Judy Garland. The name still remains a memorable one for many, many people. Some remember her as the amazing legend who poured her heart and soul into every song. To others she is a symbol of their childhood, dressed in a blue gingham dress, with pigtails and sparkling ruby slippers, skipping down a magical road of yellow brick. What is it about Judy that, she is still remembered forty three years after her death?
Even way back when Judy was first born, ninety years ago today, she was a memorable child. She was the youngest of three girls. Her parents came from Vaudeville, and owned a little theatre in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. When Judy was only two she performed Jingle Bells in her father’s theatre and was adored by the audience. So, even at the age of two she was loved by audiences and continued to be loved by audiences when she and her sisters (and later just she) went around with their Vaudeville act, The Gumm Sisters. Even when singing with her older sisters, Judy was always the favourite and stood out as the backbone of the act.
She had a magic quality about her. Yes, she had a magic voice, but it wasn’t just that. Her presence could make people smile, even when she was the “ugly duckling” or “little hunchback” of MGM (as L. B. Mayer called her). When she went to MGM they hired her on the spot, without even taking a screen test (which rarely happened). Something about her made that happen. Yes, that special magical quality.
Judy never needed to try, it just came out naturally. For example in her film debut in Pigskin Parade when she sang her final number everyone burst out into applause, the extras, the actors, the cameramen, everyone. She had very little time in the picture, and was starring beside Jack Haley, Patsy Kelly, Betty Grable etc., but she still managed to steal the show. When audiences came out of the theatre they all talked about that little Garland kid. This magic quality continued through her film career, and then returned in her concert career. It never left her, not once.
She could make you cry with a quiver of her lip. She could make you smile with a scrunch of her nose. She could make your heart melt with a single note of a song. Judy just made your emotions race. It is as though she had a magic wand and could cast a spell upon you whenever she chose. That was what made Judy special. She didn’t need to sing, she could sit and talk to an audience and they would be equally pleased. I don’t think there has been an entertainer before her or after her who could/can do that. Only Judy.
So, how did Judy do it? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows. All her fans try to explain it, though it seems that there are no adequate words to describe it. I know that I myself have tried many times to explain it, to others, and sometimes to myself. I still don’t know. She had a special connection to the audience, it’s as if she wraps her tiny arms around her audiences and just sends out joy, peace, love, and happiness to them. So now, as I sit her typing the final sentences of this article, hoping my words even somewhat explain it, all I can think of is Judy. She has been in my life so long, I believe the only words I can end this on are, happy birthday darling.