Judy Garland plays a huge role in the history of films, despite the fact that she only thrived on the big screen for a decade.
She cameo with a movie cameo on Broadway Melody of 1938 and she is great on Love Finds Andy Hardy, but it is “The Wizard of Oz” from 1939 that earned Garland’s place in cinema history. Frances Gumm, who was born in Minnesotan, would make 20 feature films in the next ten years, culminating with “In the Good Old Summertime”. But because of the behavior that emerged from the top and bottom of the studio manager, she was a persona non grata in Hollywood by then. She would live another 20 years but only complete seven more films.
Garland’s filmography seems bigger because she was so productive in the 1940s and because she became such a young star (she was 14 or 15 on “Broadway Melody”). All chronologies are skewed for Garland, whose death in 1969 at the age of 47 seems to transport her to an earlier era in film history, though if she were alive today she would still be a bit younger than Betty White.
Renee Zellweger’s Oscar-winning 2019 performance in “Judy” reveals two ways to look at Garland’s legacy. It’s a tragedy because she was in such bad shape at such a young age that we’ll never know how many opportunities she missed, with tantalizing stories about her as an opportunity in Valley of the Dolls and the video Proof from “Annie Get Your Gun,” which she was fired from in 1949. But we don’t know what films she might have made.
The downside is that her decade at the top is one of the best in film history. There are a number of musical all-timers best remembered for their iconic songs: “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” in “The Harvey Girls”, “Get Happy” in “Summer Stock”, ” I Got Rhythm “in” Crazy Girl. “
There were also dramas and comedies that showed the indelible timing that would dazzle audiences as she turned to the concert stage. And even in the last few decades of her life, the Minnesota native, whose story is told at the Judy Garland Museum there, received some excellent screenings.
“The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
Garland’s training in the studio system helped her achieve greatness in her first lead role. In fact, she got there within minutes of starting “Over the Rainbow,” the signature song that meant many things throughout her career. The classic status of “Oz” feels predetermined, but its production has been chaotic, actors have been replaced and five men cycled through the director’s chair. Garland was surrounded by beloved performers, but their naturalness and warmth make it so unforgettable.
“A star is born” (1954)
After her run in the 40s, Garland would only do three musicals, this is undisputedly the best (surprisingly, it’s her first competitive Oscar nomination). Garland had lived through enough Hollywood scare to know this story of one career on the way up and another on the way down in her bones. She was fortunate enough to have director George Cukor guide her, especially when singing “The Man That Got Away,” which he lets her play in a single take, knowing that she is damned the woman who it was would behave like that again through the mill. “
“Meet me in St. Louis” (1944)
Hard to find the best number in this jam-packed musical: the theme song? “The trolley song?” I would go with a sad Christmas carol “Have a Merry Christmas”. I can never see the scene where Garland’s character comforts her younger sister without wondering what Garland, barely from her own childhood, thought of young co-star Margaret O’Brien.
“Judgment in Nuremberg” (1961)
Garland’s second and final Oscar nomination was for a drama about trying to bring prominent Nazis to justice. Declamorized, song-free and fascinating, she plays a German woman who is forced to testify about her friendship with a Jewish man.
“In the good old summer time” (1949)
When we meet Garland’s Veronica, she is wearing a hat with fake birds on it, attracting the attention of co-star Van Johnson, who is fooling around with the birds that suddenly turn out to be real birds. Buster Keaton himself invented the surreal piece, which is funny but also shows why the romantic lead roles in this remake “Shop Around the Corner” hate each other. Garland’s hilarious / exasperated execution of the physical comedy is just as perfect as her delivery of a handful of melodies.
“The Clock” (1945)
Nobody understood Garland’s attraction better than Vincente Minnelli, who staged her several times (“St. Louis” belongs to him too), she married and had daughter Liza Minnelli. He showed Garland’s humor and vulnerability in her first big, non-singing role as the quirky woman who meets and marries a soldier on leave.
“The Harvey Girls” (1946)
The story of the “girls” who helped colonize the American West is extremely old-fashioned, but I don’t care because it’s so fun to see Garland with Ray Bolger, the co-star of “Oz”, and the song ” Atchison ”again. with a literal cast of thousands is such a show stopper.
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