I COULD GO ON SINGING

STUDIO:  Barbican/United Artists

PRODUCTION DATES: May 1 – July 13, 1962

PRODUCTION COST:   $1.4 million

RUNNING TIME:  99 minutes

RELEASE DATE:  March 6, 1963 (London, England) / March 20, 1963 (Miami, Florida)

INITIAL BOX OFFICE:  unknown 

Judy Garland in "I Could Go On Singing"I Could Go On Singing was Judy Garland’s movie swan song.  It was based on a teleplay titled “The Lonely Stage” that aired in 1958 and starred Mary Astor.  The producers of that teleplay, Stuart Millar and Lawrence Turman, had said that since the original telecast they wanted to adapt it to the screen for Judy.  Obviously Astor’s role was revamped from a strictly dramatic one to that of a concert singer to accommodate Judy’s talents.  Jack Klugman was the only actor from the teleplay to reprise his role in the film, that of Garland’s stage manager.

Production began in London on May 1, 1962, and was a rocky one.  Part of this was due to the script, of which both Judy and co-star Dirk Bogarde were unhappy with. Bogarde rewrote, with Judy’s help, many of their scenes.  The almost harrowingly raw hospital scene was one of these.  

Further exasperating the production was Judy’s fear of becoming dependent on pills to slim her down for the camera, a physical and mental throwback to the MGM days of being pressured to be “camera thin.”  Judy was also overextended in both her professional and her personal lives, including a custody battle with Sid Luft over their two children and a brief hospitalization due to a fall at home.  In spite of the custody battle, Judy and Sid’s two children, Lorna and Joe Luft were with Judy during filming, and appear on the screen as passengers in the back of the boat that Judy’s character “Jenny Bowman” and her on-screen son (played wonderfully by Gregory Phillips) take a ride on.

Years later, Bogarde relayed how Judy eventually alienated the entire crew due to her unpredictability while at the same time never failing to awe them with her talents.  He said that on the last day of shooting she told them “You’ll miss me.”  Bogarde went on to explain: “A few weeks later, another actress came over [from America – most likely Susan Hayward]…and the unit said, ‘If only we had Judy back!’  Because the other was worse…they knew the value of Judy.  When she delivered, there was absolutely nothing like it.”

Per Director Ronald Neame: “Judy Garland… talk about a love-hate relationship!  I was so excited when I was asked to direct her.  I thought, you know, what a wonderful opportunity, to direct Judy Garland.  I heard all kinds of things about how she ate directors for breakfast, and if she didn’t eat them, she fired them.  I was told how difficult it would be, and I thought, oh well, I’ll turn on my British charm, and I’ll be all right.  I’ll win through.  And she was absolutely charming through all the preparation of the production and during the first number.  Then the problems started… when she liked me, which was half the time, she used to call me Pussycat.  She would come up to me and give me a hug, and I would hug her, and she’d say, ‘We’re all right, Pussycat, aren’t we?’  And I’d say, ‘Judy, darling, we’re all right.’  And we’d have three days of greatness.  Then she’d come on the set in a filthy mood, having been missing for three days, and then I became ‘Get that goddamn British Henry Hathaway off the set!’  Henry Hathaway was a very important American director but had the reputation for being a bully.  So when she called me Henry Hathaway, she meant that I was a bully.  The film went through – I mean, it would take far too long to tell you.  But in the end, we finished it.  And although it wasn’t a success at the time, it has become a sort of cult film now, because it was her last film.  And it was very much her life.”

Judy Garland and Dirk Bogarde in "I Could Go On Singing"About the now-famous [at least to Judy fans] hospital scene, Neame said: “There’s one scene between Dirk Bogarde and her when he’s trying to persuade her to go back to the theatre from the hospital.  She’s been taken to the hospital, and she’s determined not to go back. And he’s determined to make her go back.  This scene was about a four-minute, five-minute scene, which I intended to break up into a medium shot and a close two-shot, and then individuals.  We rehearsed it, and I said fine, let’s now shoot it.  Now, some extraordinary piece of magic happened.  It was a very dramatic scene, where the Judy character says ‘I’m never going back to the theatre again.  I’m not going to go there and put myself up there, and why should I sing when I don’t want to sing.’  So, a big argument.  And suddenly, on the first shot, which was supposed to finish a quarter of the way through, suddenly, I realized that this was real life.  That suddenly, Judy had become the real Judy.  It was no longer acting, and it was absolutely wonderful.  She bared her heart to Dirk.  Whilst we were shooting, I thought, ‘My God, what am I going to do?’  Because this was a one-time thing.  So I did this [waved him forward] to the character pushing the camera, to get him to go in closer, which he did, he crept in closer.  And Dirk Bogarde, being a brilliant actor and a very good film person, he realized what was happening, and he moved in closer to her.  So they were right close, and so I was able to come in closer.  And we went on with the scene.  Then we realized that there was a little light on the front of the camera.  As we went in closer, it started to burn up the faces, because it was too bright.  And the cameraman signaled to the chief electrician, who crept over to the camera and slid a gauze in front of the light so that it wouldn’t make it too strong.  And we went right through the whole six minutes, I suppose, of the scene, and everybody on the set was in tears when we said cut.  I said that’s it.  We’ll never ever get that again.  So it is all in one shot… One of the things I do feel about today’s films is that they are too frenetic.  There’s too much cut cut cut cut cut.  When something is playing beautifully, and you have beautiful actors, you don’t have to cut all the time, because it doesn’t help the scene.  It just destroys it.  There’s another one with Judy, of course, when she’s on the telephone to her son, a little boy who doesn’t want to go with her back to the States.  Of course, I shot the boy as well as Judy.  I mean, there’s Judy in bed, on the phone, and the boy on the Embankment, I think, in a telephone kiosk.  My plan was to intercut them, as one does.  But Judy was so great, I couldn’t cut away from her.  I mean, I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t go to the boy.  I had to stay with her.  And I think that runs for about three minutes.  Getting in a little closer all the time.  It’s God-given, good acting.  It really is.  It’s something so special, and I admire it so much.”

Neame’s comments reflect the fact that in spite of the issues, Judy and Bogarde delivered some of their best on-screen work.  The film has some slight soap-opera elements, but it’s also the most autobiographical of all of Judy’s films.  Judy’s character – like her – is a world-famous, yet sometimes temperamental and vulnerable, American concert hall singer.  Most of the concert scenes were filmed in front of an audience at the London Palladium, the site of several of Judy’s real-life concert triumphs, and give us a rare glimpse of “Judy Garland in Concert” in both color and widescreen.  When “Jenny Bowman” takes the stage, there’s no doubt that it’s really Judy Garland. Nothing could be better.  Also helping was the fact that Judy was galvanized when she heard Mort Lindsey’s orchestra tracks for her vocals, singling out “By Myself” as her “favorite of all time.”

Retitled I Could Go On Singing to capitalize on the fact that it was the first Judy Garland musical since 1954’s A Star is Born, the film had a wildly popular premiere in London.  But once it was in general release, the business wasn’t great.  Most of the critics and audiences loved Judy’s acting and singing, but they were frustrated, even bored, with the tepid plot.  Over the years, and thanks to home video, the film has gained in stature and is now considered one of Judy’s best screen performances.

TIMELINE:

  • April 28, 1962:  Judy flew to London to start filming.
  • May 1, 1962:  Judy was in rehearsals for the film at the Shepperton Studios.
  • May 2, 1962:  Judy and co-star Dirk Bogarde held a ninety-minute press reception for the film at the Dorchester hotel.  During the reception, Judy mentioned that she would be rerecording the “quieter songs” for the “Judy Takes Broadway” LP for Capitol Records while in London.  Judy was referencing the album that Captio had tried to record on April 26, 1962, at the Manhattan Center in New York.  Due to laryngitis, Judy wasn’t able to complete although most of the existing tracks made it onto the Capitol CD “Judy Garland Live” released on June 28, 1989.
  • May 9, 1962:  Judy pre-recorded “It Never Was You” (the studio version); “Hello, Bluebird”; “By Myself.”
  • May 14, to July 13, 1962:  Filming continued.  The the first three days were devoted to filming at the London Palladium.  The first day (May 14th) Judy filmed the song “Hello, Bluebird.”  She arrived at 8;30 a.m. for makeup and hair; rehearsals started at 11:30 p.m.  Close-ups were shot first, then lunch at 1:30 p.m.  Rehearsals continued in the afternoon on May 14; three takes were shot but the camera faulted so retakes were done later on.  The audience was filmed on the second and third says at the Palladium.  On Friday, june 8, Judy shot studio retakes of the Canterbury Cathedral scenes, and then celebrated her birthday with the crew, her children, and fan/companion Lorna Smith.  
  • June 19, 1962:  Filming hit a temporary snag while on location for retakes of some of the Canterbury scenes.  The “Red Dean” of the school objected to the appearances of the kid extras in the school’s uniform.  Apparently, this created an argument between the dean and the director, Ronald Neame.  Things were worked out and shooting resumed.  Read the clippings below for the rather amusing quotes attributed to the dean.
  • July 9, 1962:  Judy pre-recorded “I Could Go On Singing” and a demo of “Please Say ‘Ah’!” with musical supervisor Saul Chaplin.  The song was never used and it’s unclear if it was seriously considered for the film.  The demo recording debuted on the 2011 2-CD set “The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964.”
  • July 13, 1962:  The last day of filming.

SOME REVIEWS:

Time:
Her acting may be the best of her career.

The London Telegraph:
She is the very best there is.

The Listener:
Incandescent – an enchantress.

Judith Crist, The New York Herald Tribune:
Either you are or you aren’t – a Judy Garland fan that is. And if you aren’t, forget about her new movie, I Could Go On Singing, and leave the discussion to us devotees. You’ll see her in close-up…in beautiful, glowing Technicolor and striking staging in a vibrant, vital performance that gets to the essence of her mystique as a superb entertainer. Miss Garland is – as always – real, the voice throbbing, the eyes aglow, the delicate features yielding to the demands of the years – the legs still long and lovely. Certainly the role of a top-rank singer beset by the loneliness and emotional hungers of her personal life is not an alien one to her…

The New York Daily News:
3 stars…Judy Garland is back on screen in a role that might have been custom-tailored for her particular talents. A new song, “I Could Go On Singing,” provides her with a little clowning, a chance to be gay, a time for wistfulness, an occasion for tears. She and Dirk Bogarde play wonderfully well together, even though the script itself insists on their being mismatched…

Variety:
A soulful performance is etched by Garland who gives more than she gets from the script. She also belts over four numbers as only she can belt them…

CAST:

Judy Garland as Jenny Bowman

Dirk Bogarde as David Donne

Jack Klugman as George Kogan

Gregory Phillips as Matt

Aline MacMahon as Ida

Pauline Jameson as Miss Plimpton

Jeremy Burnham as Hospital surgeon

and guests:
Russell Waters
Leon Cortez
Gerald Sim
Joey Luft as extra on boat
Lorna Luft as extra on boat

CREW:

Produced by: Stuart Millar and Lawrence Turman

Directed by: Ronald Neame

Assistant Director: Colin Brewer

Screenplay by: Mayo Simon

Story by: Robert Dozier

Title Song: “I Could Go On Singing,” Music by Harold Arlen, Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg

Music by: Mort Lindsey

Musical Supervisor: Saul Chaplin

Music Director: Mort Lindsey

Production Designer: Wilfred Shingleton

Set Decorator: John Hoesli

Miss Garland’s Costumes: Edith Head

Additional Costumes: Beatrice Dawson

Makeup: Harold Fletcher

Hair Stylist: Pearl Tipaldi

Sound: Buster Ambler, Red Law

Director of Photography: Arthur Ibbetson

Filmed in Panavision, Color by Technicolor

Editor: John Shirley

SONGS:

I Could Go On Singing (titles sequence)
(Judy Garland)

Excerpt from “H.M.S. Pinafore”
(Schoolboys)

God Save the Queen
(Schoolboys and Audience)

I Am the Monarch of the Sea
(Judy Garland and Schoolboys)

Hello Bluebird
(Judy Garland)

It Never Was You
(Judy Garland)

By Myself
(Judy Garland)

I Could Go On Singing
(Judy Garland)

UNUSED:

Please Say “Ah!”
(Judy Garland)

Media