June 10 marks the day that Judy Garland would have been 89 years old. If you have been following my blog at all, you already know that I am a huge Judy Garland fan. She has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and the really serious fandom started when I was about 10, when I heard a compilation of her Decca recordings–I fell immediately in love, and it’s all been uphill from there.
It is no secret that Judy Garland is the quintessential queer icon of the century. There have been many theories about just why the gay community is so drawn to her–among them that the early passing of her father (who was indeed gay) led her to seek out similar men, and that her status as a “tragic” character led the gay community to identify with her troubles. I don’t pretend to understand just what exactly it is that makes Judy such a lasting icon in the gay community, but I think that the renowned playwright and drag performer Charles Busch articulates her appeal very accurately:
I think it’s just facile to think that ‘Oh, because she’s so pathetic, that gay people whose lives are so pathetic identify with that,’ I think that can get a little tiresome. I think it’s more that despite her problems, she was able to dredge up this…energy that was very infectious.”
I am going to compile here some of what I consider to be her best work, and that which seems to encompass her as a person. Happy birthday to Judy!
Singing “Blue Butterfly,” at age 7.
“It’s Love I’m After,” from her first feature film, Pigskin Parade. She was 14.
This is a series of home movies shot on the set of The Wizard of Oz, by songwriter Harold Arlen.
With Gene Kelly in The Pirate.
Again showing her skills as a dancer with Gene Kelly in Summer Stock. After this film, she was fired from MGM and embarked on a highly successful concert career.
Accepting her Tony Award for the Palace engagement from presenter Helen Hayes.
A Star is Born in 1954 was Judy’s comeback film, and it garnered her an Oscar nomination, sparking outrage in the community when she lost to Grace Kelly.
Giving another Oscar-nominated performance in Judgment at Nuremberg.
The overture to the Carnegie Hall concert.
One of my favorite scenes from Judy’s last film, I Could Go On Singing in 1963.
Here are some scenes of Judy with celebrities from Judy’s TV show in the 1963-64 season:
ONE OF MY FAVORITES.
Judy’s last interview in Copenhagen, 1969.
A special thank you to Caroline at Garbo Laughs for hosting the Queer Film Blogathon, of which this post is a member!
I can’t add much about a person I consider one of the finest, most talented entertainers of the 20th century. But I’ll try. Her performance in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) is so natural and direct and affecting…yet there’s also HER VOICE and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She was but 16 or 17 at the time. Next stop, “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944) in which she portrayed a young girl weathering first love as a family drama unfolds (musically, amusingly)…plus her glorious voice singing all those unforgettable songs: “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” “A Star is Born” (1954) was the centerpiece of her career in the 1950s. She turned in an Oscar-worthy performance – but was robbed. David Thomson once wrote to the effect that the Oscars aren’t about justice but about the temperature of the times…which reminds me that “The Man That Got Away” was also robbed of its deserved award that year by “Three Coins in the Fountain.”
In her final decade, the ’60s, Judy was Oscar-nominated (Supporting Actress) for “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961). At this point, though, what I remember her most for are her TV performances – her fascinating and often hilarious guest appearances on “The Tonight Show” with Jack Paar and her own variety show on CBS. And she also toured the world in (legendary) concert. What Judy Garland did in her brief 47 years is unparalleled.
A lovely tribute, Lara, with wonderful pix and clips. I apologize for rambling but I get carried away on the subject of Judy Garland. Very, very few are in her league…
Thank you so much for your beautiful comment. I agree with all you say. Judy was a truly magnificent human being, in so many respects–and what most people don’t realize is what a hilarious storyteller she was. I wanted to add clips of her from Jack Paar, but couldn’t pick which ones to focus on from youtube! The Judy Garland Show is amazing, and I adore everything she did. As you know and can probably tell, I am a HUGE, HUGE fan. I’ve been to the Judy Garland Festival 4 times and when I was 13 won an award there–and was interviewed for NPR, LOL.
Aww, this was a lovely tribute, Lara! Richard Dyer wrote a great essay on Judy and her gay fans in his book “Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society”
Happy (belated) Birthday, Judy! What would a Queer Film Blogathon be without her? An excellent post on the Legend, but of course I wouldn’t expect any less from you. 🙂
Such a terrific tribute — and I’ve never seen that Photoplay pic of Judy and Liza before. Adorable! Judy was such a terrific performer, someone who gave so many people happiness while so often being saddled with such problems in her own life. She’s positively magnetic, as your post shows.
Thank you Stacia, I really have a very special connection to Judy. I fell in love with her as soon as I heard her voice. John Fricke, the prominent Judy biographer whom I met in Minneapolis last year, told an interesting story about Judy and her troubles, and how they seem interconnected with her genius as an entertainer–apparently a friend of his is a teacher in Bedford-Stuyvesant, teaching the most troubled youth in New York City. While teaching them about the Kennedy assassination, he showed them the clip of Judy singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and suddenly these rowdy kids became quiet, and just listened. When it was over, there was silence. One of the kids asked “Is she still alive?” Then another classmate replied “No one could sing like that and live.”
You are too sweet to me. Obviously, writing about Judy is my favorite thing, and I tend to get carried away and write epically detailed tributes.
Oh that’s awesome! What did he have to say? It’s always interesting to me to hear these different theories, because a lot of them make a lot of sense, yet no one can really put a finger on what exactly it is that makes her so adored by gay fans.