Judy Garland was one of the best loved stars from the golden age of Hollywood and is often seen as one of it’s greatest victims. It was the Wizard Of Oz that cemented her stardom as well as the Hardy family movies with Mickey Rooney. Her heavy schedule at MGM led to an addiction to pills and later alcohol that impacted heavily on the rest of her life and career. Always incredible to watch Garlands career petered out after the sucess of A Star Is Born and she died in 1969. Here though is our pick of five of her best movies.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Treasured by millions with each new screening, this colorful musical fantasy defines for many the greatest achievements of Hollywood’s classic period. MGM put every resource into the production, from dazzling Technicolor (an early use of the three-strip process; the colors astonished audiences of the day), marvelous songs from Arlen and Harburg that would become standards, a star-making performance from Garland (actually the studio’s third choice for the role), and the thousands of studio artisans who created hundreds of costumes and 70 sets for an ambitious, months-long production led by three of the studio’s most-trusted directors (and early sequences, not in the final cut, by Richard Thorpe). The result follows a Kansas farmgirl (Garland) who escapes her black-and-white life and Hamilton’s threat to do away with her beloved dog, Toto, to a Technicolor world that lies over the rainbow. After becoming the hero of Munchkin Land, Garland and Toto link arms with Bolger, Haley, and Lahr (the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion) to place each of their desires in front of the fabled Wizard, desires that they learn are really always within their reach. One of the classics that rewards each viewing. Academy Award Nominations: 5, including Best Picture.
Directors: George Cukor, Victor Fleming, King Vidor
Cast: Ray Bolger, Billie Burke, Judy Garland, Charley Grapewin, Jack Haley Jr., Margaret Hamilton, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan
For Me and My Gal (1942)
Gene Kelly made his film debut in this boy-woos-girl classic. An ambitious song-and-dance man and a pretty singer with dreams of hitting the big time team up to work the vaudeville circuit. Their professional relationship gradually becomes romantic, but both suffer a series of setbacks and disappointments. As they finally seem poised on the verge of success, WWI breaks out and threatens to tear them apart forever.
Director: Busby Berkeley
Cast: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Stephen McNally, George Murphy, Richard Quine, Keenan Wynn
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
On nearly every list of the best Hollywood musicals of all time, Vincente Minnelli’s slice of Americana set during the 1904 World’s Fair was unusual for its failure to employ a “backstage” plot device to set up the songs. More important, it served to reestablish Garland’s career and established Minnelli (Garland’s future husband) as a major American filmmaker. The story of the well-to-do Alonzo Smith (Ames) and his family is a nostalgic portrait of an idealized happy American household, where the biggest worries concern the romantic futures of daughters Garland and Bremer and a possible move to New York. With songs like “The Boy Next Door,” “Have Yourself a Merry Christmas,” and the famous “Trolley Song,” this soon became MGM’s second most successful film, bested only by GWTW. Academy Award Nominations: 4, including Best Screenplay; Best Song (“The Trolley Song”).
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Cast: Judy Garland, June Lockhart, Marjorie Main, Margaret O’Brien, Leon Ames, Mary Astor, Harry Davenport, Tom Drake,
The Harvey Girls (1946)
A chain of railroad station restaurants bring the frontier a touch of civilization along with a hot meal in this nostalgic musical comedy from the legendary MGM Freed unit. There’s high-wattage star power (Garland, Foster, Charisse, Bolger, Lansbury) expended on a negligible tale of an eastern gal who heads west to work in one of the elegant restaurants. The Mercer-Warren score includes the award-winning “On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe,” “The Wild, Wild West,” “It’s a Great Big World,” and many others. Academy Award Nominations: 2, including Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
Director: George Sidney
Cast: Kenny Baker, Ray Bolger, Cyd Charisse, Preston Foster, Judy Garland, John Hodiak, Angela Lansbury, Marjorie Main, Virginia O’Brien, Chill Wills
A Star Is Born (1954)
A close remake of the fabled 1937 Hollywood tragedy (with aspects of Cukor’s own 1932 “What Price Hollywood?”) is elevated by Garland’s finest, most-esteemed performance. The feeling of impending doom is intensified for today’s audience by our knowledge of Garland’s own experience and career. The story follows the original, with singer Garland getting her big break by giving screen star Mason a hand onstage. The more emotional performances characteristic of the ’50s make this version somewhat overwrought, with Mason’s degradation more shocking than Fredric March’s decline. Drastic cuts made by the studio after its initial release were restored in the early ’80s, and nearly 30 minutes of additional footage are available on the laserdisc. The Harold Arlen?Ira Gershwin score introduced the Garland versions of “The Man That Got Away,” “Somewhere There’s a Someone,” “Melancholy Baby,” and “Born in a Trunk.” Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy: James Mason; Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy: Judy Garland. Academy Award Nominations: 6, including Best Actor: James Mason; Best Actress: Judy Garland; Best Score; Best Song (“The Man That Got Away”).
Director: George Cukor
Cast: Judy Garland, James Mason, Tommy Noonan, Charles Bickford, Jack Carson,
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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