We've been marking the centennial of Judy Garland all weekend long. She was born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota on June 10th 1922. We started, somewhat counter-intuitively, with her closing theme, at the end of Friday's Clubland Q&A. Next came Renée Zellweger's Oscar-winning performance in the 2019 biopic Judy, and Mark's widely acclaimed essay on Miss Garland's least worst husband. Let's round things out with her signature song with a replay of this Serenade Radio edition of Steyn's Song of the Week.
This episode celebrates an unlikely number for a little girl that became one of the most beloved of all movie songs, albeit freighted by the premature death not just of Judy but of almost all its other most celebrated singers, one after the other. We'll try not to get too gloomy about it, and, if you have no need for professional specialized vocalists, you'll enjoy both the lyricist and the composer having a warble - plus a song from the original stage production of The Wizard of Oz from 1902, and a rare outtake by Garland from the famous film.
Click above to listen.
Thank you for your enthusiastic comments about this series. Upon the original broadcast of this show, Rich Klein, a First Weekend Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, wote:
I just love these backstories of famous songs. And young Judy Garland's voice, just pure and perfect. And the cutting room floor sad rendition by imprisoned Judy ... I guess that's what can be called God-given talent. Thanks again.
Thank you, Rich. Calvert Whitehurst, a First Week Founding Member, added:
Just when one thinks that one knew pretty much everything there was to know about The Wizard of Oz, hearing Judy Garland's tremulous and terrified reprise of 'Over the Rainbow' while Dorothy is held captive by the Wicked Witch - which I can certainly understand why it was cut from the final release for being just too terrifying for younger audience members - was a revelation.
At the beginning of 1937, Louis Mayer and Darryl Zanuck sat down and worked out a deal in which MGM would borrow Shirley Temple from 20th Century-Fox for "The Wizard of Oz" and Fox would get Clark Gable and Jean Harlow in return for its production of "In Old Chicago." The deal fell through when Harlow died - which was too bad for Harlow and her legion of fans, but instrumental in making "The Wizard of Oz" the classic it became. First, Shirley could certainly have handled "We're Off to See the Wizard" and "Merry Old Land of Oz," but "Over the Rainbow" was definitely out of her league. And second, while Shirley could cry and show fear with the best of them, she had an underlying pluckiness - the viewer always knew she'd come out okay in the end. Whereas Judy Garland's performance - her ability to convey desperation gradually giving way to terror - is so compelling that no matter how many times I have seen "The Wizard of Oz" somewhere in the back of my mind is the worry that this time Dorothy will not escape.
This airing of Steyn's Serenade Song of the Week is a special presentation of The Mark Steyn Club. We launched the Steyn Club five years ago, and as we start our sixth year we'res immensely heartened by all the longtime SteynOnline regulars - from Fargo to Fiji, Madrid to Malaysia, West Virginia to Witless Bay - who've signed up to be a part of it. Membership in The Mark Steyn Club also comes with non-musical benefits, including:
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~Steyn's Song of the Week airs thrice weekly on Serenade Radio in the UK, one or other of which broadcasts is certain to be convenient for whichever part of the world you're in:
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5.30am Monday London (4.30pm Sydney)
9pm Thursday London (1pm Vancouver)
Whichever you prefer, we hope you'll tune in. You can listen from anywhere on the planet right here.
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