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Through The Years - The Judy Garland Story

As 1936 began, Judy Garland was beginning to make a name for herself.  It’s hard to believe now, but at this point most of the general public was unaware of who Judy Garland was.  She had previously appeared on nationwide radio in late 1935 but she had yet to make her mark.  That would all change very soon.  From 1936 through the end of 1938, Judy Garland’s star rose – fast.  At the end of 1938 MGM officially elevated Judy to “Star” status.  The event was marked by Judy receiving her star dressing room trailer on the set of her latest film in front of the cast and crew.  The movie?  The Wizard of Oz which was currently in its third month of filming.  

The road from new contract player in 1935 to bonafide star in 1938 was a bit of an uphill battle.  Judy’s supporters at the studio (and there were many) had been pushing to get her in front of the cameras from the time she signed that first contract.  But it took a while.  The studio wasn’t sure how best to showcase her unique talents.  Judy sang like an adult woman but looked like what she was, a young teen going through that normal awkward phase.  Years later Judy joked that at that time in Hollywood one had to be either a child (like Shirley Temple) or a well endowed starlet, “there was no in-between.”  It’s to MGM’s credit that they waited rather than rushing her into something that might have hindered her future in films.  In hindsight it seems ludicrous that she wouldn’t have succeeded regardless the role, thanks to her talent and screen presence, but at the time that wasn’t a sure thing.  MGM decided to feature her on radio, to get audiences used to the idea of this 13-year-old (they promoter her as 12 to make her even more precocious) who sang like she was 25.  It worked.

On her radio appearances, Judy (under the tutelage of her musical mentor Roger Edens) had the persona of a young swing singer full of “pep.”  She was riding the wave of the swing craze that was popular at the time.  She was also given the chance to perform songs and skits outside of the confines of her film roles, which showcased her range.  This was a period of experimentation and discovery for her.  She was discovering what she was capable of vocally and experimenting with different types of songs.  There didn’t seem to be any genre she wasn’t capable of handling.  The joy of that discovery comes through in the surviving recordings from this time.  She was also able to do what she enjoyed the most, performing in front of a live audience.  The experience came in handy after she left MGM in 1950.  

Also predating her film appearances was Judy’s association with Decca Records, which began in 1935 and lasted into 1947.  Her first single was recorded in June 1936 then released that July, which was the same time she was shooting her first official MGM film appearance, the short Every Sunday.

At the time, Judy was the youngest soloists to sign with a record label.  In addition to recording studio versions of her film songs, and similar to her radio work, Judy recorded many songs that she otherwise might never have performed, live or otherwise.  The legacy of Judy’s Decca recordings is a rich one.

In the meantime, MGM was creating her film persona.  She became the girl next door, everyone’s kid sister, a real pal who happened to sing like no one else.  She became the “Little Miss Fix It,” which was similar to the roles her former rival at MGM, Deanna Durbin, was playing with great success at Universal Studios.  

In the summer of 1936, Judy and Deanna were featured in a 1936 MGM “Musical Tabloid” short titled Every Sunday.  Durbin, who sang classical, left MGM and found overnight stardom at Universal.  Her success, while it distressed Judy, worked in Judy’s favor.  The legend is that after Durbin left MGM and became an overnight sensation, Louis B. Mayer bellowed, “We’ll make an ever bigger star out of the fat one” meaning Judy.  That particular quote is most likely untrue, but it fits the narrative of Judy initially being overlooked at MGM due to not being “glamorous” enough at a studio known for glamour.  The studio was callous in its treatment of Judy regarding her appearance during those early years.  Because of this, Judy suffered from lifelong inferiority complex.

Judy’s big screen debut came in 1936, not at MGM but at 20th Century-Fox.  They were preparing a football themed musical titled Pigskin Parade.  MGM agreed to loan Judy to Fox (the only time in her 15 years at the studio that she was loaned out) and although she later stated that she hated how she looked in the film, she nonetheless stole it from the rest of the cast each time she sang.  She was given two solos and the bulk of a production number (see below).  When the film was released in late 1936, Judy received rave reviews.  She was on her way.

Back at MGM, Judy was already cast in Broadway Melody of 1938 when she sang “(Dear Mr. Gable) You Made Me Love You” to Clark Gable at his birthday party on February 1, 1937.  She was a sensation.  The song was added to Broadway Melody and again, Judy stole the film.  It was her first big hit and first identifier song.  

By this point, everyone in Hollywood and around the country (judging from feedback from critics, moviegoers, and theater managers) knew that Judy Garland was on her way to becoming a big star.  It was just a matter of time.  After Broadway Melody, MGM began to aggressively groom Judy for stardom.  She was featured in the “B” movie Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry which paired her for the first time with Mickey Rooney and reunited her with her Broadway Melody co-star Sophie Tucker.

1938’s Everybody Sing was the first film tailored around Judy’s talents and screen image.  It’s a wacky screwball musical in which Judy is that peppy Little Miss Fix It again who gets expelled out of school for swinging Mendelssohn.  It’s arguably the best of her pre-Oz films.  She vocally matches crooner Allan Jones and holds her own in a musical comedy skit with legendary comedienne Fanny Brice.  She also appears for the first time with Billie Burke who later played Glinda, The Witch of the North.  It was during Judy’s Everybody Sing tour in early 1938 that it was announced that she had been cast as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz was in pre-production phase for most of 1938, which gave MGM ample time to get Judy in a couple more films to further promote her to the public.  First up was Love Finds Andy Hardy.  It was the first of three appearances in the series for Judy, playing the lovestruck Betsy Booth.  This installment became the quintessential Hardy film, thanks in part of Judy’s appearance.  Judy was then cast in Listen, Darling.  The film is a typical B movie, more of a comedy than a musical and is highlighted by Judy singing one of the songs that she sang her entire life,  “Zing! Went The Strings of My Heart.”

Finally, in October 1938, Judy’s work began on The Wizard of Oz .  The rest of the year was devoted to the making of the film, which continued into March 1939.  As 1938 came to a close, the future was bright.  Judy Garland was on the brink of global stardom.  

Photos above:

  • Promo photo for Pigskin Parade (1936).
  • Judy on stage during her 1938 Everybody Sing tour.
  • 1938 MGM promotional photo.
  • Screenshot from Harold Arlen’s home movies of Judy posing for photos in her “Dorothy” costume while filming The Wizard of Oz in November 1938.  Image restoration by Bobby Waters.  Thanks, Bobby! 

Week of November 28, 1938: Filming took place on the immense Poppy Field for The Wizard of Oz.




This series of letters from Judy’s first trip to New York City in 1936 give insight into how she was being presented by MGM at the time.  The first is a letter of introduction by Ida Koverman, given to Judy to take with her to New York to present to MGM representative Florence Browning.  Koverman was MGM Studios boss Louis B. Mayer’s secretary and a huge supporter of Judy especially in those early years.  Note how she gives Judy’s age as 12 even though she was just shy of her 14th birthday.  The second is Judy’s letter to Koverman upon arrival in NY, and Koverman’s response.

Mickey Rooney, Deanna Durbin, Judy Garland, Jackie Cooper at MGM 1936
Judy Garland in "Every Sunday"
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Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland
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Tony Martin, Judy Garland, Jack Haley in "Pigskin Parade" 1936
    • Judy’s first record, “Stompin’ At The Savoy” and “Swing Mister Charlie” recorded for Decca Records on June 10, 1936.
    • Series of letters from Judy’s first trip to New York.
    • Newspaper clipping of MGM promotional photo featuring Mickey Rooney, Deanna Durbin (still listed as Edna May Durbin), Judy, and Jackie Cooper.
    • Every Sunday exploitation sheet (front and back).
    • Video:  Judy sings “Americana” in Every Sunday.
    • Judy and Deanna Durbin on the MGM lot.
    • Video:  Judy sings “The Texas Tornado” in Pigskin Parade.
    • Video:  Judy and the cast perform “The Balboa” production number in Pigskin Parade.
    • Tony Martin, Judy, and Jack Haley in a promotional photo for Pigskin Parade.
    • Review and newspaper ad for Pigskin Parade.
    • MGM publicity photo.
First Decca Single Release

Early 1936 found Judy continuing her daily routine of lessons and coaching at MGM.  In his diary entry of March 10, 1936, songwriter Cole Porter wrote that to his “great joy” Judy and Buddy Ebsen were cast in This Time It’s Love which became Born to Dance.  What’s notable is although Judy hadn’t yet made an impact on the public and aside from radio and personal appearances she hadn’t had much exposure, someone of the stature of Porter knew exactly who she was and was happy about her being in a film that he was writing songs for.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the line Judy’s role was dropped.

In late May MGM sent Judy on her first promotional event in New York, which was her first time in the city.

While in New York, on June 12, 1936, Judy completed her third recording session for Decca Records at their NY studios.  She recorded “Stompin’ At The Savoy” and “Swing, Mr. Charlie” with Bob Crosby and his Orchestra providing the backup.  Because Judy was still fairly unknown, Crosby’s manager had the band’s name taken off the label credit because he didn’t think the band should be listed on “the same record label with this unknown girl.”  What a snob!

The single, which was the first Judy Garland single ever released, was released in July 1936 on Record No. 848.  The label on the record notes that Judy was “13 Years Old” when in fact she had just turned 14.  At this time in Judy’s career, MGM promoted her as being a year younger than she actually was, to make her even more precocious than she already was.  As if she needed any help in that area!

Listen to “Stompin’ At The Savoy” here:

Listen to “Swing Mr. Charlie” here:

While she was in New York, Judy made several appearances one the Rudy Vallee radio show which was broadcast from the city.  Judy (and her mom and Roger Edens) arrive in New York on June 3rd , staying through late May.  A newspaper notice published on June 3 noted a going-away party for Judy as “one night last week.”  The guest list of the party was a “who’s who” of Hollywood’s juvenile talent including Jackie Cooper, Bonita Granville, Frankie Darro, and Deanna Durbin (still being listed as Edna Mae Durbin, or mistakenly as “Dubin” in this particular notice).

Photos below:  Mickey Rooney escorts Judy to the “Captains Courageous” premiere May 14, 1936 – Judy’s mom Ethel is seen smiling in the right background; The newspaper notice about Judy’s going-away party for her NYC trip.

Every Sunday

Photo above:  Fellow MGM contract player Buddy Ebsen poses for pictures with Judy and Deanna Durbin, July 1936.

In late June and early July 1936, Judy pre-recorded her songs for, and filmed, the MGM “Tabloid Musical” short Every Sunday.  Her co-star was another 14-year-old singing prodigy, Deanna Durbin.  The short was released on November 28, 1936, at which point Durbin had left MGM for Universal Studios (see more details here) and Judy’s feature film debut in 20th Century-Fox’s Pigskin Parade had already premiered (see below). 

Listen to the pre-recording sessions here:
“Americana” Take 3:

“Americana” Take 4:

“Americana” Take 5:

“Americana” Take 6:

“Opera vs Jazz” Take 6:

“Opera vs Jazz” Take 7:

Every Sunday was advertised by MGM as the film debut for both girls although Judy already had five film shorts to her credit.

August 6, 1936:  Judy returned to the NBC Radio show “The Shell Chateau Hour” for the first time since the fall of 1935.  She sang “After You’ve Gone” for the first time.  It became a popular part of her repertoire for the rest of her life.  She sang it on subsequent radio shows, in For Me And My Gal (1942), on her studio record albums, on her television series, and it was a staple of her concerts.
Listen to this 1936 version here:

Photos below:
1)  Every Sunday director Felix Feist poses on the set with Deanna Durbin and Judy.
2)  Patricia Palmer poses with Judy and Deanna.  The photo is dated September 16, 1936, although it was obviously taken during the filming of the short in late June/early July 1936.
3)  MGM trade ad for Every Sunday, December 19, 1936.

Feature Film Debut

Hot on the heels of her work in Every Sunday, in July 1936 MGM loaned Judy to 20th Century-Fox for their musical production Pigskin Parade.  It was Judy’s feature film debut.  She was given a supporting role and two solos (“The Texas Tornado” & “It’s Love I’m After”) plus a big chunk of an ensemble number, “The Balboa.”  She also recorded the novelty song, “Hold That Bulldog,” which was deleted prior to the film’s release (it’s unknown if any footage was shot).  The pre-recording has been lost but there is a surviving recording of Judy performing the number on the radio in early 1937 (see below).

Pigskin Parade premiered in October 1936 and was a hit.  It even garnered an Academy Award nomination for Stuart Erwin for Best Supporting Actor.  This was Judy’s first major exposure to the nationwide movie audience.  Critics and audiences were unanimous in singling her out for praise and noting that she most likely going to be a big film star.  How right they were!  

Below:  Judy sings “It’s Love I’m After” in Pigskin Parade.

It's Love I'm After
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The rest of 1936 was a relatively quiet time for Judy.  Her hectic schedule wouldn’t begin until 1937 as her star began to rise and MGM began grooming her for stardom.  For the time being, she spent her days receiving a morning call from Mary Schroeder, the studio’s “Special Services Department” representative who was Judy’s aid and gave her the various assignments for the day which might include interviews, photo session shoots, rehearsals, or anything else the studio decided. 

Judy would report to the studio at 9 a.m. and depending on which assignments she was given, she would spend most of the day at school and working with her vocal coach (and musical mentor) Roger Edens.  Her performances at this time consisted mostly of singing at parties and benefits.  In 1937, all of that would change.

Photos below:  MGM publicity photo from 1936.  


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Pennies From Heaven
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Judy Garland sings "Dinah"
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    • Video:  Judy sings “Hold That Bulldog” on the “Jack Oakie’s College” radio show.
    • Video:  Judy sings “Pennies From Heaven” on the “Jack Oakie’s College” radio show.
    • MGM publicity photo for Broadway Melody of 1938 (released in 1937).
    • MGM publicity photo of Judy with co-star Sophie Tucker for Broadway Melody of 1938.
    • Decca Records single of Judy’s recording of “Dear Mr. Gable: You Made Me Love You,” recorded on September 24, 1937.
    • Video:  Judy sings “Johnny One Note” on the “Jack Oakie’s College” radio show.
    • Video:  Judy sings “Dinah” on the “Jack Oakie’s College” radio show.
    • Judy Garland attends a preview of Broadway Melody of 1938 at the Village Theater in West Los Angeles August 13, 1937.
    • MGM publicity photo of Judy with co-star Sophie Tucker in Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry.
    • MGM publicity photo of Mickey Rooney, Judy, and Ronald Sinclair for Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry.
    • MGM publicity photo of Judy and Fanny Brice performing “Why? Because!” in Everybody Sing.
    • Newspaper ad featuring Judy and Fanny Brice performing “Why? Because!” in Everybody Sing.
    • Video:  The extended version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” from Everybody Sing.
Early Radio

On January 5, 1937, 14-year-old Judy Garland made her first appearance on the popular CBS Radio show “Jack Oakie’s College” hosted by the film star Jack Oakie.  She became a series regular on February 23, appearing on the show almost every week through June 22. 

These and Judy’s other early radio appearances helped introduce her to the public while giving her a chance to hone her performing skills in front of a studio audience.  She was given the chance to experiment a little with a variety of songs and comedy skits. 

On this January 5th show, Judy sang “Pennies From Heaven” and “Hold That Bulldog.”  Both are the only known performances of Judy singing these songs. The latter was a novelty number that Judy pre-recorded in 1936 for her feature film debut in Pigskin Parade.  It was cut and the pre-recording has been lost.  This radio performance is the only extant recording that gives us an idea of how it was probably performed in the film.

Photo below:  1937 promotional photo of Judy with Jack Oakie.

Dear Mr. Gable

February 1, 1937:  A milestone in Judy’s career took place at Clark Gable’s thirty-sixth birthday party, held on the set of his film Parnell.  Judy performed her first public rendition of what would become her first major hit, “(Dear Mr. Gable) You Made Me Love You.”  That same night, at another party for Gable at a benefit at the Trocadero, Judy introduced the number officially in public.  At this point, the number had some different specialty lyrics (provided by Roger Edens) that were industry-centric and poked gentle fun at a recent issue with a crazy fan making claims against Gable in letters that began “Dear Mr. Gable.”  The lyrics that we now know were added at some point before Judy’s rendition of the song at an MGM dinner/dance on February 22, 1937.

Judy had already been cast in a supporting role in Broadway Melody of 1938, in late 1936, but after its astounding success “Dear Mr. Gable” was added to the film.  Judy pre-recorded the song for the film on May 7, 1937.

“(Dear Mr. Gable) You Made Me Love You” Take 3:

“(Dear Mr. Gable) You Made Me Love You” Tag Take 1:

“(Dear Mr. Gable) You Made Me Love You” Tag Take 2:

When the film was released, Judy’s heartfelt and sincerely honest rendition of “Dear Mr. Gable” stole the film from the stars Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor and George Murphy plus the stellar supporting talent including the legendary Sophie Tucker and Buddy Ebsen.

“Dear Mr. Gable” was Judy’s first “identifier” and hit song.  It was such a hit that a few years later when Harry James’ version also became a hit, he said the reason was because he tried to play it on the trumpet as Judy Garland had sung it.

Judy recorded a studio version for Decca Records on September 24, 1937.  It was released in October of 1937.  Although it’s markedly different in tone than her performance in the film, it was the only version available on record until MGM Records released the soundtrack version in 1963.  Listen to the Decca version here:

Listen to the alternate take here:

Below:  Broadway Melody of 1938 promotional photo of Judy with composers Bronislaw Kaper, Walter Jurmann, and lyricist Gus Kahn.

Judy and Mickey

Production on Broadway Melody of 1938 was completed in early August 1937.  The film was quickly released on August 20, 1937.  By that point, Judy had already begun work on her next film, Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry co-starring again with Sophie Tucker and, for the first time,  Mickey Rooney. 

Although the film was a “B” musical, the pairing of Judy and Mickey clicked.  The duo went on to become MGM’s top teens.  Ronald Sinclair rounded out the trio of young stars in a role originally planned for Freddie Bartholomew.  As Judy quipped years later, he didn’t get the role because “Freddie’s VOICE was changing.” 

Feature Film Debut

After the previous year of light activity, 1937 saw Judy’s workload begin to increase.  She continued recording singles for Decca Records:

“Everybody Sing”

“Everybody Sing” (alternate)

“All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm”

“All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” (alternate)

“You Can’t Have Everything”

Judy continued appearing on radio programs almost weekly including “Ben Bernie and All the Lads” and “Good News of 1938” (begun in late 1937).  As she was finishing her work Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry she began work on Everybody Sing.  Working on more than one film at the same time would happen several times during Judy’s tenure at MGM.  As 1938 ended, Judy was working on Everybody Sing.  Her last notable work of the year was filming her duet with Fanny Brice, “Why? Because!” which was the only time Brice portrayed her famous character “Baby Snooks” on film.

Videos below:
Judy belts out “Down on Melody Farm” in Everybody Sing (1938).
MGM’s 1937 Christmas trailer featured Judy singing a short rendition of “Silent Night.”

Judy Garland sings "Down On Melody Farm" in "Everybody Sing" released in 1938
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Judy Garland "Ten Pins In The Sky"
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Here is all of the known film footage of Judy as the blonde Dorothy in one short video. 
All of the film that was shot during the “Thorpe Era” is lost.

Play Video
  • January 24, 1938:  Judy and her mother arrive in Miami, Florida, for the premiere if Everybody Sing.
  • January 24, 1938:  Judy signs autographs for the crowd that greeted her at the Miami train station.
  • Newspaper article published on February 28, 1938, that features some of the fashions Judy wore while in Miami.
  • February 10, 1938:  Times Square in New York City shows the Loew’s State marquee advertising Judy’s personal appearance.  This was part of the Everybody Sing tour which was Judy’s first tour of personal appearances in conjunction with her latest film.
  • February 27, 1938:  Judy was inducted into The Press Secretary Hawkins Club while on tour in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, part of the Everybody Sing tour.
  • Decca Records label fo “Sleep My Baby Sleep” which Judy recorded on April 25, 1938.
  • Judy and Mickey Rooney in a publicity photo for Love Finds Andy Hardy.
  • Judy and Mickey Rooney in a publicity photo for Love Finds Andy Hardy.
  • Danish one-sheet poster for Listen, Darling.
  • Video: Judy sings “Ten Pins In The Sky” in Listen, Darling.
  • Judy and Scotty Beckett in a publicity photo for Listen, Darling.
  • The cast of
  • Listen, Darling:  Judy, Mary Astor, Water Pidgeon, Freddie Bartholomew, and Scotty Beckett.
  • Judy and a few Munchkins pose for costume, hair, and makeup tests circa August 27, 1938, for The Wizard of Oz.

For the remainder of 1938, most of Judy’s time was spent working on The Wizard of Oz.

  • October 7, 1938:  The Daily Music Report documenting the pre-recording of “Over the Rainbow.”
  • MGM promotional photo of the blonde Dorothy, taken during the early weeks of shooting on the Cornfield set in mid-October, 1938.
  • MGM promotional photo of the blonde Dorothy with the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), taken during the early weeks of shooting on the Cornfield set in mid-October, 1938.
  • Video:  The only known film footage of Judy as the blonde Dorothy.
  • Two MGM publicity photos of Judy as the blonde Dorothy and Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West, with Pat Walshe as Nikko the Flying Monkey, in the Witch’s Throne Room, mid-October 1938.
  • The Tin Man (Buddy Ebsen), Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), and Dorothy (Judy) flee the Witch’s Winkie Guards in the final days of shooting under director Richard Thorpe in late October 1938.
  • Screenshot of the new brunette Dorothy on the revised Cornfield set in early November 1938.
  • New director Victor Fleming gives direction to Judy and Ray Bolger on the Cornfield set in early November 1938.
  • Color snapshot of Judy on the Cornfield set in early November 1938.
  • Rare publicity photo of Judy on the Cornfield set.  Photo restoration by Bobby Waters.  Thanks, Bobby!
  • Ray Bolger and Judy fight the talking trees on the Tin Man’s Forest set, the week of November 7, 1938.
  • Week of November 7, 1938:  Judy, new Tin Man Jack Haley, and Ray Bolger in the initial days fo filming the meeting with the Tin Man.  This publicity photo was taken before another short break in production to have the Tin Man’s shiny costume “rusted” and the scenes re-shot.
  • Week of November 21, 1938:  Two photos taken during filming on the Cowardly Lion’s Forest with Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man), and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion).
  • Kodachrome photo of the cast seeing the Poppy Field for the first time, taken the week of November 28, 1938.
  • Toto with his trainer, Carl Spitz, look on as Ray Bolger, Judy, Jack Haley (in a robe), and Bert Lahr take direction from Victor Fleming on the Poppy Field set, week of November 28, 1938.
  • December 1, 1938:  Setting up the filming of the melting of the Wicked Witch of the West.
  • Color snapshot of Judy on the Witch’s Castle set, week of December 10, 1938.
  • Screenshot of Judy and Margaret Hamilton and Pat Walshe (as Nikko, the Flying Monkey) on the Witch’s Castle Set week of December 10, 1938.

The rest of December 1938 was devoted to filming the Munchkinland Sequence:

    • Judy and Billie Burke (Glinda, the Witch of the North) react to an attentive Toto during filming.
    • Color snapshot of Judy and Billie Burke.
    • Director Victor Fleming talks with Judy as Carl Spitz (Toto’s trainer) holds Toto.
    • The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) arrives in Munchkinland.
    • Director Victor Fleming gives direction to Margaret Hamilton, Judy, and Billie Burke.
    • Two photos from the final days of filming which were devoted to Dorothy’s entrance to Munchkinland and her meeting Glinda, the Witch of the North.
Everybody Sing

Filming on Everybody Sing ended in early January 1938.  The film had a quick turnaround, premiering on January 24th and going into general release on February 4th.  

The premiere was held at the Sheridan Theatre in Miami Beach, Florida.  Judy, along with musical mentor Roger Edens and her mother Ethel, traveled to Miami for the premiere which was heavily covered in the press.  It was the beginning of Judy’s first film promotional tour for MGM which included her first appearance on stage in New York City, at the Loew’s State Theatre.  The tour then moved on to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois (Chicago), Michigan, and a stop in Judy’s birthplace, Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  It was her last time visiting her birthplace.

Below:  Everybody Sing newspaper ad; snapshot of Judy visiting her hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1938, her last time visiting her birthplace.

While on tour, the announcement was made that Judy would play “Dorothy” in The Wizard of Oz.  Production on the film wouldn’t was months away which gave MGM more than enough time to give Judy the big build-up and rush her into a couple more films.

As Judy’s workload at the studio increased, so did her other obligations.  She became a weekly regular on the “Good News of 1938” radio show, made frequent personal appearances, and cut more records for Decca Records.  

April 25, 1938 Decca Recordings:
“Sleep My Baby Sleep”

“Cry, Baby, Cry”

“Cry, Baby, Cry” Alternate

First Oz Work

April 29, 1938:  The earliest known work for Judy on The Wizard of Oz was this early hair test (below). 

Photo above provided by Harper Collins Publishers.  The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion by William Stillman and Jay Scarfone. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; © 2013 by Author. Authors’ credit: Scarfone/Stillman Collection

Andy Hardy

After her personal appearance tour, MGM cast Judy in her next film, her first appearance in the Andy Hardy series, Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938).   The film ended up becoming the quintessential Andy Hardy film, thanks in no small part to Judy’s involvement and the film’s charming, if idealized, portrayal of small town America.  This was her second film with Mickey Rooney and it was clear that the two were magic on screen together.  Judy sang “In Between,” “In Never Rains But It Pours,” and “Meet The Beat of My Heart.”  She also prerecorded “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” but the song was cut prior to the film’s release.  Only audio remains:

May 8, 1938:   Judy’s last appearance on the “Good News of 1938” radio show for NBC.  She had been making regular weekly appearances (more or less) on the show up to this point and appeared again several times in 1939 when it was renamed “Good News of 1939.”

Judy sang the following:
“God’s Country”


“How Deep Is The Ocean?”

Download the complete show here (zip file).

Photo below:  Judy with Fanny Brice rehearsing for the show.

May 24, 1938:  Judy was in a car accident and suffered three broken ribs, a sprained back, and a punctured lung.  It looked as though she might have to be written out of Love Finds Andy Hardy but she recuperated quickly enough to return to MGM and resume work on the film on June 11th.

Early Oz

August 27, 1938:  Judy posed for early costume, hair, and makeup tests for The Wizard of Oz.  This was her first comprehensive work on the film which was still in pre-production.

Listen, Darling

While The Wizard of Oz was in pre-production MGM was able to cast Judy in another film, Listen, Darling (1938) which she completed just after she began pre-recording sessions for Oz (September 20, 1938).

Judy co-starred with fellow child/teen star Freddie Bartholomew, with Mary Astor and Walter Pidgeon in the adult roles.  She sang an abbreviated version of “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart” and “Ten Pins In The Sky.”

Listen to the complete ballad version of “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart”

Listen to the complete “swing” version of “Zing! Went The String Of My Heart”

Oz Begins

Judy was in the last days of her work on Listen, Darling, when she had her first recording session for The Wizard of Oz on September 30, 1938.  The session was devoted to the songs “If I Only Had The Nerve” and “We’re Off To See The Wizard” both with her co-stars Bert Lahr (as the Cowardly Lion), Ray Bolger (as the Scarecrow), and Buddy Ebsen (as the Tin Man).

For the rest of 1938, Judy’s time was devoted almost exclusively to filming The Wizard of Oz.  The making of the film has been documented in many books and documentaries that it would be almost redundant to relay the complete story here.  Instead, the following are the major dates and events during the filming through the end of 1938.  The filming went well into 1939, which is covered in the next section.

September 30, 1938:  Recording session: “If I Only Had The Brain/Heart/Nerve” and “We’re Off To See The Wizard.”  Listen below:

“If I Only Had A Brain”:

“If I Only Had The Nerve” (with some fun alternate lyrics, takes 11, 13, & 14):

“We’re Off To See The Wizard” (duo version, Takes 1, 2, 3, & 4):

“We’re Off To See The Wizard” (duo version different underscoring at the end, takes 5, 6, & 7):

“We’re Off To See The Wizard” (trio version with false starts, takes 7, 8, 9, & 10):

“We’re Off To See The Wizard” (trio version – alternate, take 3):

“We’re Off To See The Wizard” (quartet version, takes 2, 3, 4, & 5):

“If I Only Had A Heart” (orchestra only dance break, takes 1, 2, & 3):

October 7, 1938:  Judy recorded “Over the Rainbow” – her first ever recording of what quickly became her lifelong theme song.

Listen to all of the surviving takes here:

Listen to the final version used in the film with the introduction that was prerecorded on April 13, 1939, “Intro to Rainbow”  here:

October 11, 1938:  Recording session:  “We’re Off To See The Wizard,” “If I Were King Of The Forest,” and “If I Only Had A Brain.”

“We’re Off To See The Wizard” (duo, takes 9, 10, 11, & 12):

“We’re Off To See The Wizard” (trio, takes 1, 2, & 3):

“We’re Off To See The Wizard” (quartet, takes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7):

“If I Were King Of The Forest” (Part 5, takes 2, 3, 4, & 5):

“If I Were King Of The Forest” (Part 3, takes 10, 11, 12, 13, & 14):

“If I Only Had A Brain” (With piano only, takes 3, 4, & 5):

October 13, 1938:  Filming began with director Richard Thorpe in charge.  The scenes shot were Dorothy’s meeting the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger).

Photos below: The dress Judy wore during the “Thorpe Era” weeks of filming and production designer Jack Martin Smith’s watercolor idea for the Cornfrield Set.

October 17, 1938:  Judy filmed the “Over the Rainbow” reprise, live on the set, in the “Witch’s Throne Room.”  The recording survives although the film doesn’t.  When the switch was made in costumes and hair, the scene was reshot, including her on-set performance.  That audio and film do not exist.

Listen to the on-set recording here:

Listen to the underscoring for the scene, recorded on May 6, 1939, titled “Toto Brings New” here:

Photo below:  Judy filming the deleted “Over the Rainbow” reprise sequence in her blonde hair and original Dorothy dress, with Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West (also in alternate hair and makeup) providing the scares.

October 24, 1938:  Filming was put on hold after Buddy Ebsen collapsed and was hospitalized due to an allergic reaction to the makeup.  Director Richard Thorpe was fired.  George Cukor stepped in and changed the looks of all of the main characters, most notably removing the heavy doll-like makeup and blonde wig that Judy had been wearing, making her into a more convincing Kansas farm girl.  His changes contributed immensely to the success of the film. 

October 26, 1938:  Judy posed for several hair and makeup styles as shown below, still wearing her “Thorpe Era” dress.

Photo above provided by Harper Collins Publishers.  The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion by William Stillman and Jay Scarfone. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; © 2013 by Author. Authors’ credit: Scarfone/Stillman Collection

October 31, 1938:  The Dorothy we all know and love was beginning to emerge (see photo below).

November 3, 1938:  Judy sports Dorothy’s new look (below). 

Photo above provided by Harper Collins Publishers.  The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion by William Stillman and Jay Scarfone. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; © 2013 by Author. Authors’ credit: Scarfone/Stillman Collection

November 4, 1938:  Filming began again on the Cornfield, under the direction of new director Victor Fleming.

Photo below:  Before and after shots of the Cornfield set reflects the change in the look of the bricks as well as added curbs and other more subtle changes.

November 5, 1938:  Judy and Toto sat for publicity photos at MGM’s portrait studio (below).

Week of November 7:  The Cornfield sequence was completed followed by the initial scenes with the talking trees and meeting the Tin Man.  Jack Haley had taken over the role when it was clear that Ebsen could not return.

Filming went well until around the 12th when someone noticed that the Tin Man’s suit was shiny rather than rusted.  At a cost of over $60k the three days of shooting the shiny Tin Man were scrapped and eventually re-shot (but not until November 16th) after the suit had been appropriately “rusted.”

Photo below:  The Tin Man’s forest on set and on screen; and before and after photos of the shiny and rusted Tin Man.

November 21, 1938:  The first day of a week’s worth of filming on the Lion’s Forest set and the meeting of the Cowardly Lion.

Photos below:  The Lion’s Forest as seen in the film; the matte painting, set, and final combo of the two together as seen in the film.

November 25, 1938:  MGM officially promoted Judy from “featured Player” to “Star” giving her her own trailer dressing room on the Oz set.

November 28, 1938:  The first day of a week’s worth of filming on the immense Poppy Field set (below).

December 1, 1938:  The melting of the Wicked Witch of the West was filmed (below).

December 10, 1938:  Scenes in the Witch’s castle were filmed.

Below:  Set design still of the interior of the Witch’s Castle.

December 14, 1938:  Recording session – The Munchkinland sequence.

“The Wind Began To Switch” – Takes 18-22

Later that evening, Judy took part in two radio programs:
1)  The “”National Redemption Movement Program” for NBC Radio.  Judy joined Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, and Jean Parker in a “Hardy Family” sketch.  The audio does not survive.

2) Judy sang “My Old Kentucky Home” on the program “America Calling.”  The show was a celebration of the anniversary of the American Bill of Rights.

Listen to “My Old Kentucky Home” here:

Photo below:  Judy and Jackie Cooper during a break in rehearsals for the “America Calling” show.

December 17, 1938:  The first day of filming on the Munchkinland set.  Filming on the set lasted through the end of the year.

Photo below:  Set design still of the edge of Munchkinland.

December 22, 1938:  Recording session:  The Munchkinland Sequence.

December 28, 1938:  Filming on this day was devoted to the scene in which Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West exits Munchkinland in a column of flames and smoke.

Everything was fine until after lunch when the scene was filmed again.  The trap door on the floor of the stage that contained an elevator type of rigging to lower Hamilton didn’t work properly and she was severely burned.  The green makeup had copper in it, resulting in her being so badly burned that she was immediately rushed to the hospital and out of the film until mid-February.  She suffered first-degree burns on her face and second-degree burns on her hand, per an MGM memo dated January 5, 1939.

Also, on this day, Judy, Frank Morgan, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, and Ray Bolger along with Tyler Brook, Ralph Sudam, Bobby Watson, Oliver Smith, Charles Irwin, Lois January, Elivda Rizzo, Lorraine Bridges, and The M-G-M Studio Chorus pre-recorded “The Merry Old Land Of Oz.”  The recording was made without the orchestra which was added later, on May 8, 1939, during the post-filming scoring sessions.

Vocal Take:

Orchestra Only, Take 10, recorded May 8, 1939:

Orchestra Only, Take 1, recorded on May 8, 1939:

December 29 & 30, 1938:  The last scenes shot of the Munchkinland sequence were the first shots seen in the film, Dorothy’s arrival and initial dialog with Glinda, the Witch of the North (Billie Burke).

Below:  Jack Martin Smith’s design idea for Munchkinland; widescreen image created and shared by Kurt Raymond.  Thank you, Kurt!; and a set design still of Munchkinland.

Bonus: Selected Radio & Film Performances

Judy Garland 1935
The Wizard of Oz green vinyl release for Record Store Day on April 19, 2014