Saturday, December 8, 2012
JUDY GARLAND AND A STRAIGHT MAN'S REVIEW
In the 1930s and 1940s, entertainers like Judy Garland were not seen as “gay icons”. I have asked one of my homosexual friends why Garland is so beloved among gay men, and his answer was that “her personal struggles seemed to mirror those of gay men in America during the height of her fame.” In recent years it seems that Judy Garland is only admired in the homosexual community, and I feel that is not true. I am a heterosexual who also likes Judy Garland.
My preference for Judy Garland is her younger years before she was given the unfortunate boot from MGM studios in 1950. I have never heard a voice like hers coming out of someone so young. You truly forget that Judy Garland was only 17 when she filmed The Wizard Of Oz. She seemed so assured and confident in herself that many seasoned thespians do not possess. Unfortunately, we now know that Garland never felt confident in herself, and she turned to booze and drugs to mask her insecurities.
She is widely regarded as a movie star, but do yourself a favor and listen to her recordings she did for Decca Records in the 1930s and 1940s. As a singer at that time, she was among the best. Do yourself a favor and listen to her record she made of the song “Could This Be The End Of The Rainbow” in 1940. It has nothing to do with The Wizard Of Oz, but the song sounds like it is sung by a 30 year old and not a young 18 year old. Judy’s voice was truly as advanced as her lifestyle was. Older stars like Jo Stafford, Ginny Simms, and Dinah Shore were making records, singing of lost loves and loneliness, but I would recommend you listening to a 20 year old Judy Garland singing “No Love, No Nothin” from 1942. No one has sung it better.
It is a crime that Judy Garland never won an acting Oscar, although she was nominated in 1954 and 1961. Again, I prefer the movies Judy did when she was younger. A little forgotten movie called Little Nellie Kelly (1940) is a great example of her acting at the time. The movie was a musical, but in the film Garland played two roles as a mother and then later as the grown daughter. There was surprising drama for a 1940 Garland film in the film from death of a loved one to family estrangement. I am really surprised the film isn’t remembered more than it is.
Of course the big joy of being a Judy Garland fan is seeing her in those splashy MGM musicals that they were so famous for. In her first “adult” role, she outdanced newcomer Gene Kelly in For Me And My Gal (1942). You can see the pain in her eyes singing “After You’ve Gone”. The scene was supposedly filmed right around the time her marriage to musician David Rose was breaking up, and MGM forced her to have an abortion. Another great underrated Garland movie moment was her cameo appearance in the all-star musical Thousands Cheer (1943). She was only on screen briefly but she sang one of her best musical numbers “The Joint Is Really Jumping”. She never recorded the song commercially, and it is just a typical jive number of the war era, but it was a great moment.
I could go on and on, but I just want people to know that Judy Garland is just not an icon for the gay community. During the 1930s and 1940s, Garland was a happy diversion from the pain of the Great Depression and World War II, and her films and records gave people hope for the future. I am not a huge fan though of the post 1950 Garland. She made some great albums for Capitol Records in the late 1950s, and Judy made memorable movies like "A Star Is Born" (1954) and "Judgement At Nuremberg" (1961), but in my opinion there is nothing like the young Judy Garland. Sadly, Garland died way too young at the age of 47 in 1969, but this heterosexual fan is happy for all of the entertainment she provided in that short but talented life…