In I Could Go On Singing Jenny Bowman (Judy Garland) is a great singing star. A Palladium season brings her to London where her illegitimate 12-year-old son lives with his Harley Street doctor father. She visits her son’s school and attempts to win him over but her true commitment is clearly to her career.
The film was only ever going to be Garland’s movie and indeed it proved to be her celluloid swansong. As Garland musicals go, this is out of the ordinary: the script was written expressly for her and reflects, often rather uncomfortably, her own circumstances. At the time of its making, she was engaged in a nasty and often melodramatic custody battle with her ex-husband Sid Luft over their two children. Moreover, for the part of doctor, Garland insisted on Bogarde with whom she was deeply but vainly in love (the role was previously turned down by Laurence Olivier). United Artists were not smitten with Bogarde’s claim as he never had any box office standing in the States. Nevertheless, Garland got her way.
The film has many fascinating aspects and it stands as an irreplaceable colour record of Garland singing at the Palladium in her late prime. Her four numbers include the anthemic title number by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg – though it only became the title number just before release for till then the movie was called The Lonely Stage. The best dialogue scene in the picture has Bogarde talking Garland into pulling herself together to go onstage. Bogarde substantially wrote the lines as he rewrote most of their scenes together at Garland’s behest for she thought the script “crap”. Given that she was essentially playing herself and that Bogarde, exasperated with her though he usually was, understood her very well, the movie could only be strengthened by this in-put. Ronald Neame’s clinical direction after all favoured Bogarde’s style much more than Garland’s.
UK / 1963 / United Artists
Director: Ronald Neame
Writers: Mayo Simon (and uncredited Dirk Bogarde) after Robert Dozier’s story written as The Lonely Stage
Cast: Judy Garland, Dirk Bogarde, Aline MacMahon, Jack Klugman, Gregory Phillips, Pauline Jameson, Gerald Sim, Russell Waters