She was the first female film critic for a major newspaper and the first female film critic on a national TV show.  And she was a personal friend of co-authors Joe Morella and Ed Epstein.

Hello, everybody. Your classic movie guys Joe Morella and Frank Segers here today to discuss Joe’s late pal, Judith Crist, who died a few days ago.  Joe called Ed, and asked him to share some of his reminiscences of Judy with you, our readers.  Here’s Ed.

THE ONE AND ONLY JUDY

by Edward Z. Epstein

There were, in fact, two one-and-only Judys: Garland and Crist.  It was thanks to one that I became friends with the other (Joe later joined the club). I was a new member of Universal’s New York publicity department, and Judith Crist was one of the most influential, important film critics in the business.

After a spectacular career at The New York Herald Tribune, she had joined New York Magazine. In the course of meeting her, seeing her at screenings of Universal pictures, and chatting with her before and afterwards, Judy (I called her Mrs. Crist at first) and I found we had two great passions in common: movies and Judy Garland.

Mrs. Crist had been writing about Garland for years — and never had that diminutive powerhouse of singing and acting talent been so vividly analyzed, praised, and, on rare occasion, criticized. Crist began one review of Garland, when she opened at the Palace in 1951, with an unforgettable sentence: A wonderful thing happened at the Palace last night. Judy Garland sang.

When Joe and I decided to write a book about Garland — JUDY: The FIlms and Career of Judy Garland — incredibly, it would be the first book about her, neither of us could believe there wasn’t a stack of other Judy books already on the shelves.

I approached Mrs. Crist, told her what we were planning, and asked if she wanted to write an introduction for it. I fully expected, and steeled myself to hear, “Thanks so much, but I don’t think so.”

She was at the very top of her profession, in demand to write articles virtually everywhere, and she earned top dollar. The publisher’s budget was limited. Very limited.

To my shock, her reply to my request was: Yes, I’d love to do it. What a great idea. And don’t worry about a “fee”– the publisher can make a modest donation to charity.

That was the beginning. She subsequently wrote introductions for three of the dozen other books Joe and I co-authored: Rebels: The Rebel Hero in FilmsThose Great Movie Ads and The Films of World War II.

John Griggs, Judy’s assistant, always advised: Keep after her, she won’t get it done until the last minute. It’s her newspaper background.

He knew his boss well. Those phone calls to Judy Crist became more frantic (from our end, needless to say) as the deadlines grew closer and closer.

Joe and I were never disappointed — those introductions were worth waiting for (an understatement if ever there was one).

She was particularly pleased with the one she’d written on Garland: I don’t think I’ve ever said it better, she said.

From the Classic Movie Guys — Thanks Ed.

 

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