Screenings from the Paley Center for Media Collection
Judy Garland: The Television Years
July 30 and July 31, 2011 [festival runs July 20-August 18, 2011]
25 West 52nd Street
event web site: http://www.paleycenter.org/judy-garland-the-television-years
Garland the woman, Garland the performance professional, Garland the raconteur. Gems at the Paley continue to illustrate, illuminate, and just frankly and simply amuse. Here I will discuss two programs in reverse of the order in which I viewed them, in part because of the musing for meaning I wish to do with one of Garland’s 1965 appearances. And so it goes.
Sunday July 31 The program featured this day includes clips from every stage of Garland’s television career — from 1955 when Judy was hugely pregnant with Joe receiving the Look Magazine award for best actress for A Star is Born through sweet backstage clips from an otherwise sometimes mean-spirited (I’ve seen the entire program) Scandinavian television documentary of Judy during her concerts in Sweden in March 1969 entitled Last Performance. The range of content is wide, the humor is broad, the woman present always.
The final selection in this group of pieces is an entire creation rather than a fragment. Episode 13 from Garland’s 1963-1964 television series with guests Peggy Lee singing and chatting, Jack Carter doing comedy bits, and Carl Reiner performing what appears to be an entire standup routine during the “Tea for Two” segment. Garland and Lee sing about men (priceless) and do more things with boas than you could possibly imagine. And while all the other bits and pieces to today’s program remind us of Garland the woman — tired, calm, enthused, reflecting — this final show episode sends us out of the theatre humming a tune, smiling at a bit of shtick, laughing with her at something silly including a boa much longer than she is tall. Elegantly dressed rather than baggy pants clowning.
Saturday July 30 Programs from 1965 from coast to coast present Garland in a range of costumes, voice, mood. The Andy Williams Show from 1965 (a Garland guesting stint), her first appearance on The Hollywood Palace in late 1965, and the gem about which I wish to blather a bit today — a 1965 appearance from On Broadway Tonight with the Allen Brothers that is the Allen Brother’s first on U.S. television. Garland helps to showcase them.
The Allen brothers perform together first — a bit tepid, oddly nonharmonic, yet adorable in their little 1960s closely cut boxy suits. Garland then is introduced, and in not terrifically warmed up voice sings “When You’re Smiling” and her “This Can’t Be Love/Almost Like Being in Love” medley. Familiar arrangements, the audience knows them too, yet she is not quite in the performance at this point.
And then — the figurative performance curtain begins to rise. Judy joins the Allen Brothers on the piano bench for their close harmony version of “I Wish You Love”. At the emotional level of a heartbeat, with the stirring power of a deep resonant breath.
When the young men leave, Judy stays at the piano to deliver a soulful “The Music That Makes Me Dance” — the boffo ballad from then-current Broadway smash Funny Girl that was stupidly cut from the movie. Garland shines.
Finally, in full possession of a warmed-up instrument, happily (almost giddily) standing in her power, Garland delivers a version of “Rockabye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody” standing and rocking and foot stomping center stage to rival any she has ever given. And laughs deliciously at the end.
A lesson in how to pace the arc of a performance, in one 30 minute segment. I am returning to view this particular program on Friday August 12. It is that special.
© Martha Wade Steketee (August 10, 2011)