"The Judy Garland Show -- Volume One" Pioneer DVD Liner Notes
"I was born in a trunk. I was raised in a vaudeville family. We had lunch for breakfast, dinner for lunch, and a show for dinner. From age five, my appetite for entertainment was keener than my taste for food. Work? Who's
afraid of hard work? I'd work twenty hours a day on the series if they'd let me!"
Judy Garland so expressed a passion for sharing her talent, in a 1963 interview to promote the most ambitious project of her career : a weekly TV series for CBS. Garland was at that time the biggest name in the entertainment industry (think Madonna,
Celine Dion, and Cher combined), having reconquered every medium in the early 1960's. The historic and still-available 1961 "Judy At Carnegie Hall" recording stayed on Billboard's chart for 73 weeks (13 of those weeks at the Number One position), was the
first 2-album set to reach the milllion-dollar sales mark, and won 5 Grammy Awards including Best Female Vocalist and Album Of The Year (the first time a woman won in this category). Judy's corresponding concert tour broke box-office records that stood
till the late 60's, as 150,000 people came to see her at nearly 40 venues including Carnegie, Forest Hills Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl (where the audience of 18,600 stayed during a heavy rainstorm to hear her sing). Hollywood also joined in the
resurgence, as Garland made four films in '61-'62, including her Oscar-nominated performance in "Judgment At Nuremberg." The television industry welcomed her back to the fold as well : her February 1962 hour with guests Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin
brought CBS their highest audience to date for a special, won four Emmy nominations, and reviews in the vein of the New York Times pronouncement that "Judy Garland held television in the palm of it's hand last night."
Although she had never been more popular, this "living legend" had already been working for over 35 years. Born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids Minnesota on June 10th 1922, she made her stage debut at the age of 2 1/2 at her father's theater, then
became one of "The Gumm Sisters" vaudeville act. In 1932, Variety raved "selling end of the trio is the ten-year old sister with a pip of a low-down voice. Kid stopped the show," and after Frances ("Baby") Gumm had been renamed "Judy Garland," she was
signed by MGM in September 1935. By the time Garland left Metro in 1950, her films had grossed over $100 million dollars ("Meet Me In St. Louis" alone had brought in $7,566,000 on it's first release in 1944), making her the studio's "greatest asset."
Although those 15 years had brought her international fame and made her an icon (thanks to "The Wizard Of Oz"), they also permanently affected her health (the studio started Garland's use of prescribed medications when she was a teenager back in the late
1930's, both to help her get through a demanding schedule and to lose weight, not realizing these pharmaceuticals could lead to chemical dependency). Returning to the stage in 1951 (The London Palladium and New York's famed Palace Theater) insured the
commonly-known fact that seeing Judy Garland "live" would be one of the greatest experiences in one's life. Although she had successes in other mediums in the 50's -- including her Oscar-nominated performance in "A Star Is Born," top-selling albums for
Capitol, and two TV specials -- Judy spent the majority of the decade sharing her magic directly with "live" audiences. However, by 1959 her finances had reached a new low , and 20 years of medications had brought on hepatitis. After quarts of fluids were
drained from her body, the 37-year old Garland was told by doctors she would have to live her remaining years as a "permanent semi-invalid," and could not "ever work again." The doctors obviously did not know their patient : nothing would ever keep Judy
Garland from her audiences, and only 16 months after their dire warnings, she was the biggest star in the world.
The fact that Garland was more popular than she'd ever been was not lost on CBS. Once the newly-slim and youthful looking star was showcased on the December 7th 1962 broadcast of Jack Paar's prime-time talk show, all 3 networks began a bidding war when
Judy's managers convinced her to headline a weekly variety series. (Promising that a TV series would at last offer complete and lifelong financial security -- and the ability to stay home with her children instead of being on the road touring -- she
consented). On December 28th 1962, Judy Garland signed one of the largest deals in television history : a pact worth $24 million dollars, which CBS agreed to pay over the four one-year options ($6 million per year's worth of shows). The contract was also
ahead of it's time in two other areas : It would be Judy's call to continue her series after 13 shows : the network could not cancel her series at that normal point of termination if she wished to continue for an entire season of shows. The network also
would not retain the rights following the original broadcast : those would belong to Garland's production company -- Kingsrow Enterprises, Inc. (thus, her managers assured her, another $4-5 million could be made in future syndication sales). Although she
had headed another company through which her work in the 1950's had been produced, Judy Garland was finally a full-fledged business tycoon (or what we today call "a player"), worth at least $28 million dollars, if the series succeeded.
"The Judy Garland Show" began videotaping it's episodes in June 1963 at CBS Television City's Studio 43, with the just-turned 41-year old superstar in a peak physical and emotional condition. Although the idea of a Garland series seemed absurd to some,
in actuality it was the perfect project for her, as it combined the best elements of her previous working environments : performing for live audiences (as in her concerts, except that she would not have to tra vel to work), for an archival format meant
for later showings to the public (much like her years of making movies; and more people could see her in a single broadcast than in years of concert tours). Despite dealing with a recent separation from husband Sid Luft -- and his accurate warning that
her managers were misappropriating her funds for their benefit -- Judy sparkled in the first five episodes taped, looking vibrant and being in strong, full voice. (Pioneer Entertainment is presenting 2 of those early episodes on this DVD ; all episodes
are referred to as the Show Number in which they were videotaped, not the order in which they aired). Having already moved the series out to the West Coast (it had originally been set to be taped in New York), the network began it's creative tinkering
with the very first show when they insisted Garland be given a "second banana" : a series regular, in the form of comedian Jerry Van Dyke (brother of Dick, one of CBS' biggest stars). Nothing could dilute Judy's magic though, thanks in part to the show's
personnel, headed by producer George Schlatter (who would later produce "Laugh-In" ; some of that series' style can be felt on his five Garland shows). It was the first show's guest, however, who really brought out the best in Judy : Mickey Rooney first
worked with Judy on October 21st 1933 as part of the lineup for the Lawlor's Hollywood Professional School Recital, and by the end of that decade they were MGM's main musical team ("Babes In Arms"; Strike Up The Band"; "Babes In Broadway"; "Girl Crazy"
and the "Andy Hardy" films). Their movie magic was nothing compared to the amount of love and respect they felt for each other as the best of friends, and Judy knew "the Mick" would keep her relaxed and happy for the June 24th, 1963 videotaping of Show
#1. The star-studded studio audience (including Lucille Ball, Clint Eastwood, Jack Benny, and Natalie Wood) cheered the team's reunion, and by the time Judy closed the show with the "Born In A Trunk" segment's "Old Man River" (one of the defining moments
of both her career and of television history), everyone felt the series could be Gar land's greatest triumph yet. The Los Angeles Times so agreed with this assessment, they didn't wait for the series premiere and reviewed the videotaping of Show #1 :
"Judy seemed so assured, so self-possessed, so happy in her work, that it sounds good for the shows." (The Times' review would not exactly match what TV audiences would eventually see : Show #1 was not chosen to air as the series premiere telecast, so two
of it's segments that had featured references as being such -- Judy's opening song, and a sketch -- were deleted, and new ones taped in their place, before the episode with Rooney finally aired months later on December 8th 1963. It is the "air version" of
Show #1 which is presented here, along with never-before-released "outtakes" from the first "JGS" taping in June '63). (The series, for the most part, adhered to a theory of treating it episodes as if they were simply broadcasting a videotape of a "live"
show done in Studio 43 -- with Judy rarely requiring a second "take" on most of her songs. The feelings at the videotapings were therefore more like a Broadway musical than a film or a TV show, with stops and starts always kept to a minimum whenever
possible : for example, it was reported in the press that the second episode completed it's final videotaping in what was called a "record" time of only 84 minutes, for a 60 minute program. There would occasionally be differences between what was taped
and what was finally aired, however -- apart from format or guest changes -- such as a dress-rehearsal performance being used for the final edited "air" tape if it was deemed to be exceptional and stronger than the performance from the final taping.
Still, in the majority of cases, the "raw" footage from the final videotaping was simply "sweetened" with extra applause, the commercials were inserted, and the master "air" tape would thus be complete and ready to be seen by the public on Sunday nights
at 9 PM over the CBS network).
Following a week's rest (and the taping of Show #2 with Count Basie, Judy Henske, and Mel Torme), "TJGS" hit a peak in it's young history with Show #3. As with the first episode, the main guest star would be a reason for both Garland's at-ease
performance, and the show's success : fresh from her off-Broadway debut in "Best Foot Forward," 17-year old Liza Minnelli was already displaying signs of a talent that would go on to win three Tony Awards and an Oscar. This is evident both in her solo
work on the show, and in her duets with "mama." Although Judy and Liza had shared several stages before, their songs were always impromptu, and so this July 16th 1963 taping of Show #3 is the first "official" performance of mother and daughter (a year
later they would perform two sold-out joint concerts at the London Palladium). Perhaps the greatest of their team work is the "Two Lost Souls" number : the only time in the series' history that devoted it's final moments to a duet. Garland's memorable
solo work from the first episode is matched by the peak performances she delivers here ; "Come Rain Or Come Shine" is astoundingly powerful (watch for Judy's own amazement at the song's conclusion, and for proof of DVD's clarity, look for a lipstick mark
on her left cheek during this number's closeups -- leftover from where Liza had kissed her at the end of the show's opening song). Another highlight is Judy's premiere rendition of "As Long As He Needs Me" from the musical "Oliver" ; hauntingly delivered,
it is also evidence of her ability to refuse network interference, by singing the word "hell" as written for the song, against their wishes (note her quick and angry glare into the camera -- directed at CBS -- just before she sings the objectionable
CBS would engage Garland in many more power plays in the ensuing shows, in ways that would effect the rest of her life. Typical of the lady is that in spite of dealing with professional and personal problems (including child custody battles), Judy
Garland was crafting work on these shows that remains timeless. Most of the series has not, however, been seen by the general public since their original broadcasts over 35 years ago, and the shows that did surface were mostly from inferior
third-generation tapes or faded 16mm film print transfers. Pioneer Entertainment's DVDs of these legendary shows have been meticulously restored and remastered from the original 2-inch video tapes using the latest digital technology, and the audio is
being presented in both the original mono and newly created 5.1 surround tracks.
The TV series is the only existing audio and video record the world has of this legendary icon at a physical and vocal peak as an entertainer (not as a character in a movie). The joy, warmth, humor, and soul she displays here will allow you to know what
"the original diva" was like as a person , as well as a performer. In the near future you'll get to see and hear -- in digital clarity -- the legend at work with other legends, including Bobby Darin, Count Basie, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, Ethel Merman, and
Tony Bennett, among others. (All episodes will follow in deluxe box set releases from Pioneer Entertainment, starting this Fall; They'll include outtakes, dress rehearsal footage, and a running audio commentary about the shows). Having researched
Garland's life and career for the last 25 years, I can honestly tell you the best body of work of the greatest entertainer of this century (which is now being preserved and presented for the next century) is "The Judy Garland Show" : THE SHOW THAT GOT
-- Scott Schechter
"Good liner notes by Scott Schechter, too." -- USA TODAY, Mike Clarke (at the conclusion of the review for the DVD.)