WORDS AND MUSIC

STUDIO:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

PRODUCTION NUMBER:  1427

PRODUCTION DATES:  April 4 – July 14, 1948, August 7, 1948, October 1, 1948
Judy’s segments:  

PRODUCTION COST:   $2,799,970

RUNNING TIME:  121 minutes

RELEASE DATE:  December 31, 1948 (DECEMBER 9??)

INITIAL BOX OFFICE:  $4,552,000 +

Words And Music was Judy’s final film for the famed MGM “Freed Unit,” named for producer Arthur Freed who spearheaded the rise of the MGM Musical.  Freed was brilliant in recognizing great musical talent both in front of and behind the camera and he brought all that talent to MGM.  Judy began her MGM career before the Freed Unit existed, and its successful formation was partly due to her presence and Freed’s realization that he should hitch his wagon to her rising star.  Freed, one of MGM’s house songwriters, already had ambitions to produce and he was given the chance to cut his teeth as the uncredited associate producer on The Wizard of Oz.  It’s thanks to his musical instincts, plus those of his musical right hand Roger Edens (who was Judy’s lifelong mentor), and Judy’s amazing performance, that Oz was such an artistic success.  Judy became the Unit’s premier musical leading lady.

The fact that Words And Music was Judy’s last film for the Freed Unit was not by design.  She had just had incredible success co-starring with Fred Astaire in the Freed produced Easter Parade and was set for the Unit’s big-budget follow-up (also with Astaire), The Barkleys of Broadway after her scheduled two-song appearance in Words

Playing herself, Judy appears in Words And Music in the Hollywood party sequence as a guest of Lorenz Hart (played by Mickey Rooney) and duets with Rooney on “I Wish I Were In Love Again.”  That’s what was shot first. Judy barely made it through the pre-recording and filming.  She had a bit of dialog with Mickey, Janet Leigh, and Tom Drake and then she and Rooney performed the number.  Because she was ill, Judy kept everyone waiting for three days. According to the assistant director’s notes, she rehearsed the song with Mickey for an hour on June 1, 1948.  On June 2nd Judy was late, arriving on the set at 3:05 p.m. only to be dismissed with the rest of the company at 4:15 p.m.  On June 4th & 5th she was out sick and the “Company [was on] layoff due to JG [Judy Garland].” On June 7th Judy wasn’t needed for the production.  Finally, she rallied and got through the filming of the dialog scene and the number all on one day, June 8, 1948.  

At this point, Judy had worn herself out to the point that she was on the verge of a complete mental and physical collapse.  She had just spent the past year and a half working on both The Pirate and Easter Parade.  At one point the two overlapped due to the major revisions needed on the already-completed The Pirate which added to the demands on Judy.  She was underweight and desperately needed a break.  Instead of one, and in spite of the fact that she didn’t complete a planned second number for Words, the studio put Judy to work right away on The Barkleys of Broadway.  The studio most likely assumed that they would be able to quickly film the planned Garland encore during the production of Barkleys.  But it was too much.  Judy was too sick to continue and after a torturous month was removed from Barkleys and replaced with Ginger Rogers.  

Judy finally got some time off and spent the next two months resting and gaining much-needed weight.  On September 8, 1948, Words And Music previewed and it was unanimously agreed by preview audiences that there had to be a Garland encore.  It had originally been planned that Judy would perform two numbers, but as noted above that didn’t happen.  Apparently, the studio must have thought that perhaps since her appearance in the film was a short guest spot of one scene and the duet with Mickey, it was enough.  But the preview audiences thought otherwise.  So, MGM called Judy back to the studio.  They rebuilt the set and reassembled the extras (the partygoers).  Judy pre-recorded “Johnny One Note” on September 30th and the next day the number was filmed.  During her rest, Judy had gained weight which was noticeable in the film what with this encore coming right after “I Wish I Were In Love Again” in which she’s bone thin.  Most people assume that Judy is wearing the same dress in both scenes.  In fact, it’s the same design but the second version for the encore was a newly altered version.  Both costumes were auctioned at the famed MGM auction in 1970.  In spite of those issues, the segue is fairly seamless.  In spite of it all, Judy sparkles and both numbers are among the highlights of the film.

Other Rodgers & Hart songs considered for Judy to sing in place of “Johnny One Note” were: “You Took Advantage Of Me” (Judy sang part of it in 1954’s A Star Is Born); “This Can’t Be Love” (Judy sang this to perfection during her concert years, most notably at Carnegie Hall in 1961); “My Romance”; “Ten Cents A Dance”; “There’s A Small Hotel” (Betty Garrett sang it in the film); and “It Never Entered My Mind.”

Photos below:  May 28, 1948: Judy and Mickey pre-recording “I Wish I Were In Love Again.”  Judy’s daughter Liza Minnelli visited the recording stage as did producer Arthur Freed (seen in the fourth photo).

Words And Music Poster InsertAfter completing “Johnny One Note” Judy filmed In The Good Old Summertime for the “Pasternak Unit” (MGM’s second musicals unit headed by producer Joe Pasternak).  She then went back to the Freed Unit for Annie Get Your Gun which she was unable to complete.  After another rest, she returned to the Pasternak Unit for Summer Stock (which she completed and became her final film for MGM), then began another short rest period which was also cut short by a call from MGM.  The Freed Unit needed her to replace June Allyson (who had become pregnant) in Royal Wedding, again with Fred Astaire.  This time, it was too much.  Judy was still not well enough for the strenuous work required for a big-budget musical and she faltered again. 

In hindsight, it’s difficult to understand just why and how The Freed Unit expected Judy to make it through an assignment as big as Royal Wedding after the troubles she endured on the last two big Freed Unit musicals she had been unable to complete.  In looking back at the timeline, a short pattern appears: Judy falters on a big Freed Unit musical, rests and rallies for a smaller Pasternak Unit musical, falters again on a big Freed Unit musical, rests and then rallies (barely) for another smaller Pasternak Unit musical.  After that last rallying, it should have been obvious to anyone at MGM that Judy Garland was a very sick young woman who needed serious time off to get completely well again.  Freed of all people should have understood this.  He was there from the beginning when Judy auditioned at the studio at the age of 13.  In light of that and the recent troubles, to call her back after just a couple of months is unconscionable.  

Judy was fired from Royal Wedding on June 17, 1950.  Distraught, she attempted suicide on June 19, 1950.  The attempt was superficial and more a cry for help by a troubled young woman who felt she had nowhere to turn than an actual attempt to end her life.  This wasn’t the first time Judy had attempted suicide (the previous incidents were also superficial) but it was the first time the attempt made the papers and the public was made fully aware of her troubles, which has thus far only been hinted at in the columns.  Instead of alienating her fans as the studio (and many in Hollywood) assumed, the suicide attempt brought an outpouring of love and support.  When Summer Stock opened around the country it was a big hit.  Audiences applauded Judy’s numbers as if they were live performances.  MGM allegedly thought about keeping Judy under contract but by mutual agreement, she and MGM parted ways on September 29, 1950.  Many in Hollywood and around the world assumed her career was over.  Little did they know that less than a year later on April 9, 1951, Judy would begin her legendary “Concert Years” with her sellout show at The London Palladium in London, England, followed by her record-breaking triumphant re-opening of Vaudeville at New York’s Palace Theater on October 16, 1951.

As far as Judy’s tenure on Words And Music is concerned, it could be considered the actual beginning of the end for her at MGM.  It was definitely the film swan song for Judy and Mickey Rooney.  It was their final appearance in a film together and their only time in Technicolor.  It was the end of an era and the trials and tribulations of Judy’s next few years at MGM mirrored the trials and tribulations the Studio System was experiencing with the rise of television and the quickly changing tastes of moviegoers.  In several years’ time and with a few exceptions the type of screen musicals personified by Words And Music became passe and old-fashioned.  That’s a pity.  In spite of its slight plot, the fact that it’s more fiction than biopic fact, and the fact that it ignores Hart’s tragic struggles with his sexuality, Words And Music succeeds as a glorious presentation of some of the greatest musical talents of the 20th Century performing definitive versions of some of the greatest songs ever written.  And let’s not forget the score.  Those beautiful Rodgers melodies are arranged to perfection.  Words And Music may not be the greatest MGM Musicals ever made, but it’s certainly one of the most pleasurable and a reminder of a happier, less complicated time.

TIMELINE:

  • May 10, 1948:  Judy began work on Words And Music with an afternoon of rehearsals of “I Wish I Were In Love Again” with Mickey Rooney.  Time called: 1:30 p.m.; Judy arrived at 1:50 p.m.; dismissed: 2:30 p.m.
  • May 21 through 27, 1948:  Judy had six days off.
  • May 28, 1948:  Judy and Mickey pre-recorded “I Wish I Were In Love Again.”  Time called: 3 pm.; dismissed: 4:45 p.m.
  • June 1, 1948:  Judy and Mickey had an hourlong rehearsal from 4 to 5 p.m.
  • June 2, 1948:  Judy had a 10 a.m. call to be at the studio, on the set at 1 p.m.  The assistant director’s notes state that Judy “was due in makeup at 10 a.m.; but arrived at 11:35 p.m.”  Judy arrived on the set at 3:05 p.m.; dismissed: 4:10 p.m.
  • June 4 & 5, 1948:  Judy was out sick.  The assistant director’s notes for June 5 state: “Company Layoff due to JG.”
  • June 7, 1948:  Judy was not needed for any work on the film.
  • June 8, 1948:  Judy and Mickey, along with Tom Drake, Janet Leigh, and the rest of the cast, filmed the Hollywood Party scene in the afternoon, as well as the “I Wish I Were In Love Again” number.  Time called: 7 a.m. Judy was due on the set at 9 a.m.; she arrived at 9:10 a.m.
  • June 14, 1948:  Judy began rehearsals for The Barkleys of Broadway.
  • June 18, 1948:  Judy was removed from The Barkleys of Broadway.
  • September 8, 1948:  The first preview.  This is the preview at which the audiences “demanded” an encore.
  • September 24, 1948:  Judy began work on her encore number for Words and Music with a wardrobe fitting, test, and a rehearsal of “Johnny One Note.”  Time called: 10 a.m.; Judy was due at the same time (no makeup time was needed); Judy arrived at 11 a.m.; dismissed: 4:45 p.m.
  • September 27, 1948:  Rehearsal of “Johnny One Note.”  Time called: 1:30 p.m.; dismissed: 2:45 p.m.
  • September 28, 1948:  Rehearsal of “Johnny One Note.”  Time called: 11 a.m.; Judy arrived at 2 p.m.; dismissed: 3:15 p.m.
  • September 30, 1948:  Judy pre-recorded “Johnny One Note.”  She arrived at 11 a.m.; dismissed: 11:30 a.m.  It only took her half an hour to record a usable take!
  • October 1, 1948:  Filming of the “Johnny One Note” number.  Time called: 7:30 a.m.; Judy was due on the set at 9 a.m.; she arrived at 9:35 a.m.; dismissed: 5:20 p.m.

FACTOIDS:

  • Judy was offered $100,000 to perform two songs in Word And Music.  This was the amount that MGM withheld from her salary due to the delays she caused during the filming of The Pirate in 1947 & 1948, delays which were an infraction of the terms of her studio contract.
  • As noted above, the costume Judy wears during her entire appearance in Words And Music is actually two versions of the same design.  During the time between the filming of “I Wish I Were In Love Again” and “Johnny One Note,” Judy had gained weight which was noticeable in the film what with the encore coming right after “I Wish I Were In Love Again” in which she’s bone thin.  Most people assume that Judy is wearing the same dress in both scenes.  Both costumes were auctioned at the famed MGM auction in 1970.
  • Words And Music was the final onscreen appearance of Judy and Mickey Rooney and their only time together in Technicolor.  It was their 10th film (if one counts 1943’s Thousands Cheer is which they both have guest spots although not actually together).  The others are: Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry; Love Finds Andy Hardy; Babes In Arms; Andy Hardy Meets Debutante; Strike Up The Band; Life Begins For Andy Hardy; Babes on Broadway; and Girl Crazy.
  • Tom Drake plays Richard Rodgers in Words And Music.  He’s perhaps best known as Judy’s “boy next door” in Meet Me In St. Louis (1944).
  • “Johnny One Note” was written for the Broadway show “Babes in Arms” which opened on Broadway on April 14, 1937, premiering a stellar new score by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.  Among the standards introduced were: “Where Or When,” “I Wish I Were In Love Again, ” “My Funny Valentine,” “The Lady Is A Tramp, ” “Babes in Arms,” and “Johnny One Note.”  Just six days later, on April 20, 1937, Judy premiered a sizzling version of “Johnny One Note” on the “Jack Oakie’s College” radio show. This was one of the first (if not the very first) performances of the song to a nationwide audience.  See the video below.
  • When “Babes in Arms” was translated to the screen as the first “Let’s put on a show!” musical made with Judy and Mickey, several from the score were deemed too sophisticated for the teen stars, including “I Wish I Were IN Love Again,” “The Lady Is A Tramp,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Johnny One Note.”
  • When Lena Horne pre-recorded “The Lady Is A Tramp,” an alternate take was recorded for use in the U.K.  The lyric “crap games” had to be changed to “card games” to appease the British Board of Censors.  This alternate version is not known to exist.  Oddly enough, the version presented on the MGM Records soundtrack wasn’t changed, it’s the “crap games” version.
  • Richard Rodgers had little to do with the film.  He didn’t leave New York City to visit Hollywood at any point in the film’s production, probably due to his priorities on Broadway.  He had producer Arthur Freed hire his brother-in-law, Ben Feiner., Jr., to be his proxy.  Feiner also adapted the screenplay.  After seeing the adaptation, Rodgers made minimal changes, the biggest of which was changing a reference to the “Academy of Music” (meant to be Julliard) to “Institute of Musical Arts” and having the word “diaper” taken out!
  • Lorenz Hart passed away in 1943, long before production began.  He suffered from alcoholism and depression brought on by his insecurities about his short height as well as his homosexuality, both of which he felt made him a “freak.”  He was notorious for going on alcoholic binges for days and weeks at a time, which was part of the reason for the break-up of his partnership with Rodgers.  He was found dead of pneumonia from exposure on November 22, 1943, after an alcoholic binge brought on by the death of his beloved mother seven months prior.  He was 48 years old.
  • Judy recorded a studio version of “I Wish I Were In Love Again” for Decca Records on November 15, 1947, but aside from the 1948 MGM Records soundtrack version, she never recorded a studio version of “Johnny One Note” or any of the other songs from both the Broadway and film scores of “Babes in Arms.”
    Listen to the Decca version of “I Wish I Were In Love Again” here.
    Listen to the alternate version here.
  • On the same day that she pre-recorded “Johnny One Note” for Words And Music (September 30, 1948) Judy performed the number on the NBC “Kraft Music Hall” radio show with Al Jolson.  The recording of the broadcast is the only known recording of Judy and Jolson singing together.  
  • Judy and Mickey’s final performances together were when Mickey guest-starred on the first episode taped for Judy’s TV series in 1963, “The Judy Garland Show.”  That episode was taped on June 24, 1963.  Although it was the first episode tape, it wasn’t the first aired.  It didn’t air until December 8, 1963.

CAST:

Mickey Rooney as Lorenz Hart

Perry Como as Eddie Lorrison Anders

Ann Sothern as Joyce Harmon

Tom Drake as Richard Rodgers

Betty Garrett as Peggy McNeil

Janet Leigh as Dorothy Feiner

Marshall Thompson as Herbert Fields

Jeanette Nolan as Mrs. Hart

Richard Quine as Bob Feiner, Jr.

Clinton Sundberg as Shoe Clerk

Harry Antrim as Dr. Rodgers

Ilka Gruning as Mrs. Rodgers

Guest Stars:
June Allyson, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Mel Torme, Vera-Ellen, Dee Turnell, Emory Parnell, Helen Spring, Edward Earl, Allyn McLerie, The Blackburn Twins

CREW:

Produced by: Arthur Freed

Directed by: Norman Taurog

Screenplay: Fred Finklehoffe

Story by: Guy Bolton and Jean Holloway

Adaptation by: and Ben Feiner, Jr.

Based in the Lives and Music of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart

Musical Direction: Lennie Hayton

Orchestration: Conrad Salinger

Vocal Arrangements: Robert Tucker

Musical Numbers Staged and Directed by: Robert Alton

Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons and Jack Martin Smith

Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis

Associate: Richard A. Pefferle

Women’s Costumes by: Helen Rose

Men’s Costumes by: Valles

Hair Styles Created by: Sydney Guilaroff

Make-Up Created by: Jack Dawn

Recording Director: Douglas Shearer, John A. Williams

Director of Photography: Charles Rosher, Harry Stradling

Special Effects: Warren Newcombe

Color by Technicolor

Technicolor Color Director: Natalie Kalmus

Associate: James Gooch

Film Editors: Albert Akst and Ferris Webster

SONGS:

Manhattan
(Mickey Rooney, Tom Drake and Marshall Thompson)

There’s a Small Hotel
(Betty Garrett)

Mountain Greenery
(Perry Como, Allyn McLerie and Chorus)

Way Out West
(Betty Garrett)

Where’s That Rainbow?
(Ann Sothern and Chorus)

On Your Toes
(Cyd Charisse and Dee Turnell)

This Can’t Be Love
(Instrumental danced by Cyd Charisse and Dee Turnell)

The Girlfriend
(Instrumental danced by Cyd Charisse and Dee Turnell)

Blue Room
(Perry Como, danced by Cyd Charisse)

Thou Swell
(June Allyson and The Blackburn Twins)

With a Song in My Heart
(Tom Drake)

With a Song in My Heart
(Orchestra)

Where or When
(Lena Horne)

The Lady Is a Tramp
(Lena Horne)

I Wish I Were in Love Again
(Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney)

Johnny One Note
(Judy Garland)

Blue Moon
(Mel Torme)

Spring Is Here
(Spoken by Mickey Rooney)

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue
(Ballet danced by Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen)

Finale: With a Song in My Heart
(Introduction by Gene Kelly, sung by Perry Como and Chorus with montage of clips from some of the numbers in the movie)

OUTTAKES: 

You’re Nearer
(Perry Como)

Give It Back to the Indians

Mimi

This Can’t Be Love

The Poor Apache

It Never Entered My Mind
(Betty Garrett)

Lover

It’s Got To Be Love

My Heart Stood Still
(Perry Como)

Falling in Love With Love/You Took Advantage of Me
(Gene Kelly & Vera-Ellen – this is a rare instance of Vera-Ellen’s real voice being used)

My Funny Valentine
(Betty Garrett)

I Feel At Home With You
(Mickey Rooney, tom Drake, Marshall Thompson)

I Feel At Home With You
(Perry Como)

With A Song In My Heart
(Bill Lee)

Spring Is Here

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