Judy Garland got her start in films not at MGM as most people assume, but years before when she was 7 years old. When sound films became the rage in the late 1920's, the studios cranked out shorts that featured known and unknown stage acts. Kiddie acts were always popular, and some of the most prolific came out of Ethel Meglin's Los Angeles school for show business children. Judy and her sisters were a part of Meglin's school for a few years, appearing mostly in stage acts that opened the program at movie theaters. Lucky for us, the popularity of early sound films prompted the studios to seek out new talent, giving us a record of not only Judy's early years (and film debut) but also the only surviving film footage of many famous stage acts. The Warner Archive DVD series includes several multi-disc releases featuring many of the surviving shorts. They're fascinating to watch, and well worth purchasing.
As noted below, most of these early sound films had their audio recorded on discs that were synced up with the films. In several cases, the film footage has not survived but the sound discs have. Go to The Judy Room's MP3 page to hear the audio to all of the films listed below.
For details about Judy Garland's short films made after she signed with MGM, go to The Judy Garland Shorts Page.
THE BIG REVUE (aka The Starlet Review) (1929 - Mayfair Pictures filmed at Tec-Art Studio)
The title card on the film says "Associated Films/The Starlet Review" however it was promoted as "The Big Revue" with "Ethel Meglin's Hollywood Wonder Kiddies" (see advertisement above). The film has also been listed as a "Meglin" production, using the name of the children's performing school/company (The Ethel Meglin Dance School) that the Gumm Sisters were then a part of, professionally known as "The Meglin Kiddies".
Note: The film was made on June 11, 12, & 13, 1929 just after Judy's seventh birthday on June 10th.
Song: "That's The Good Old Sunny South" (The Gumm Sisters)
The soundtrack recording is included in the 2010 CD set Judy Garland Lost Tracks 1929 - 1959.
Photo at top right: Lobby Card. Photos below: On set photo; studio portrait of the sisters in costume.
A HOLIDAY IN STORYLAND (1929 - Vitaphone, filmed late 1929 at the First National Studio, Burbank, CA) (Vitaphone Varieties - Presented by Vitaphone - a Subsidiary of Warner Brothers Pictures - Produced with Western Electric Apparatus - "The Vitaphone Kiddies" - Directed by Roy Mack)
This short features Judy Garland's very first film solo "Blue Butterfly". The film footage no longer exists, but the Vitaphone sound discs have survived.
Songs: "Where The Butterflies Kiss The Buttercups Goodbye" (The Gumm Sisters) & "Blue Butterfly" (Baby Gumm).
"Blue Butterfly" is also on the 2008 CD Judy Garland - Classiques et inédits 1929 - 1956.
"Where the Butterflies Kiss the Buttercups Goodbye" is included in the 2010 CD set Judy Garland Lost Tracks 1929 - 1959.
Photo at right: Is that Judy Garland's first leading man? "Baby Gumm" on the Warner Bros./First National Studios back lot, circa 1929, with John Perri. Click on the image to see photo details.
THE WEDDING OF JACK AND JILL (1930 - Vitaphone, filmed late 1929 at the First National Studio, Burbank, CA) (Vitaphone Varieties - Presented by Vitaphone - a Subsidiary of Warner Brothers Pictures - Produced with Western Electric Apparatus - "The Vitaphone Kiddies" - Directed by Roy Mack #1393 Rel. No. 3826)
This film no longer exists, but the Vitaphone sound discs have survived.
Song: "Hang Onto The Rainbow" (Baby Gumm).
Photo at right: Judy (Frances Gumm) is highlighted behind John Perri and Peggy Ryan. Click on the image to see photo details.
BUBBLES (1930 - Vitaphone, filmed in December 1929 at the First National Studio, Burbank, CA)(Vitaphone Varieties - Presented by Vitaphone - a Subsidiary of Warner Brothers Pictures - Produced with Western Electric Apparatus - The Vitaphone Kiddies in" Bubbles" - Rel. No. 389)8
Directed by Roy Mack
Music & Lyrics by M.K. Jerome & Harold Berg
Photographed by Willard Van Enger & Howard Green
This film was originally made in the early two-strip Technicolor format. The Technicolor footage no longer survives, but a black and white print was found in the early 1990's in the Library of Congress. This is the earliest surviving film footage of Judy Garland singing in close-up and solo ( a short 2 lines). It's amazing to see her, even at this young age, reaching out to the audience and already quite photogenic. Her voice is a cut above any other 8-year-old singer of the time, with a hint of that famous vibrato already there!
Song: "The Land Of Let's Pretend" (The Gumm Sisters - Baby Gumm gets a 2-line solo in the middle of the song).
A clip of the audio is on the 1998 CD boxed set Judy. The complete audio is included in the 2010 CD set Judy Garland Lost Tracks 1929 - 1959.
Photos above right: "Baby Gumm" sings "The Land Of Let's Pretend" with her sisters.
Produced by Lewis Lewyn.
Judy and her sisters filmed this short in the summer of 1935, just prior to Judy's audition for, and subsequent signing with, M-G-M. This is also the last performance of The Garland Sisters as a trio.
This is the first time Judy was filmed in (the then new) 3-strip Technicolor. The short was basically an excuse to show off this new process. Several major stars, including Clark Gable and Randolph Scott, made brief appearances in the film solely to see how they would look in this new color process. Judy would not appear in another color film until The Wizard Of Oz in 1939.
Song: "La Cucharacha" (The Garland Sisters - Each sister gets a short solo in the song). It's amusing to see Judy and her sisters sing about marijuana!
The video of this short is on the For Me And My Gal and Classic Musical Shorts from the Dream Factory DVDs.
Photos above right: The Garland Sisters perform "La Cucharacha."