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Through The Years - The Judy Garland Story

This chapter of Through The Years takes an in-depth look at 1939, the year that changed Judy’s Garland’s life forever. 

The biggest event of the year was, of course, the release of The Wizard of Oz.  The musical fantasy became an instant classic and Judy’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” is a rare piece of movie magic that truly is magical.  If ever there was a perfect combination of singer and song on film, this is it.

Contrary to what has been popularized in previous years, The Wizard of Oz was very popular with both audiences and critics and wasn’t a “flop.”  But as with many other misconceptions about the film that have become legends over years, people today still think it bombed.  If that were the case, it wouldn’t have been nominated for the Academy Award for “Best Picture” in a year that is now considered the greatest year in Hollywood (one of a total of ten nominations, no less).  So many classics were released it’s almost embarrassing.  The “flop” scenario makes for a great comeback story that’s appealing to the public and sells more copy, or in this day and age, gets more clicks.

When The Wizard of Oz was released in August 1939, Judy Garland stepped into a unique class of immortality.  In hindsight it seems inevitable when looking back at her life and career that this would happen.  Her star was basically on the ascent continuously.  The proceeding years point to the inevitability of a milestone like The Wizard of Oz in Judy’s career. 

At the time of its release, the success of the film wasn’t a given.  It was the first big budget live action musical fantasy film made in three-strip Technicolor.  MGM was taking a big risk.  But as has been pointed out, at the time MGM could afford a “prestige picture” every few years that even if it didn’t make a lot of money, it added prestige to the studio.  That’s what The Wizard of Oz was.  The fact that the film came out so well exceeded many people’s expectations.  When it was completed, those in the know could see that it was special.  People like uncredited co-producer Arthur Freed and certainly everyone in the music departments.  Once the preview feedback came in the studio knew they had a unique film on their hands.  After it went into general release, it was a hit.  Judy and “Over the Rainbow” and the character of “Dorothy Gale” became forever linked.  To this day, 100 years after Judy Garland’s birth, she is still known as “Dorothy.”  Even if you talk to someone about “Judy Garland” and they say “Who?” and you respond, “You know, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz?” you’ll get “Oh right!”  A unique immortality indeed.

In most careers, the success of Oz would have been the pinnacle and enough for one year.  But for Judy, 1939 brought her another huge hit, Babes in Arms.   It made Judy and her co-star Mickey Rooney America’s top teens and spawned a new genre, the “Let’s put on a show!” youth musical.  The genre is so ubiquitous that it’s often lampooned today.  All any comedian or character has to say is “Hey kids, let’s find a barn and put on a show” and everyone gets the same image.  The film was so popular that Mickey Rooney was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor of 1939.  Oddly, Judy wasn’t nominated for Best Actress.  No one would have beat Vivien Leigh’s performance in Gone With The Wind anyway.  Judy was relegated to being awarded the “Juvenile Oscar” which was a miniature Oscar given out occasionally when a juvenile performance was so great it needed to be recognized. Years later she would jokingly call it her “Munchkin award.”

To celebrate her success, Judy was invited to put her hand and footprints in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  The event took place the night of the world premiere of Babes in Arms at the theater.  It was another sign that Judy Garland had reached the top.

For most people, that would be enough.  But Judy Garland wasn’t most people and mGM wasn’t your standard studio.  As a contract player at MGM, she still had her duties to the studio.  She wouldn’t begin work on her next film until early 1940, but she still had personal appearances, sittings for portraits and publicity photos, schooling, and her usual vocal training with Roger Edens.  MGM kept her in the public consciousness by allowing her to be a weekly regular on the NBC Radio show,  “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.”  She also recorded a few singles for Decca Records. 

In spite of those regular studio duties, it was a period of relative calm compared to the grueling schedule that she would endure in the next few years.  Worldwide fame had its downside, and at times it seemed to work against her.  She was so popular (and so well respected as a talent) that MGM put her in as many films as possible, on as many radio shows as possible, and in as many personal appearances as possible.  Being a big star meant everyone wanted a piece of you, not unlike today.  Although today it seems unbelievable that anyone would put up with that kind of schedule.  But for Judy, it was the only world she knew.  She had been performing since the age of two and a half and being under contract to the greatest studio in Hollywood was the pinnacle of success at the time.  The studios (with a few exceptions) pretty much owned their contract players.  Most people did what they were told. 

MGM publicity photos of Judy Garland, 1939.


January 13, 1939:  This wonderful and rare photo of Judy appeared in the “Hollywood News Citizen.”  The day was Friday the 13th.  This is one of the few photos of Judy in her Dorothy costume and makeup that isn’t related to the film or her character.  Note her slippers!  It was taken by photographer Cliff Wesselman.  Judy is in her post “Wash and Brush Up” hair and pressed dress which makes sense as on this day and for most of the past week she and the cast had been filming “The Jitterbug.”  They had been filming on the Haunted Forest set since the beginning of the new year.

Photo provided by Gregory Paul Williams.  Thanks, Gregory!

Below:  Art Director Jack Martin Smith’s concept artwork for the Emerald City and Wizard’s Throne Room sets, plus screenshots of the corresponding scenes as they look in the finished film.

February 25, 1939:  Judy and the rest of the cast had an extensive photo session at the MGM portrait studios which included the now-famous portraits of Judy in her post-wash-and-brush-up wig and makeup.  Here are just some of the photos from that session.

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Judy Garland Flowers – 5421 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, California.

In May and June of 1939, fan magazines published these promotional photos and articles about Judy’s latest endeavor, the Judy Garland Flowers flower shop.  Most of the photos were taken in December 1938, and at least one was part of the promotional set of photos for The Wizard Of Oz.  The series was numbered with the film’s production number, “1060.”

The text on the back of the third photo show below reads:  1060×30  12. “WIZARD OF OZ” . . .was not the only activity that kept Judy Garland busy, for the young Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer star is the owner of her own flower shop, “Judy Garland Flowers Inc.”

MGM had set up the flower shop allegedly for Judy although she really didn’t run the shop and was only photographed at the location on this one instance, with director George Sidney (fourth photo) and her two sisters (fifth photo), as well as helping customers.  The last photo is an MGM studio promotional pic taken in 1938 that has nothing to do with the flower shop, but is a nice photo of Judy arranging flowers.

The shop is long gone as are the buildings, having been replaced by a large Staples store.

June 12, 1939:  Judy signed this one-page addendum to her current contract with MGM effectively giving the studio all of the rights to her image as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

June 12, 1939 - Judy Garland signs away her likeness as "Dorothy" in "The Wizard of Oz" to MGM.

August 9, 1939:  The Wizard of Oz had its world premiere took place in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

The world premiere was previously thought to have been in Green Bay, MA, on August 10 but according to the August 23, 1939, issue of the trade magazine “The Exhibitor,” the world premiere was actually on August 9, 1939, at the State Theatre in New Bedford.

The reason for the discrepancies is that the Hollywood premiere was originally scheduled for August 10th but was moved to the 15th at almost the last minute.  The film was already scheduled to open on several dates on the 10th and immediately after, in several spots around the country.  The dates of those engagements were not changed.  According to newspaper records, the film was scheduled to premiere in several cities and towns in the midwest on the same day, August 11, but the owners of the State Theatre in New Bedford, The Zietz Brothers, jumped the gun and showed the film “before a capacity house” on August 9.  This seemingly random early showing was probably due to the fact that Judy and Mickey Rooney were in the area as part of their personal appearances tour leading up to the New York premiere, which the Zietz Brothers used to their advantage.  It paid off.  The film played to capacity business for this night and a full week after.

The pre-Hollywood showings of the film were as follows:
August 9:  New Bedford, Massachusetts
August 10:  Green Bay, Wisconsin
August 11: Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Kenosha, Neenah, and Appleton, Wisconsin
August 12: Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
August 13: Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Racine, Rhinelander, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Oconomowoc, Winsconsin, has laid claim to being the location of the film’s world premiere on August 12th, and it was reported as such for several decades, but as noted, the film actually (and quietly) premiered on August 9th in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  In fact, since the film had been playing for several days ahead of the official world premiere in Hollywood, there was time for the “Green Bay Gazette” to publish an early review of the film Also on 12.

Images:  Clippings from the “Green Bay Press-Gazette,” Green Bay, Wisconsin, from August 9 & 10; plus the August 23, 1939, edition of “The Exhibitor.”

august-12-1939-hartford_courant copy

August 11, 1939:  Judy and Mickey were Hartford, Connecticut for a one-day-only appearance and, according to this obviously fabricated article and posed photo, found time to edit the Sunday Parade newspaper magazine insert for “The Hartford Courant”!  In reality, the duo gave four performances between showings of the film (Lady of the Tropics starring Hedy Lamarr and Robert Taylor) in Hartford and left for Bridgeport at 10 p.m.

On August 13, the duo was back in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where they performed before traveling by train to New York on August 14 and the New York premiere of The Wizard of Oz.  It’s possible they performed in Bridgeport on August 12th.  The details are unclear about that leg of their trip.

August 16, 1939:  Newsreel footage of the luncheon that Judy and Mickey gave at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on this day to promote their appearance at the Capitol Theater beginning the next day, in conjunction with the NY premiere of The Wizard of Oz.  It’s short but still enjoyable as both stars speak a little.   

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August 16, 1939:  Newsreel footage of the luncheon that Judy and Mickey gave at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on this day to promote their appearance at the Capitol Theater beginning the next day, in conjunction with the NY premiere of The Wizard of Oz.  It’s short but still enjoyable as both stars speak a little.   

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September 12, 1939:  The first article shown below, out of Rushville, Indiana, is about the upcoming appearance of the carriage and ponies from The Wizard of Oz.  “Special costumes” made by “famous Hollywood designers” were also on hand to be worn by whichever of the “five lucky youngsters” won the chance to ride in the carriage “with 2 Hollywood stars.”  It’s unclear just who those Hollywood stars were although it’s known that they were not stars from the film.

This was one of many MGM publicity stunts promoting the film.  This carriage along with the ponies and a wagon traveled around the country in conjunction with local showings of the film.  Included here is a shot of Judy in the carriage in the film, plus a rare photo of the carriage, wagon, pony, and what looks like a couple of locals in those costumes.  The exact location of where this photo was taken is unknown.  

The third clipping features a now rare MGM publicity photo that shows Mickey Rooney standing in as Judy’s coachman in the carriage.

Although the official release date for the Decca Records album of songs from The Wizard of Oz is listed at March 1940, the album was already being advertised for as available for purchase in select stores in September 1939.  More ads appeared right before the Christmas holiday.   That makes sense, as Decca would want to take advantage of the holiday market. 

This Decca album is the very first record album related to the film.  It is not a soundtrack.  Soundtrack albums didn’t become a viable market until 1947.  The first Oz soundtrack from MGM Records wasn’t released until 1956.

This Decca album presented studio recreations of song from the film, including Judy’s recently recorded two singles, “Over the Rainbow” and “The Jitterbug.”  Those are the only two Garland vocals in the set.

The “vocal trio” who accompany Judy on “The Jitterbug” are none other than Harold Arlen as The Scarecrow with Bud Lyon as The Tin Man, & Garney Bell as The Lion.  The remaining songs are performed by the Ken Darby Singers.

Judy’s tracks were recorded on July 28, 1939, the rest of the tracks were recorded on July 29, 1939.

Track list:

Over the Rainbow
The Jitterbug
Munchkinland Part I
Munchkinland Part II
If I Only Had A Brain
If I Only Had A Heart
The Merry Old Land of Oz
We’re Off To See The Wizard

October 10, 1939:  Babes in Arms had its gala premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  Judy was accompanied by co-star Mickey Rooney and her mom, Ethel.

The event was extra special because Judy was invited to put her hand and footprints in cement in the forecourt.  She was the 74th star to do so, and it meant that she was “officially” a Hollywood star.  The notices on the following day noted that Judy was “acclaimed” by Hollywood.  She certainly was, and still is!

"Figaro" Judy Garland
Play Video about "Figaro" Judy Garland
"Oceans Apart" Judy Garland
Play Video about "Oceans Apart" Judy Garland

Fall 1939:  Although Judy and her mom had been living in their new home since February 1939, it wasn’t until the fall that MGM was able to get photos taken of Judy at home for publication in the various magazines, including Architectural Digest.

December 2, 1939:  Judy and her sister Sue visited a young girl in the hospital in Santa Ana, California.  According to the papers, the girl, Natalie Norris, was recuperating from “a major operation.”  The details of the operation were not given.  Her condition was critical for several days and at one point she had a “nightmare of delirium” in which she thought she was “Dorothy” in The Wizard of Oz.  Her doctor thought a call from Judy would help her recovery.

A visit was arranged by MGM, with Judy gifting the girl a set of photos (two signed by Judy as “Dorothy”), a doll, some books, and a special performance of “Over the Rainbow” by Judy to the girl.  The story was picked up by several columnists and was mentioned as late as early 1940. 

The photos given to the girl have recently been discovered and are making their public debut here.  These are the only known surviving Oz promotional photos that Judy signed as “Dorothy.” 

A huge thank you to Chris in Los Angeles for discovering these photos and bringing them to The Judy Room.  Thanks Chris!

  • Promotional photo of the cast of The Wizard of Oz on the Haunted Forest Set.
  • Snapshot of the cast of The Wizard of Oz during the filming of “The Jitterbug” number.
  • Snapshot of the cast of The Wizard of Oz at the gates of the Emerald City.
  • Snapshot of the cast of The Wizard of Oz on the Emerald City set.
  • Snapshot of the cast of The Wizard of Oz on the Wizard’s hallway set.
  • Screenshot of the tornado approaching the Gale Farm in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Judy sings “Over the Rainbow” in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Screenshot of Miss Gulch showing up on the Gale Farm in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Screenshot of Dorothy running away in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Newspaper photo of Judy arriving in New York March 31, 1939.
  • Judy and friends at the Easter Parade in New York, April 9, 1939.
  • Judy on the marquee at Lowe’s State Theater in New York.
  • Judy sings the National Anthem at the opening game of the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland, OH, April 21, 1939.
  • Newspaper report showing Judy at the game in Cleveland, published April 22, 1939.
  • Judy and June Preisser pose for a wardrobe test for Babes in Arms.
  • Scene from Babes in Arms.
  • Spanish Herald for Babes in Arms.
  • Judy cuts her birthday cake on the set of Babes in Arms.
  • Judy, along with Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, MGM exec L.K. Sidney, E.Y. Harburg, Meredith Willson, publisher Harry Link and Harold Arlen (sitting with Judy), pose prior to performing on the “Maxwell House Coffee Time – Good News” program, June 29, 1939.
  • Judy and Mickey Rooney in a scene from Babes in Arms.
  • Decca Records label for “Over the Rainbow.”
  • Decca Records “The Jitterbug.”
  • Decca Records label “I’m Just Wild About Harry.”
  • Decca Records label “Over the Rainbow.”
  • Publicity photo of Judy and Mickey Rooney on their way to New York.
  • Two-page magazine ad for The Wizard of Oz
  • Newspaper report on Judy and Mickey Rooney being mobbed by fans at Grand Central Station, August 14, 1939.
  • Ad for the premiere of The Wizard of Oz at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.
  • Newspaper ad promoting Judy and Mickey Rooney in person at the Capitol Theatre in New York.
  • Two more newspaper ad promoting Judy and Mickey Rooney in person at the Capitol Theater in New York.
  • Judy and Mickey Rooney during a photo shoot on roller skates while in New York.
  • Three pages of color ads and an article about The Wizard of Oz.
  • Example of one of the many wonderful newspaper ads for The Wizard of Oz.
  • Judy on stage with her two new co-stars at the Capitol Theatre, Bart Lahr and Ray Bolger.
  • Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Judy, and Jackie Cooper pose for photographers in Los Angeles.
  • An example of one of the many article about Judy and Mickey Rooney that were prevalent at the time, part of MGM’s intense promotion of the two young stars.
  • Judy and Mickey Rooney in a publicity photo from Babes in Arms.
  • Herald artwork for Babes in Arms.
  • Another example of MGM’s promotion of Judy and Mickey Rooney.
  • Judy sings “Figaro” for Decca Records.
  • Three Decca Records labels.
  • Judy sings “Oceans Apart” for Decca Records.
  • Judy in her “Dorothy” costume promoting the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • Judy on the cover of the syndicated “Sunday Magazine” newspaper insert.
Filming on The Wizard of Oz Continues

January 3:  Filming on The Wizard of Oz continued with scenes shot on the “Haunted Forest” set.

Photo below:  Set design still of the Haunted Forest set taken on January 3.

January 8:  Judy appeared on the “Hollywood Screen Guild Show” broadcast by CBS Radio.  She sang “Shall I Sing A Melody” (aka “Sweet or Swing”) from Everybody Sing (released in early 1938) and “Thanks For The Memory” with special lyrics by Roger Edens.

Listen to “Shall I Sing A Melody” here:

Listen to “Thanks For The Memory” here:

January 9 through 13:  Filming of the production number “The Jitterbug.”

Photos below:  A page from the screenplay; A break in filming “The Jitterbug.”

January 12:  Scenes on the Yellow Brick Road were filmed, specifically the scene right after Dorothy and her companions wake up in the Poppy Field.

January 14 through 20:  Scenes on the interior of the Emerald City were shot, including “Who Rang That Bell?” and part of the song, “The Merry Old Land of Oz.”

Photo below:  Here’s an example of movie magic in 1939.  The Emerald City matte painting, the lit set as masked to join with the matte painting, and the final result.

January 17:  The first of three days of filming on the “Interior Emerald City” set, including the “Merry Old Land of Oz” number.

Photo below:  Behind the scenes on the “Interior Emerald City” set.

January 22:  Judy appeared on the March of Dimes radio broadcast titled “Eddie Cantor’s Council of Stars.”  No details about what Judy sang are known.  Also on this night, some markets rebroadcast the “Hollywood Screen Guild Show” originally broadcast on January 8, 1939, in which Judy sang “Thanks for the Memory.”

The last week of January was devoted to the filming of the Wizard’s balloon sequence including Dorothy’s tearful farewell to Oz.

Photos below:  Promotional photo; Screenshot of Billie Burke’s Glinda helping Dorothy finally get home.

Early to mid-February:  More filming on the “Emerald City” sets including the Wizard’s hallway, throne room, and Bert Lahr’s showcase, “If I Were King Of The Forest.”

Photo below:  Screenshot of the Wizard’s Throne Room scene where the foursome learns they have to bring back the broomstick of the Witch of the West.

February 10:  Judy attended Artie Shaw’s opening at the Palomar nightclub in Hollywood.  This was the same time that Judy fell hard for Shaw, believing she was in love with him.  Shaw did not reciprocate those feelings and when he ran off and married Judy’s friend, fellow MGM star Lana Turner, Judy was devastated.  She saw Shaw going after the glamorous Lana as hammering home the image of Judy as the “ugly duckling.”  

It was around this time time that Judy and her mom moved into their newly built home on 1231 Stone Canyon Road in the Bel Air area of West Los Angeles.  Below is a postcard showing the front of the residence.  

Mid-February through the 17th saw the filming of the “Wizard’s presentation” scene.  See the screenshot below.

These were the last scenes shot by director Victor Fleming, who had taken over in early November 1938 after the original director, Richard Thorpe, was fired and director George Cukor made changes to the looks of the main characters.  Director “King” Vidor was brought in to finish the film which included all of the Kansas scenes as well as some retakes.

Week of February 19 to 25:  The beginning of the filming of the Kansas scenes under the director of the new director, “King” Vidor.

February 23:  Vidor shot the now almost mythic “Over the Rainbow.”  Decades later, Vidor (who got his start in silent films) explained that he filmed the number similar to how he would have filmed it if it were a silent film, by keeping Judy and the camera moving throughout most of it.  It’s a masterpiece.  

Filming completed on The Wizard of Oz

Principal photography on The Wizard of Oz was completed by the second week of March.  The last scenes shot were those with “Miss Gulch” and “Professor Marvel” plus some retakes of Judy and Ray Bolger on the Cornfield set where Dorothy meets the Scarecrow.  In early May, after Judy returned from her trip to New York, she and Billie Burke filmed a few retakes/pickup shots.

The production went into a lengthy post-production process that included the recording of the background score and the creation of the myriad of special effects.  One of the more simple yet effective effects is shown below.  It’s the opening shot of the film.  On the left is the matte painting.  In the middle is the soundstage with the sides darkened.  On the right is. the final shot as it looks in the film.

Return to New York

Almost immediately after her work on The Wizard of Oz was completed, on March 7, Judy appeared on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope” broadcast by NBC Radio.  Judy sang “FDR Jones,” “Sleep, My Baby, Sleep,” and a patriotic medley.

Listen to Judy’s segment here:

Judy and her mother, and mentor Roger Edens, left for another promotional tour that included Cleveland, Ohio, and her return to Loew’s State Theatre in New York City (where she had triumphed a year earlier on her first trip to the city).  The group arrived in New York on March 31st.

April 6, 1939:  Judy appeared on the CBS Radio show “Tune-Up Time” broadcast out of New York.  She sang “FDR Jones” and “Sweet Sixteen.”

Another guest on this program was Kay Thompson, who would soon become Judy’s closed female friend when she joined the famous Freed Unit at MGM in the mid-1940s.  Her influence on Judy’s life and especially her singing style cannot be understated.  She was so close to Judy and she was chosen to be Godmother to Judy’s first child, Liza Minnelli.

Listen to “Sweet Sixteen” here:

Listen to “FDR Jones” here:

April 10:  Judy’s first night at Loew’s in New York.  According to the papers, Judy made appearances at multiple Loew’s theaters each night (see the ad above).  In one instance it was noted that when Judy played the New Jersey theater, she was “forced to appear in the lobby at the demand of her fans.”  Due to the times given and taking into account the time to travel, Judy’s appearances at the smaller Loew’s theaters must not have featured a state show but rather Judy’s greeting of her fans.

Photos below:  Newspaper clipping chronicling Judy’s appearances at theaters in and around New York City.  Similar notices were published over the next several days.

April 13, 1939:  Judy made a second appearance on the CBS “Tune-Up Time” radio show, broadcast out of New York where she was still appearing in person at Loew’s State, and other Loew’s theaters in the New York area.  It’s unknown what Judy sang.

Also on this day, in the papers, was this blurb (see below) about Judy losing a hat.  The finder was offered a chance to see Judy’s performance and to meet her.  There’s no word whether the hat was ever found.

April 14:  Judy, along with many other celebrities, attended the Press Photographers’ tenth annual ball held at the grand ballroom of the Astor Hotel in New York City.  The Astor Hotel later played an important part in 1945’s The Clock starring Judy and Robert Walker, which was Judy’s first dramatic role.

April 21:  Judy sang the National Anthem at the opening game of the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland, Ohio.  The team played the Detroit Tigers and won the game, 5-1.  

The caption for the photo below read in part: Young film star Judy Garland attends the Indians home opener at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, April 21, 1939. A month earlier, Garland had just finished work on The Wizard of Oz, the picture which would launch her career. From left to right: Indians owner Alva Bradley, Garland, Cleveland mayor Harold Burton, and Indians manager Oscar Vitt.

April 30:  Judy returned to Los Angeles, and MGM, from her personal appearance tour to New York and went directly into rehearsals for her next film, Babes in Arms co-starring Mickey Rooney.  The film was the first of their famous, and wildly popular, “let’s put on a show” series of musicals.  Most of Judy’s time between this date and July 15, was devoted to the making of the film.

Photo below:  This snapshot was taken of Judy and Mickey Rooney at MGM during the early days of filming on Babes in Arms, on May 9th.

May 1:  Either this day or on May 2nd, or both, Judy filmed some retakes/pickup shots for The Wizard of Oz with “Glinda” Billie Burke.  Only one more day of work remained for Judy which wasn’t until June 30 when she spent the day filming retakes.  It’s unknown just what “retakes” were filmed.

Babes in Arms

May 12, 1939:  Judy began filming Babes in Arms with Mickey Rooney on MGM’s Stage 3, specifically the “Interior Randall’s Office” set.  The duo performed “Good Morning” to the pre-recording they had made the day before on May 11.

Listen to “Good Morning” here:

May 14, 1939:  Judy and Betty Jaynes pre-recorded “Opera vs. Jazz” for  Babes in Arms.

Listen to “Opera vs. Jazz” here:

Photo below:  Mickey Rooney, Judy, and Betty Jaynes entertain family and friends with “Opera vs. Jazz.” 

May 23, 1939:  Judy pre-recorded her solo “I Cried For You” & the group song “Babes in Arms” (with Mickey Rooney, Douglas McPhail, Betty Jaynes, and the MGM Studio Chorus) for Babes in Arms.

Listen to “I Cried For You” (with dialog) here:

Listen to “I Cried For You” (extended version without dialog) here:

Listen to “Babes in Arms” here:

Photo below: Judy performs “I Cried for You” on May 27, 1939.

May 31, 1939:  Judy had the day off from filming on Babes in Arms, spending most of the day at the MGM portrait studio posing for publicity photos (see below).

June 10, 1939:  Judy celebrated her seventeenth birthday on the set of Babes in Arms.  She also celebrated that evening at her new home with friends and her crush, bandleader Artie Shaw.  

Over the weekend, Judy and her peers at MGM were invited to studio boss Louis B. Mayer’s beach house to celebrate.  Judy was filmed having fun with “the gang” and cutting a huge birthday cake with Mayer hovering.  Due to the fact that MGM had been shaving a year from Judy’s birth date in publicity for so long, the voiceover on the newsreel and the text in various papers incorrectly reported that it was Judy’s “Sweet Sixteen” birthday.

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June 29, 1939:  Judy’s first public performance, and first radio performance, of “Over The Rainbow” took place when she appeared on the NBC Radio show “Maxwell House Coffee Time – Good News.”  The show, which was the last of the season, was devoted to The Wizard of Oz, promoting its upcoming August release.  The show pretended to go behind the scenes of the making of the film.  It’s the only time, that we know of, in which Judy publicly flubbed the lyrics to “Over The Rainbow.”

Listen to that performance here:

Download the entire show here (zip file)

Photo below:  Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, publisher Harry Link, Meredith Willson, E.Y. Harburg, and Harold Arlen (sitting) pose with Judy prior to the broadcast.

June 30, 1939:  Judy had a short one-day break from filming Babes in Arms.   This was her last day of work on The Wizard of Oz which consisted of various retakes.  Just what those retakes were are unknown.

The Babes in Arms assistant director’s notes state: JG on Wizard of Oz retakes: [Babes in Arms] Company Not Working Due to Fact Judy Garland Working on Wizard of Oz Retakes.

July 15, 1939:  Judy entered into a new one-year contract with Decca Records.  Her mom, Ethel, signed the contract (“Judy Garland by Ethel M. Garland”) because Judy was still a minor.  The contract called for twelve songs to be recorded within the year, for which Judy would be paid a royalty advance of $250.00 per completed song.  She actually recorded seventeen songs during this one-year period.

Her royalty rate was as follows: if Judy had a song on both sides of a single, she would get two cents for each single (78) sold in the U.S. and Canada and 10 percent of the wholesale price in other countries; if Judy had only one song on one side of a single, she would get one cent per disc sold in the U.S. and Canada.  She was also paid 50 percent of whatever Decca was paid for public performances or broadcasting.  As far as what Judy would record, the contract states, “The Artist agrees to record such selections as Decca may choose within the Artist’s repertoire.”

Check out this article for details about Judy’s early association with the label and the new information about her signing either an agreement or short-term contract in late November 1935.

July 18, 1939:  Judy’s last day of filming Babes in Arms was devoted to scenes shot on the “Exterior Stage Door” (on MGM’s Lot 2) and “Interior Madox Theatre” (the “Finale” sequence on Stage 27).  Judy was on the set at 9 a.m.; lunch: 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.; dismissed: 6 p.m.  Her last bit of work on the film was on August 2, when she completed some audio synchronizing.

July 28, 1939:  Judy’s first recording session under her new contract with Decca Records.  She recorded “Over The Rainbow”, “The Jitterbug”, “In-Between” and “Sweet Sixteen.”

This was the first commercial recording of “Over The Rainbow” recorded by Judy and the first to be released on record to the general public.  It was released in September of 1939 on Decca single #2672 with “The Jitterbug” on the “B” side and peaked at the #5 spot on the Billboard charts.

Listen to the recordings here:

“Over the Rainbow”

“The Jitterbug”


“Sweet Sixteen”

July 29, 1939:  Another Decca Records recording session in Hollywood, California.  Judy recorded “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart”; “Fascinating Rhythm”; and “I’m Just Wild About Harry.”  She was backed by the Victor Young Orchestra which included Spike Jones on the drums and Perry Botkin on guitar.

Judy also recorded one “A” take of “Swanee” but that recording was rejected.  Judy re-recorded it during her October 16, 1939, session with Decca.  This rejected “A” take is not known to exist.

This was Judy’s first studio recording of “Zing!”  The song was her audition song for MGM in 1935 and she also sang it live over the radio the night her father died that same year plus on-screen in 1939’s Listen, Darling.  It would stay in her repertoire for the rest of her life.

“I’m Just Wild About Harry” was only released on Decca’s Brunswick label in England in the spring of 1940 as well as in Australia (see label below).  It was not released in the United States until 1984 when it was included on the MCA Records LP “Judy Garland – From The Decca Vaults.”

Listen to the recordings here:

“Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart”

“Fascinating Rhythm”

“I’m Just Wild About Harry”

The Wizard of Oz Premieres

August 6, 1939:  Judy and Mickey Rooney left Los Angeles for a series of four one-day theater appearances on the East Coast en route to the New York premiere of The Wizard of Oz.  The duo would, of course, promote both Oz and the upcoming release of Babes in Arms.

Photo below: Rare snapshot of Judy and Mickey at the train station leaving LA for NY.  Photo provided by Hisato M.  Thanks, Hisato!

August 9, 1939:  Judy and Mickey Rooney were in Washington, DC, which was the first leg of their short east coast tour culminating in the New York premiere of The Wizard of Oz on August 17th.

Clipping below:  While in Washington, Judy and Mickey met with boy scout C. Robert Bickling, with the manager of the local Loew’s Theatre, Edgar Doob, looks on (far left).

August 10, 1939:  Judy and Mickey arrived in Bridgeport, Connecticut (photo below).  They (and their entourage) then drove to New Haven, Connecticut, where the duo was given a reception in their honor at the Hotel Taft.  The following morning (August 11), they were driven to Hartford, Connecticut.

Photos below:  Judy and Mickey arriving in Bridgeport; the duo at the reception in New Haven.

August 11, 1939:  Judy and Mickey Rooney performed at the Loew’s Poli Theater in Hartford, Connecticut.  The duo gave four shows this day, between showings of Lady of the Tropics starring Hedy Lamarr and Robert Taylor.  They had arrived this morning from their appearance and overnight stay at the Taft Hotel in New Haven just an hour before their first scheduled show at 10:30 am.

Below:  Newspaper ad for the duo’s appearance. 

August 12, 1939:  Judy and Mickey Rooney returned to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where they performed on either this day or on the 13th (the details are unclear) before heading to New York.

August 14, 1939:  Judy and Mickey Rooney arrived at New York’s Grand Central Station at 12:10 pm to a crowd of over 10,000 fans.  They were taken to their hotel, the Waldorf, for press interviews.

August 15, 1939:  The official world premiere of The Wizard of Oz took place at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

August 16, 1939:  Judy and Mickey Rooney had a luncheon at the Waldorf Hotel in New York where met their teen representatives from the area (chosen from an MGM promotional contest).

Photo below:  Judy and Mickey at the luncheon.

August 17, 1939:  The New York Premiere of The Wizard of Oz took place at the Capitol Theater.  Judy and Mickey Rooney gave 26-minute (approximately) stage shows between screenings of the film.  The duo gave five shows a day during the week, between seven showings of the film, and seven shows per day on the weekends between nine showings of the film!  They performed from mid-morning until midnight.

Judy’s songs in the show included: “The Lamp is Low”; “Comes Love”; “Good Morning” (with Mickey); “God’s Country” (with Mickey); and “Oceans Apart.”

This engagement grossed $100,000 in its first week, with the duo performing to approximately 38,000 people per day, give or take.

“Variety,” said of their show: “It’s grade-A showmanship by both kids: they’re young, fresh, and on the upbeat in the public’s affection and imagination – a tousle-haired imp, and a cute, clean-cut girl with a smash singing voice and style.”

Photos below:  Two snapshots of Judy entering the theatre; a snapshot of Judy and Mickey on stage during one of their shows at the Capitol.

August 23, 1939:  Judy and Mickey Rooney took time out from their shows at the Capitol in New York to pose for a photo session for the “Daily News” color magazine cover. 

August 24, 1939:  Judy and Mickey took a break from their shows at the Capitol Theater and made a quick visit to the World’s Fair.  Newsreel footage and photos show them chatting with New York’s Mayor LaGuardia.

August 30, 1939:  The last day of appearances for Judy and Mickey at the Capitol Theater in New York.  They had been doing shows between showings of The Wizard of Oz since August 17.  Mickey had to go back to MGM in California.  Later that night the duo appeared a Madison Square Garden for the Harvest Moon Ball dance competition.  Some footage of the duo sitting in the audience after performing (but no actual performance video) exists and has been released on the various Oz home media releases.

Photos below:  Judy and Mickey with Ed Sullivan at the Harvest Moon Ball; snapshot of the duo outside of the Capitol Theatre taken around this time.

August 31, 1939:  Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr joined the show at the Capitol Theater in New York.  For this new show, Judy added “FDR Jones” and “Blue Evening” to the lineup.  The engagement ended a week later on September 6, at which time Judy returned to MGM.

Back to California

After the final day of shows at the Capitol Theatre on September 6, Judy returned to MGM and enjoyed a period of relative inactivity for the rest of the year.  It would be her last long “slow” period at MGM for several years.

September 24:  Judy returned to the radio when she and Mickey Rooney appeared on the “Screen Guild Theater” on September 24.  The duo sang “Good Morning” and “God’s Country,” promoting the upcoming release of Babes in Arms.

Listen to “Good Morning” here:

Photos below: Judy with Cary Grant, Mickey Rooney, Ann Sothern, and Oscar Bradley, performing on the CBS Radio show, “Screen Guild Theater.”

September 26:  Judy returned as a “series regular” on the NBC-Radio show “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.”  This was her second time as a “series regular” on a radio show, the first being from February through June 1937 on the CBS-Radio show “Jackie Oakie’s College.”  Judy sang “Over the Rainbow” and a song sketch “Start The Day Right.”  The latter was probably performed with Hope.  There are no extant recordings of this show.

Hope gave a party for Judy which included the young MGM stars of the day.  A studio photographer “just happened” to be on hand to snap photos. 

Judy would make over 25 weekly appearances on the show through May of 1940.

Photo below:  Judy is seen with Jerry Colonna at far left, and (L-R) Linda Ware, Bonita Granville, Bob Hope (sitting), Jackie Cooper, and Ann Rutherford.  Bonita Granville, Linda Ware.

October 3, 1939:  Judy’s weekly appearance on the NBC Radio show “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.”  On this night she sang “Comes Love.”  No recording of this show exists.  Below, a newspaper ad for the show.

Babes in Arms Premieres

October 10, 1939:  Babes in Arms had its gala premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  Judy was accompanied to the premiere by co-star Mickey Rooney and her mom, Ethel.  Judy put her hand and footprints in cement in the forecourt.  She was the 74th star to do so.

This was the second big premiere of a Judy Garland film at Grauman’s in just two months.  The notices on the following day reported that Judy was “acclaimed” by Hollywood.  She certainly was, and still is!

Judy and Mickey placed in the Top Ten for the year.  Judy and Bette Davis were the only females on the top ten stars list.

The total cost for Babes in Arms was $745,341.03, and it grossed $3,324,819.  Quite the return on their investment.  Judy was paid $8,833.00 for her work on the film (her contract salary).

October 16, 1939:  Judy recorded “Oceans Apart”; “Figaro,” “Embraceable You” and “Swanee” for Decca Records.  The singles were not released until the spring of 1940.

Judy had previously recorded “Swanee” for Decca during her July 29, 1939, session.  Only one take, the “A” take, was recorded.  It was ultimately rejected.  That rejected “A” take is not known to exist.

Judy re-recorded “Embraceable You,” with the opening verse, for Decca on November 4, 1943, when recording some of the songs from her recent film, Girl Crazy.

Listen to “Oceans Apart: here:

Listen to “Figaro” here:

Listen to the alternate version of “Figaro” here:

Listen to “Embraceable You” here:

Listen to “Swanee” here:

Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s “Decca Records” Section for more about Judy’s Decca recordings.

October 17, 1939:  Judy returned to her weekly appearances on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope” aired by NBC-Radio out of Hollywood, California.  She had missed the previous two weeks’ shows due to her schedule at MGM.  It’s unclear what Judy sang, and no recording of this broadcast is known to exist.

October 24, 1939:  “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.” No recordings of this show exist and it’s unknown what Judy sang.

October 31, 1939:  Judy’s weekly appearance on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.”  No recordings of this show exist and it’s unknown what Judy sang.

November 7, 1939:  Judy made her weekly appearance on NBC Radio’s “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.”  She sang a wonderful rendition of “Goody, Goodbye” which survives.

Listen to the track here:

November 14, 1939:  Judy’s weekly appearance on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope” on NBC Radio.  She sang “Dardenella.” No recordings of this show survive.

November 21, 1939:  Judy’s weekly appearance on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.”  No recordings of this show exist and it’s unknown what Judy sang.

November 28, 1939:  Judy’s regular weekly appearance on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.”  No recordings of this show exist and it’s unknown what Judy sang.

December 5, 1939:  Judy’s regular weekly appearance on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope” broadcast out of Hollywood by NBC Radio.  According to the papers, Judy was scheduled to sing “I Used To Love You But It’s All Over Now” with “special lyrics referring to Hope’s pseudo-romance with Madeleine Carroll.”  No recordings of this show survive.

December 12, 1939:  Judy’s weekly appearance on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.”  She sang “Are You Having Any Fun?”

Listen to Judy’s performance of “Are You Having Any Fun?” here:

December 16, 1939:  Judy appeared on the “Arrow Head Springs Hotel Opening Broadcast” show on CBS Radio, broadcast from Palm Springs, California.  She sang “Comes Love” at the show’s conclusion.

Listen to “Comes Love” here:

Photo below:  Magazine clipping of Judy singing “Comes Love” at the event.

December 19, 1939:  Judy’s weekly appearance on “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope.”  She sang this lovely rendition of “Silent Night.”

December 23, 1939:  The LA Times reported on a “Coliseum Christmas party” that took place the night before at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum the previous night.  Judy and Mickey Rooney were part of the lineup.

Photo below:  MGM publicity photo of Judy hauling a tree for the holidays.  The caption should read: Not only will Judy Garland sing at your holiday party, she’ll chop down the tree, haul it to your home, and decorate it!

December 26, 1939:  Judy appeared on “The Pepsodent Show starring Bob Hope.”  She sang a rare solo version of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead.”

Listen to that version here:

December 28, 1939:  Judy ended her stellar year of 1939 by going to the Hollywood premiere of Gone With The Wind at the Carthay Circle Theatre.  She was accompanied by Barron Poland.

Bonus: Wizard of Oz Gallery

Here is a sampling of some of the many newspaper ads, articles, reviews, trade ads, and more devoted to The Wizard of Oz.  The ad campaign was the biggest in MGM’s history.  It effectively saturated the public consciousness.  America and the rest of the world was being “Ozzified!”

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