ABOUT THE FILM:
Although it clocks in at a slight 70 minutes running time, Listen Darling nevertheless manages to cast its charm on the viewer. The simple story revolves around the efforts of the characters played by Judy and Freddie Bartholomew and their attempts to find a suitable husband for Judy's widowed mother by kidnapping her and taking her on the road in a trailer. Of course, they just happen to find none other than Walter Pidgeon as the potential husband. Listen Darling is definitely a "B" film, but that doesn't take away from its merits. Any "B" movie from MGM in the late 1930's was usually of a higher quality than the "A" films from the other studios. It's also got something going for it that most of the "B" films (or any other films) of the time didn't: Judy Garland singing, The film is more of a family comedy than a "musical", but gets two solos and one group number, including her famous "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart", which she would keep in her repertoire throughout her life.
Listen Darling was the last film Judy Garland made before achieving international stardom the following year in The Wizard of Oz.
Judy sang "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart" for her audition with MGM on September 13, 1935. She had been singing the song throughout 1935 (and probably in 1934 as well). She famously sang it on November 16, 1935 on the NBC Radio show "The Shell Chateau Hour". Her father was in the hospital with spinal meningitis, but had a radio bedside to hear his daughter sing. He died hours later. The radio "air check" of this performance has survived and is one of the earliest known recordings of Judy Garland before MGM (and musical mentor Roger Edens) refined her style. This amazing performance can be found on the 2008 CD "Judy Garland - Classiques et inédits 1929 - 1956".
Judy recorded two different versions (one "ballad" and one "swing" of "Zing!" for Listen Darling on September 16, 1938, and filmed the sequence on the 22nd. The song was shortened to a chorus and a half for the final film, but the complete pre-recordings can be found on: Ballad Version: "That's Entertainment!" 6-CD boxed set; Swing Version: "Judy Garland - Collector's Gems from the MGM Films". The recording sessions for "Zing!", "On The Bumpy Road To Love", and one take of "Ten Pins In The Sky" are on the out of print 1995 laser double feature Thoroughbreds Don't Cry/Listen Darling - these sessions have not yet been released on CD.
While making Listen Darling, on July 8, 1938 Judy and Freddie attended the premier of MGM's big budget Marie Antoinette. They are briefly shown in the short "Hollywood Goes To Town" from the "Another Romance Of Celluloid" series, signing the guest book on their way into the theater. This short is on the Marie Antoinette DVD.
Mary Astor, who played Judy's mom in both Listen Darling and Meet Me In St. Louis said that Judy in these early years was a "sheer joy: young, vital, warm, affectionate, and exuberant. A real kid." She also said that Judy would get the giggles easily and sometimes hold up production: "she got the giggles. 'There goes Judy!' would be the cry! And we just had to wait until she got over it."
TIMELINE AT A GLANCE:
Late June 1938: Production begins.
June 28, 1938: Wardrobe tests.
July 8, 1938: Publicity photos are taken on the set. That night, Judy and Freddie attend the premiere of Marie Antoinette.
July 28, 1938: Judy records "Ten Pins In The Sky".
August 21, 1938: Judy records a studio version of "Ten Pins In The Sky" for Decca Records.
August 27, 1938: Judy poses for initial costume, hair and makeup tests for The Wizard Of Oz (in the now infamous blond "Lolita Gale of Kansas" wig).
September 16, 1938: Judy records "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart".
September 22, 1938: Judy films "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart".
September 26, 1938: Judy, along with Mary Astor, Freddie Bartholomew, and Scotty Beckett record "On the Bumpy Road To Love".
September 30, 1938: Judy's first recording session for The Wizard Of Oz. She and Ray Bolger, Buddy Ebsen and Bert Lahr record "If I ONly Had The Nerve" and "We're Off To See The Wizard".
Early October 1938: Judy finishes Listen Darling.
October 16, 1938: Listen Darling premieres.
Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart (Judy Garland)
On The Bumpy Road To Love (Judy Garland, Freddie Bartholomew, Mary Astor and Scotty Beckett)
Ten Pins In The Sky (Judy Garland)
Ten Pins In The Sky (reprise) (Judy Garland, Walter Pidgeon and Mary Astor)
On The Bumpy Road To Love (reprise) (Judy Garland, Freddie Bartholomew, Mary Astor, Walter Pidgeon, and Scotty Beckett)
Freddie Bartholomew as Buzz Mitchell
Judy Garland as Pinkie Wingate
Mary Astor as Dottie Wingate
Walter Pidgeon as Richard Thurlow
Alan Hale as J.J. Slattery
Scotty Beckett as Billie Wingate
Barnett Parker as Abercrombie
Gene Lockhart as Mr. Drubbs
Charley Grapewin as Uncle Joe
Edgar Dearing as Motorcycle Policeman
Produced by: Jack Cummings
Directed by: Edwin L. Marin
Screen Play by: Elaine Ryan and Anne Morrison Chapin
From the Story by: Katherine Brush
"On the Bumpy Road to Love" by Al Hoffman, Al Lewis and Murray Mencher
"Ten Pins in the Sky" by Joseph McCarthy and Milton Ager
"Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" by James F. Hanley
Musical Score by: Dr. William Axt
Musical Director: Georgie Stoll
Musical Arrangements by: Roger Edens
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons
Associates: Harry McAfee, Edwin B. Willis
Wardrobe by: Dolly Tree
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Photographed by: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Film Editor: Blanche Sewell