Several years ago I was talking with a friend and he asked me to name who I thought was the greatest entertainer ever, and I answered without hesitation, “Judy Garland!” She’s probably the first performer I ever really took notice of, seeing her in “The Wizard of Oz” when it was broadcast on TV when I was only 5 or so. I remember her variety show in the early 1960s when she reprised some of her most famous songs.
Then when I saw “That’s Entertainment” in 1974 and saw snippets of her movie musical performances, I was entranced and made it my aim to eventually see every movie she’d ever made. Not being blessed with a good singing voice myself, I soared on her high notes and emotion-filled song delivery. I also admired her dancing (keeping up with Gene Kelly!) and acting skills. She could truly do it all!
The other day I came upon this wonderful video — if you have 14 minutes to spare, enjoy a quick trip through every movie and short subject Judy ever made:
But my favorite number is the one she sang in “Meet Me in St. Louis,” and that’s “The Trolley Song.” She did this in one take, and there’s a small mistake in the song, but the energy and excitement of meeting a new love was conveyed so well they decided to leave it as is:
My favorite thing she ever said was to Irving Berlin; he liked to be on the set of movies where he’d provided the music and give suggestions as to how he wanted his songs to be sung. When he began to give Judy one too many pointers, she walked up to him and said firmly, “Look here, Mr. Berlin. You write ’em; I sing ’em.” He understood immediately and never suggested any singing “hints” to her again!
I’ve read several biographies written about Judy; her problems with drugs (started by the studio and her mother) and alcohol and the resulting emotional fallout that made her reliability erratic are well known. However, she never let it show in her performances and always gave 110%. Thank goodness for film, so we can enjoy her performances forever!