This is not a collection
of Judy Garland's greatest heists. You will look in vain
for "Over the Rainbow," "On the Atchison
[sic], Topeka and the Santa Fe," or "The Trolley
Song." What you will discover, however, is a prize
culling of some of Judy's choicest and rarest vocal treasures,
most of which have been out-of-print for two decades
or more. Furthermore, you will hear for the first time
on LP the two earliest selections of Judy's to reach
the record-buying public back in 1936, and have the joy
of discovering the bubbly effervesce of a stunningly
gifted fourteen-year-old, who had not yet appeared in
Frances Gumm was born on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids,
Michigan [incorrect!], were her father managed a local movie house and her mother
carefully plotted a vaudeville career for her daughters. Not quite three, baby
Frances ran onstage during an amateur night and startled the audience with a
spontaneous chorus of "Jingle Bells." Somewhat more sedately, she
made a formal debut with her sisters, Virginia and Mary Jane, in 1927, after
the family moved to the West Coast.
For a time, Frances appeared with the popular Meglin
Kiddies, a group of performing moppets who played the theatre circuits on the
Coast, and with whom she reportedly made a screen debut in an early film short.
During the early 1930's, the Gumm sisters toured the
country in an act that was rehearsed by their mother. As every fan knows by now,
the decided to change their name when they discovered themselves billed on a
marquee as the "Blum Sisters." They took the name of Garland at the
suggestion of George Jessel (a friend of columnist Robert Garland); and Frances
decided to call herself Judy after the title of Hoagy Carmichael's popular song
it of 1934.
With Shirley Temple rated the top box office attraction of
1935, Hollywood was eagerly searching for other talented youngsters. Judy was
spotted during an engagement at Lake Tahoe and signed by MGM to one of those
Wallace Beery, a top Metro star, introduced Judy to the
public on his NBC radio program, Shell Chateau, on October 26, 1935.
Her performance of "Broadway Rhythm" on that broadcast virtually defies
belief; for Judy's poised assurance, effortless vocal control, sense of dramatic
dynamics, pathos, and skill at syncopation were as fully developed as they ever
would become. At the age of thirteen, she was a consummate performer, in need
of but the few tricks of style which she learned from Roger Edens and Kay Thompson
during her Metro years.
Though she was quickly signed to a Decca recording contract,
MGM found nothing better for Judy than a hastily made two-reeler, "Every
Sunday"(1936), in which she co-stars with another young singer, Deanna Durbin.
Judy's first record appeared during the summer of 1936; and, despite its success,
she continued to languish at MGM. The truth is that she was a personal favorite
of studio head, Louis B. Mayer; and, as Judy informed this writer the year before
her death, the staff producers were afraid that if her first appearance in one
of their pictures failed, their heads would roll. For this extraordinary reason,
Judy was loaned-out to Twentieth Century-Fox, for whom she made her feature film
debut in Pigskin Parade (1936).
While not attending classes on the lot, Judy was
expected to sing at the parties of the top MGM stars. For Clark Gable's birthday
party, Roger Edens composed the famous version of "You Made Me Love You," which
Judy later sang in The Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937). It was in this
all-star backstage musical that MGM finally cast her, a full two years after
she joined the studio. Stealing the picture easily from such experiences pros
as Sophie Tucker, Eleanor Powell and Robert Taylor, Judy's popularity soared,
aided by her Decca Records and frequent radio guest spots.
Still uncertain about how to cast her, MGM turned their
youthful starlet into a utility performer and cast her in a succession of low
budget family comedies, including the popular Andy Hardy series. Her only major
production of 1938 was Everybody Sing, in which she shares top billing
with Allan Jones.
In planning The Wizard of Oz (1939), MGM
had hoped to borrow Shirley Temple from Fox and W.C. Fields from Universal for
the title role of the wizard. When these plans fizzled out, Frank Morgan was
cast as the bumbling, old charlatan; and the prize role of Dorothy fell to Judy
Garland. Despite some grumbling that at sixteen, Judy was too developed physically
fro the part of a tiny child, she banished all doubts in mid-1939 with the release
of the Technicolor classic.
For the first time, Judy was offered choice vehicles,
tailor-made for her skills. Often cast as an aspiring actress, opposite Mickey
Rooney, her airy vitality and charms helped to brighten those early war years.
Her first adult screen kiss, to George Murphy in Little Nellie Kelly (1940),
shocked her fans; and her dramatic scenes in For Me and My Gal (1942)
sent the critics cheering to their typewriters.
The recordings on this album were taken from those happy years
of Judy's career. Eight of her films are represented: Though"Buds Won't
Bud" was finally dropped from Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940),
just prior to release; and, although Judy appears in Ziegfeld Follies (1946),
fred Astaire and not she introduced "This Heart of Mine."
Quite a few songs come from non-Garland films.
Alice Fay, for example, introduced "You Can't Have Everything." "No
Love, No Nothin'," and "A Journey to a Star." William Gillespie
first and "Blues in the Night," and Ivie Anderson led a huge chorus
in "All God's Children Got Rhythm" in A Day at the Races (1937).
Naturally, many are simply popular tunes of the day, brought timelessly to live
by Judy's special kind of freshness.
It is surely her uninhibited ardor in performance
which elicited the kind of passionate audience reaction Judy found wherever she
went. When, during one of her curtain calls at the Metropolitan Opera House,
she called out "Do you want more," four thousand frantic worshippers
screamed back "yes" so loudly that the walls of the ancient temple
music shuddered from the shock.
Judy Garland evoked a kind of adoration that is unique
in the history of theatre. Lillian Russell, Al Jolson, Lily Langtry, and Edmund
Kean were all adored; but the intensity of Judy's following was matched only
by her won intensity as an artist. It is unlikely that she will ever be forgotten.