After MGM decided what to do with Judy Garland’s immense talents there was no stopping her. They teamed her with Mickey Rooney and the two filmed a series of “let’s put on a show” musicals which are as wonderful today as they were 70 years ago.
The second part of her film career began.
And when the studio tried and failed to borrow child super star Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox for The Wizard of Oz, Judy and MGM got their biggest break.
Then, with the “help” of stringent dieting and diet pills Judy made the transformation to adult leading lady in two of her greatest vehicles, bona fide classics, Meet Me in St. Louis and The Harvey Girls.
Between those two she managed to shoot her first film without a musical number, The Clock, a touching love story about a young couple who meet during World War II. But it would be years before Judy’s public, or any studio, would let her act again without singing and dancing.
Garland was, in the words of one of her co stars, Fred Astaire, “the greatest entertainer who ever lived.” Their film together, Easter Parade, was just one of Judy’s great pictures of the 1940s.
But as almost every film buff knows, Judy’s problems with weight, with drugs, with alcohol contributed to her demise at MGM.
Then after a triumphant success on Broadway, just singing, her third husband, Sid Luft, was able to get Warner Bros. to sign her for a comeback film. And what a comeback it was.
Everyone thought Judy would win The Oscar for her bravura performance in A Star is Born, a musical remake of the 1937 Janet Gaynor-Frederick March film. Her co-star, James Mason, had also been nominated. Neither of them won, however.
But the film, especially the 15 sequence of “born in a trunk” (which was added after the film was completed and over the objections of director George Cukor), had stood the test of time and is considered a milestone in her career. To see Judy’s vocal triumph here is to get the shivers — of admiration, say Frank. This woman could SING.
Next week we conclude our series on Garland’s film career.