produce her next film. The film was A Star Is Born, a remake of a classic 1937 picture about two singing stars, one whose career is rising, the other whose career is failing. Judy played the rising star, opposite James Mason, and despite challenges during the production, her performance was hailed by critics. Time magazine called it “the greatest one-woman show in modern movie history.” Garland seemed like a shoe-in for an Oscar, but lost to Grace Kelly. Groucho Marx later sent her a telegram, calling it “the biggest robbery since Brinks.”
Let’s hear a clip from that film, with her delivering a marvelous performance of a song written for the film by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin. From A Star Is Born, this is Judy Garland with, “The Man That Got Away,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY”
Judy Garland, and her film comeback from 1954. That was Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin’s “The Man That Got Away,” from the film A Star Is Born.
Judy Garland made only a few more film appearances after A Star Is Born, most of them featuring her in dramatic, non-singing roles. In her final film, I Could Go On Singing from 1963, she returns to what she does best. Here, she plays a famous American concert singer, haunted by a past love—a role that was not unlike the role she had been playing in real life for the past decade. Despite not being a huge box office success, Garland was yet again praised for her vocal performances.
To close off this hour of Judy At The Movies, here is the one and only Judy Garland performing the Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz song “By Myself,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “BY MYSELF”
From Judy Garland’s final film appearance, I Could Go On Singing in 1963, that was the Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz song, “By Myself.”
Thanks for tuning in to this Judy Garland film songs edition of Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - GLENN MILLER, “GET HAPPY”
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow