As if Judy Garland wasn’t busy enough at MGM making feature length films, recording singles for Decca Records, appearing on radio programs, and rallying the troops during World War II – she also appeared in several shorts. Judy’s first official on screen appearance for MGM was in the 1936 “tabloid musical” short Every Sunday, with Deanna Durbin (see below).
Judy’s film debut was at 7 years old in the 1929 short The Big Revue. Her first appearance in Technicolor was not in The Wizard of Oz as most people think, but in the 1935 short La Fiesta De Santa Barbara. Judy sang with her sisters in both of these shorts, as well as a few others in 1929 and 1930. See the Gumm Sisters Shorts Page for details about these shorts.
The information below details the major shorts Judy appeared in while under contract with MGM. Also included are shorts that feature film clips from Judy’s movies, a few public service announcements, and even a cartoon Judy!
For details about the shorts, Judy made with her sisters prior to her signing with MGM, go to The Gumm Sisters Shorts Page.
Photo: Promotional photo of Judy taken during the production of Every Sunday, 1936.
EVERY SUNDAY (MGM – 1936)
Every Sunday is the most well known of all of Judy’s MGM shorts. It’s been seen as a contest between Judy and co-star Deanna Durbin, the winner getting her contract option renewed by the studio. The two girls had already made a similar short just a few months earlier that was shown to exhibitors. That short (which no longer exists) was so successful that the studio decided to make a new short for general release and gauge audience’s reactions to the girls.
Several legends have sprung up over the years as to why the “prettier” (i.e. more marketable) Durbin was let go and the less glamorous Judy was not. One legend claims that a clerical error led to Deanna’s option with MGM to lapse, prompting studio chief Louis B. Mayer to blow a gasket and exclaim “We’ll make an even bigger star out of the fat one!” (meaning Judy). Another legend claims that it was a simply Judy’s voice that swayed the decision makers. Another variation on the legend claims that Mayer was out of town and some executive misunderstood his direction and mistakenly let Durbin go, again resulting in the “fat” comment by Mayer. Some have claimed that MGM didn’t know what to do with a thirteen-year-old girl who sang like a she was thirty. To add more confusion to the legends, sixty-seven years later in 2002, director George Sidney (who in 1935 was in charge of screen tests), claimed that when the edict came down to let Judy’s contract lapse, casting director Billy Grady made the mistake of keeping Judy rather than Durbin.
Whatever the case, Durbin’s contract was not renewed, and she found immediate success at Universal starring in Three Smart Girls, ironically in a role originally intended by producer Joe Pasternak for Judy (he had seen the earlier exhibitor’s short and was completely charmed by her).
Durbin’s success only helped to further interest in Judy’s career at MGM, although it was slow in coming. Just after this short was finished, Judy was loaned out to 20th Century-Fox for her feature film debut in Pigskin Parade. Although she was a success, she would have to wait a few more years for real stardom. That would happen after her appearance in The Broadway Melody of 1938 where she stole the show.
June 30, 1936: Judy recorded her two songs for the film. She soloed on “Americana” and joined Durbin for the finale “Opera vs. Jazz” which includes a reprise of “Americana.”
Every Sunday is included in the extras on the For Me And My Gal DVD.
The songs are included on the Rhino CD Collector’s Gems from the M-G-M Films.
The surviving recording session masters on the laserdisc boxed set of the That’s Entertainment! series.
Below: The Daily Music Reports show that Judy and Deanna pre-recorded their songs on June 30, 1936, while instrumentals were recorded on October 8th & 9th, 1936.
The Japanese flyers shown below were provided by Hisato Masuyama. Note that Judy isn’t mentioned in the flyer at all. The name of the film in Japanese is The Girl from Americana. Deanna Durbin is featured due to her recent success in One Hundred Men and a Girl.
SILENT NIGHT (MGM – 1937)
Rehearsed, recorded and filmed November 6 through 8, 1937
This charming short, MGM’s Christmas Trailer for 1937, features Judy singing “Silent Night” backed by the Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church Choristers of Long Beach. The Conductor William Ripley Dorr later stated that “she told me she had sung in a church choir since she was very small and loved church music.”
HOLLYWOOD GOES TO TOWN (MGM – 1938)
This 1938 short focuses on the gala premiere of MGM’s Marie Antoinette starring Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power. Judy is seen in a montage of stars signing the premiere guest book, looking over Freddie Bartholomew’s shoulder (see image).
Hollywood Goes To Town is included in the extras on the Marie Antoinette DVD.
MARCH OF DIMES (Independed – circa 1938)
Judy and Mickey make a plea for folks to send in money to help fight polio.
IF I FORGET YOU (Independent – 1940)
In the Spring of 1940, Judy recorded and filmed “If I Forget You” for the Will Rogers Memorial Fund It’s a beautiful number, showing off Judy’s range when she jumps a full octave towards the end.
Although the short is titled “If I Forget You”, the lyrics that Judy sings are all “if WE forget…”
This short is a good example of the several shorts and newsreels Judy appeared in during the 1940’s, ranging from public service announcements for causes like the March of Dimes (above) to brief shots featuring her and stars entertaining and working for the troops.
CAVALCADE OF THE ACADEMY AWARDS (Warner Bros. – 1940)
Directed by Frank Capra and narrated by Carey Wilson, this 30 minute short was a tribute of past and present Oscar winners. The focus was on the recent ceremony on February 29, 1940. Included is Judy’s winning the juvenile Oscar for her “outstanding performance by a juvenile actress during the past year” which included The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms. Sadly, the film cuts away just prior to Judy’s impromptu performance of “Over the Rainbow.” The footage of that moment does not exist.
HOLLYWOOD STYLE CENTER (MGM – 1940)
This short focuses on the fashion styles created by MGM, specifically by Adrian. It closes with an “MGM Preview” featuring clips of upcoming MGM films, including Andy Hardy Meets Debutante followed by a montage of star close-ups that includes Judy.
THE MIRACLE OF SOUND (A New Romance of Celluloid) (MGM – 1941)
This 11 minute short is hosted my MGM sound engineer Douglas Shearer (brother of Norma), who takes viewers behind the scenes at MGM to see how sound is recorded and added to films. As with most of the shorts of this type, clips from past and/or upcoming features are included. Judy is seen in the montage, first in a close-up promoting Ziegfeld Girl, then later she’s seen in a clip from the trailer to Little Nellie Kelly, singing “It’s A Great Day For The Irish” – and of course, she’s part of the final montage of star close-ups at the end.
MEET THE STARS (Republic, March 24, 1941) (Meet The Stars #4, Variety Reel #2 – A Los Angeles Examiner Benefit)
This series was directed by Harriet Parsons (daughter of legendary gossip columnist Louella Parsons), who performed the “mistress of ceremonies” duties as well. Each entry usually featured “casual” footage of the stars outside of the studios. This edition featured Judy, Mickey Rooney, Constance Moore, Reginald Gardiner, Mary Martin, Milton Berle, the Duncan Sisters, the Andrews Sisters, and many more. The short is not known to exist.
HOLLYWOOD STEPS OUT (Warner Bros. – 1941)
This fun cartoon short features caricatures of notable stars of the day. Judy and Mickey make a brief appearance. All the action takes place at the famous Ciro’s nightclub. Among the many other stars caricatured are: Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby, Laurel & Hardy, James Stewart, Sonja Henie, Tyrone Power and many more.
The Mickey/Judy bit is a take-off of their Andy Hardy personas. After the waiter brings Mickey the check, he looks at it in shock and then asks his father, Judge Hardy, for help. Father and son are then seen washing dishes to the conga rhythm, an obvious nod to the conga dance sequence in 1940’s Strike Up The Band as well as the fact that the conga was one of the dance crazes of the day.
WE MUST HAVE MUSIC (MGM – 1942)
This lengthy short was made to show audiences the inner workings of the MGM Music Department. The title is taken from the Garland song that opens the short, “We Must Have Music”, that Judy and Tony Martin had recorded on December 22, 1940 and filmed for the finale to 1941’s Ziegfeld Girl. The song was replaced by a much grander finale, and MGM cleverly used it for this short. This is the only known existing footage of the cut number.
Also included in the short is some behind the scenes footage of a rehearsal of “Hoe Down” from Judy & Mickey’s Babes On Broadway followed by a clip of the number from the film.
We Must Have Music is included in the extras on the Ziegfeld Girl DVD.
The song is included on the Rhino CD Collector’s Gems from the M-G-M Films.
COMMAND PERFORMANCE (1944)
This edition of the radio show “Command Performance” was filmed on March 5, 1944, and released as “Army-Navy Screen Magazine No. 20” by the U.S. Army Signal Corps. for broadcast both in the states as well as for the troops overseas. EIt features emcee Bob Hope introducing a host of performers including Betty Hutton, Lana Turner (who takes a soldier’s request to sizzle a steak in front of the microphone so they could hear it!), and Judy engaging in some quick banter with Hope, then singing “Over The Rainbow.”
This is the only known footage of Judy performing her signature song as she sang it in dozens of radio shows and other live performances throughout the 1940’s. She’s radiant. The look on her face and in her eyes when she hits that last note is pure magic.
TWENTY YEARS AFTER (MGM – 1944)
A celebration of MGM’s 20th anniversary with a look back at several MGM hits and a look at the upcoming schedule of MGM films for 1944. Judy is shown towards the end in a shot from Babes on Broadway, part of a compilation of shots of MGM’s reigning starts.
MGM ANNIVERSARY PARTY (MGM – 1949)
This short celebrates the 25th anniversary of MGM. It features the huge luncheon that was attended by all of the stars and executives. Most are seated alphabetically, although Fred Astaire is next to Judy. When the camera pans by, Judy is more interested in chatting with someone in the row behind than facing the camera.
The film is well known and has become almost legendary. The event was the only time such a huge assembly of stars had ever been brought together and filmed. Some of the footage was featured in 1974’s compilation documentary That’s Entertainment!
The video below is an abridged version of the short, with the official photo added.
MOMENTS IN MUSIC (Independent – November 13, 1950)
This short was made for The Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences and presented by “The Members of the Motion Picture Community.” It was directed by Carey Wilson and features various film clips illustrating the variety of music in film. Most of the clips are from MGM films, although non-MGM stars like Betty Hutton, Bing Crosby, and Danny Kaye are also featured. The finale of the short features Judy in a clip from the finale of Ziegfeld Girl (1941) that cleverly places her on top of that giant “wedding cake” set from 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld.