a rarity in the film catalog of Judy Garland. It’s one of the
few post-Oz films that isn’t a vehicle for either her alone,
or her and a co-star (Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire), and one in which she plays a more supporting role. Ziegfeld
Girl is more a vehicle for Lana Turner and MGM's build-up to make her a star.
scheduled in 1938 for Joan Crawford, Eleanor Powell (MGM’s “Queen
Of Taps”), Margaret Sullivan, and Virginia Bruce, Ziegfeld Girl ended
up starring Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr, Judy Garland, and Eve Arden
in the main female leads. By the time pre-production actually started, Joan Crawford
and Eleanor Powell’s careers were already declining. Lana, Hedy, and of course Judy, were the "new" stars at MGM. Judy had already
proven herself in The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Babes in
Arms (1939), and she had just finished Little Nellie Kelly (1940). Lana was the studio’s obvious new “sexpot” and Hedy had
recently made a big splash proving she could act and not just be a gorgeous "Bird of Paradixe." Thanks to Ziegfeld Girl and her other 1941 output, Lana ended up staying at MGM for almost 20 years as one of the studio's most enduring and versatile stars.
The plot of Ziegfeld Girl is slight. It’s the standar “3 Girls trying to make
it” backstage story. One achieves stardom (Judy), one achieves
happiness via marriage (Hedy), and one falls for the glitz and glamour
and ends up dead from alcoholism (Lana). Pure melodrama! But,
packaged by MGM's professionalism, with musical numbers directed
by Busby Berkeley, Ziegfeld Girl would become an extravaganza
of glitz and corn and music and melodrama on a colossal scale. This is a movie that
proves, "they don't make 'em like they used to." To film the opulent musical numbers today, with the chorus girls,
chorus boys, costumes, music, and all the trimmings, would cost
a fortune. But MGM had the resources to make Ziegfeld Girl one of the most opulent films of its time, or any time.
Stewart, Tony Martin, and Jackie Cooper play the main lead male roles. Stewart
was fresh off the double success of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) and his Oscar winning role in The Philadelphia Story (1941). But the focus is on the women, with the men merely acting as plot devices to add a dash of drama.
This is the only film in which Judy starred
with James Stewart and even though they both get top billing, they
never share a scene together!Years later, James Stewart would
talk about the magical days during the late 1930's when he and
several other stars and contract players would take their breaks
and sit outside the music building and listen to Judy rehearse
with Roger Edens.
Judy’s part is basically a supporting role, but she gets several
great numbers and is the only one of the girls who becomes the big Ziegfeld star. Her first number reaches back to her Vaudeville roots with Charles Winninger performing the breezy
“Laugh, I Thought I’d Split My Sides.”
“I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” is the ballad standout for Judy.
She takes the standard and makes it her own. It's a
classic Garland film moment. When watching her, one can see why Lana Turner said to Judy (during the making
of this film) “You know, I’d give all of my beauty for just half
of your talent the look on your face when you sing.” That’s
praise indeed. You can listen and download Judy's multiple take pre-recordings at The Judy Room's MP3 Page.
"Minnie From Trinidad” is the big Busby Berkeley extravaganza showcasing
Judy’s character’s ascent to stardom. It’s completely over the
top in a good way. Judy’s voice is well suited to this type of
able to take the tongue-in-cheek lyrics and make them fun. At the
end of the number, she’s lifted up and down on what are supposed
to be large bamboo-type sticks. I used to wonder how MGM they got
away with putting Judy on something like that something that could
possibly seriously injure one of MGM’s biggest stars. In reality, it's not Judy, MGM wouldn't chance an accident with their biggest musical star.
briefly appears in the early big musical number “You Stepped
Out Of A Dream." Judy’s character is not yet a star, so that after
each glamour girl’s segment, poor Judy/Susan is stuck behind Tony Martin,
Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr for the final shot of the number. This
probably didn’t do much for Judy’s insecurity about her looks.
is a dream alright. Eye popping costumes and huge sets add to Tony
Martin’s wonderful rendition of this new standard. The song is really
just an excuse to show the“typical Ziegfeld number of beautiful
girls wearing outlandish costumes descending down a long flight
of stairs.Lana and Hedy both get their turn coming down the stairs.
Lana proves that she can navigate stairs better than anyone. What
a beautiful walk she had! Judy doesn’t just walk down the stairs,
she dances down as the head of a line of sequined clad chorus girls.
Ziegfeld Girl also features one of Dan Dailey's earliest roles as "The
Champ" Jimmy Walters who is first spurned then used by the
Sheila Hale (Lana Turner) character. After appearing in several MGM films, Dailey who would go over to
20th Century Fox and star in several musicals with Betty Grable.
Ziegfeld Girl is long, opulent, melodramatic, and undeniable fun. So sit back, relax, and lose yourself in a fantasy world that never
really existed in the first place. They don't make 'em like that
Publicity photo session for Ziegfeld Girl.
Judy and Jackie Cooper. Judy is wearing her "Laugh! I Thought I'd Split My Sides" costume.
Publicity photo session for Ziegfeld Girl.
Judy with Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr (Judy and Lana balance
books on their heads, all three pose around a piano and various
"I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" for Decca Records.
She also recorded "Our Love Affair" (from Strike
Up The Band - 1941), "A Pretty Girl Milking Her
Cow" (from Little Nellie Kelly - 1940) and "It's
a Great Day For The Irish" (also from Little Nellie
recording session: "We Must Have Music" (with Tony
Martin) & "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" (reprise)
- both would be cut from the film. A clip of the footage for
"We Must Have Music" survives in a short subject
with the same name, also released an 1941. The finale would
be altered in March of 1941.
Filming of "You Stepped Out Of A Dream."
Publicity photos in the "Dream" costumes are taken
at this time.
recording session: "Minnie From Trinidad."
Filming of the "Minnie From Trinidad" number.
is completed. Including the new, more extravagant finale which
"steals" footage from MGM's 1936 "Best Picture"
Oscar winner The Great Ziegfeld.
Judy is put in a blonde wig and placed on a mock-up of the
top portion of the famous "wedding cake" set from The Great Ziegfeld. This is spliced into the footage
so that it looks as though Judy (rather than the original
girl, Virginia Bruce) is sitting on the top of that massive
set from 1936!
Production No. 1165
Running Time: 132 minutes
Filmed: October 1940 - March 1941
Released: April 25, 1941
Produced by: Arthur Freed
Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard
Screenplay by: Marguerite Roberts and Sonya Levien
(original story by William Anthony McGuire)
Musical numbers directed by: Busby Berkeley
Music and lyrics:
"You Stepped Out of a Dream" by Nacio Herb Brown
and Gus Kahn
"Minnie from Trinidad" by Roger Edens
"I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" by Harry Carroll and
"Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean" by Edward Gallagher
and Al Shean
James Stewart.....Gilbert Young
Judy Garland.....Susan Gallagher
Hedy Lamarr.....Sandra Kolter
Lana Turner.....Sheila Regan
Tony Martin.....Frank Merron
Jackie Cooper.....Jerry Regan
Ian Hunter.....Geoffrey Collis
Charles Winninger....."Pop" Gallagher
Edward Everett Horton.....Noble Sage
Philip Dorn.....Franz Kolter Paul Kelly.....John Slayton
Eve Arden.....Patsy Dixon
Dan Dailey, Jr......Jimmy Walters
Fay Holden.....Mrs. Regan
Rose Hobart.....Mrs. Merron
Bernard Nedell.....Nick Capalini
Ed McNamara.....Mr. Regan
Sergio Orta.....Native Dancer
Six Hits and a Miss.....vocals
Rosario and Antonio.....Specialty Dancers
Sergio Orta.....Native Dancer
Reed Hadley.....Geoffrey's Friend
Joan Barclay.....Actress in Slayton's Office
Al Hill.....Truck Driver
Roscoe Ates.....Theater Worker
Elliott Sullivan, James Flavin.....Truckers
Joyce Compton.....Miss Sawyer
Ruth Tobey.....Beth Regan
Bess Flowers.....Casino Patron
Jean Wallace, Myrna Dell, Georgia Carroll, Louise La Planche,
Virginia Cruzon, Alaine Brandeis, Patricia Dana, Irma Wilson,
Leslie Brooks, Madeleine Martin, Vivian Mason, Harriet Bennett,
Nina Bissell, Frances Gladwin, Anya Taranda.....Ziegfeld
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID:
"Although their tribulations are never worth the length that
producer Pandro Berman devotes to them, Miss Garland warbles a torrid
tropical tune, "Minnie from Trinidad", with true professional
- Time, May 5, 1941
"Judy Garland, as the show wise youngster, carries the sympathetic
end most capably and delivers her vocal assignments in great style"
- Variety, April 16, 1941
"Of the three aspirants to stardom ... only [Judy] made it,
which gave the film a conviction it lacked elsewhere."
- film historian David Shipman
"Judy Garland is especially good as a youngster who becomes
a star under a strict code of showmanship."
- Howard Barnes, The New York Herald Tribune
.".. Judy Garland sings and dances her way enthusiastically
from tank-town vaudeville to the New Amsterdam Theatre and Charles
Winninger, as her father, turns out to be the Gallagher of the famous
Gallagher and Shean team, while Shean is played with nostalgic gusto
by Al Shean himself..."
A special note
of thanks to Eric Hemphill for providing material from his collection to this section. Thanks Eric!!!