by Edgar Penton
November 2, 1963
In the premiere of the new weekly Judy Garland Show in September, guest star Donald O’Connor got a howl from Judy and the hep studio audience by telling her he doubted the possibility of a Judy Garland show because “you wouldn’t show up.”
The line reflecting the feeling of many in show business who remembered the star’s sometimes doubtful dependability over the years. Now, after half dozen solid performances, the skepticism as to La Garland’s sustaining a weekly series is pretty well erased.
True, skeptics did have their day early in August. They exchanged smug shrugs when the series went out of production after five shows had been videotaped at CBS Television City in Hollywood.
But these “told-you-sos” were proved premature when difficulties were soon ironed out and production resumed.
However there still remains a wondering curiosity among some viewers about why she has embarked on the grind of a weekly series at all.
“She’s already a legend,” people say. “How can that much popularity be enhanced by weekly exposure?”
Miss Garland, whose spirited performances belie her great personal modesty, laughs at the sobriquet, “The legend.”
“So why,” the same people continue, “does she let herself in for all the hard work connected with doing a weekly series?”
“Who’s afraid of hard work?” Miss Garland counters. She never lets her modesty interfere with her determination — and she has been dead-determined from the begining to make “The Judy Garland Show” the best thing she has ever done: week after week after week.
“I was born in a trunk,” she says, so involved in making her point that she doesn’t realize she has used the title line from one of her most famous concert numbers, or, if she does realize it, she brushes the association aside and continues to define the metaphor:
“I was raised in a vaudeville family; we had lunch for breakfast, dinner for lunch and a show for dinner. From age five my appetite for entertainment was keener than my taste for food.
“Work? I’d work twenty hours a.day on the series if they’d let me.”
And sometimes she does — union regulations notwithstanding—simply by singing at home.
Her boundless energy is coniagious, and many nights people with whom she works and the production staff, will drive out to her house for a spontaneous rehearsal. On this venture Judy exhibits real “devotion to duly.”
Some people, contending that she has gone as far as any star can go, are afraid that she is endangering her public image by exposing herself to nationwide scrutiny every Sunday night.
“I hope I’m endangering my public image,” she explodes. “I’d like to do away with it!”
Not even aware that she has rocked her listeners back on their heels, Miss Garland half closes her long lashes and speaks out with earnest conviction:
“I’m a cheat. That’s what I am. Public image: it’s a phony! My public image isn’t anything like me. People think I’m either a breakable Dresden doll or a wide-eyed Kansas, teen-ager. I haven’t been a teen-ager for a long time, and if I were breakable, I wouldn’t be here now.”
Her public image—what Miss Garland calls her “half-image” —has been molded from her appearance in three television specials, her record-breaking performances in concert halls and theaters around the world and the necessarily immature personality traits of little Dorothy in the annually televised “Wizard of Oz.”
“Come to think of it,” Miss Garland muses, “my entire repertoire is made up of just two kinds of songs: sad songs and holiday songs.
“So naturally people think I’m either unhappy or on a toot. There’s no middle ground. But I’m not that. . .that. . .mercurial. Really I’m not.
“You really want to know why I’m tackling a television series? Because CBS is letting me be myself—letting me be a whole, total, complete person.
“I can sing anything I want to sing. ‘Old Man River’—I’ve never sung that before, I don’t think any woman has.
“But I’ll sing it in one of our shows.
“And I want to talk, just talk. Not come out and say, ‘I’m Judy Garland and that’s that and now I’m going to sing a song.’ Not just that.
“I want to carry on a conversation with someone. You know,
I’ll bet before the series went on the air that a lot of people had no idea 1 could carry on a conversation without having someone write the script.”
This is the other side of Miss Garland—the sometimes quiet, sometimes-mischievous converversational side—that is having its first public showing in “The Judy Garland Show.”
Two parts of each Judy Garland show are designed specifically to let Miss Garland talk.
One is the “trunk spot,” the final segment of each production during which she talks directly to the audience.
It gives her a chance to tell some of the heretofore quite personal incidents of her widely publicized career.
The other is the “Tea for Two” spot, where Miss Garland spends from six to ten minutes in relaxed conversation with a special surprise guest.
It is completely ad lib.
Indeed the guest is often as much of a surprise to the star as he or she is to the audience; so not even Judy has any idea what Miss Garland is going to say.
Though it may be disturbing to viewers who insist on having their heroes (and heroines) shrouded in mystery, there isn’t a lot more to Miss Garland than meets the eye—certainly very little more than will meet the CBS Eye…this season on “The Judy Garland Show.”