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“JUDY” 2019

As the first big screen biopic about JUDY GARLAND, the new film, “Judy” is a major disappointment.
In an era where song dubbing is hardly ever done, we have Renee Zellweger  doing her own singing.  As a review in the Spectator (by Tanya Gold) said: “We are enjoined to be spellbound by a woman whose voice is barely adequate…….what is left of Judy Garland when you remove her voice….”

I also agree with Leonard Maltin who said, “Nobody ever sang – or sings – like Judy Garland and attempting to cover for her just doesn’t work.”


Renee Zellweger.

Focusing on the last 6 months of Judy Garland’s life ( before her early death at 47 in June 1969), Renee Zellweger certainly transforms  herself, as the above picture shows, but without that unique voice, she isn’t Judy.

And I don’t go along with the comments that say, well, you know, Judy’s voice wasn’t great then, as if that’s an excuse for the fact we are listening to someone who is at best an average singer.

Judy’s voice was so distinctive, even towards the end of her life.



Judy Garland

Part of the problem  with the film is that for anyone who doesnt know   Judy Garland, you might  wonder what all the fuss is about.
This film tells the story of a  woman whose life is in turmoil – she’s addicted to prescription medication, she’s separated from her children, she’s in a desperate financial state and she’s trying to honour the  contract she has to sing every night .


The only evidence that this was once a great star is in flashbacks to the set of “The Wizard of Oz”, with a ludicrous scene of Judy and MGM ‘s  Louis B. Mayer walking along the yellow brick road and ‘Miss Gulch’ riding by them on her bike!
Jumping from 1939 to 1969 without showing us how Judy arrived at the situation she was in is just bad writing.


Judy with Lorna Smith

Someone not mentioned in the film is Lorna Smith  whom Judy phoned when she arrived in London. Lorna was a longtime Judy fan who had first met Judy in  1960.

During the day Lorna worked in the Inland Revenue and every night after work she would go to Judy’s  hotel and help dress her for the performance at the Talk of the Town. Lorna would stand in the wings and be in Judy’s dressing room after the performance.

Lorna formed the International Judy Garland fan club (with Judy’s approval ) in the 1960s. Judy came to a fan club meeting at the Russell hotel in London in  1964 and sang ‘Make Someone Happy’.

Lorna is now 93 and first saw Judy in person at the London Palladium In 1951. It’s not clear whether the film producers approached her for comment.

Lorna saw Judy 6 days before Judy died and brought her pearls  as a birthday gift. Lorna also wrote a book, “Judy With Love.”

(Judy died 2 weeks after her 47th birthday.)


I’m re-watching the 2001 two-part TV series, “Me and my Shadows”, which starred Judy Davis as Garland. Based on Lorna Luft’s memoir, it uses Judy’s vocals to great effect and Judy Davis gives a great performance. (It’s on You Tube.)


Judy’s reaction to the film?


I go along with Lorna Luft who said, “If you really want to know about my mom, go see her movies and go listen to her recordings.”



I’ve just seen on the big screen the restored A STAR IS BORN – all 2hrs.57 mins. What a joy. (Even though the friend with me – that’s you,Margaret! – told me she preferred the Barbra Streisand version.)










………Is this in the top ten of the worst posters ever?! Hardly recognisable are Ray Milland and Barbara Stanwyck. I’ve clipped off the bottom of the picture in order to get a closeup of the two faces. It’s from a Spanish dvd release.

Here’s a decent one.


Victoria Mature, Alan K. Rode

…………I enjoyed on You  Tube the 2018 interview Alan K. Rode had with Victor Mature’s only child, Victoria .

Victoria’ s mother, Loretta Sebena, was Victor’s  5th wife. Married in 1974, Victor and Loretta  remained together until his death in 1999.

Victoria was born in 1975. Her mother was an opera singer and Victoria is a trained singer too – and nice to hear her sing.

Victoria Mature


Victor Mature, Loretta Sebena.

Victor was good friends with Jim  Backus ( from childhood days.)

Victor virtually retired from movies in his late 40’s and was happy to enjoy his family, friends and golf.

There’s a good website devoted to Victor –


Two of my favourite Mature films:

Jane Russell, Victor Mature, ?(Brad Dexter) .THE LAS VEGAS STORY.


Lee Marvin. j.Carrol Naish, Victor Mature, Stephen McNally. VIOLENT SATURDAY.


……….Good news for Jean ARTHUR fans. There’s a new mural (47 by 40 feet) which has been unveiled in Jean’s home town, Plattsburgh, New York. The mural is by Brendan Palmar Angell.

My only complaint – why such a serious pose?



……….Good to see blu-ray release of BLACK ANGEL (1946) from Arrow Academy on 27th January,2020. Price £15. Extras include audio commentary by Alan K. rode, a video appreciation by Neil Sinyard, gallery of stills, trailer. The first pressing will also have an illustrated collectors booklet.


………..And from The Criterion Collection in January,2020 comes HOLIDAY on blu-Ray and dvd (Region A and Region 1).

Extras include the 1930 version of the film, audio of George Cukor at the AFI In 1970/71.


Katharine Hepburn, Lew Ayres.  Cary Grant.



…………Lovely colour shot of Grace Kelly in HIGH NOON.


A foreign poster for HIGH NOON, but does that little insert of Grace Kelly  and the body on the ground reveal too much about the ending!


………..Cable channel Showtime has announced a new mini  series will be made about the life of HEDY LAMARR, starring Gal Gadot.
No doubt it will feature prominently Hedy’s involvement in inventing a radio guidance system during the Second  World War.

There is also an exhibition about Hedy in Vienna’s Jewish Museum.

The exhibition will run from November 2019 until May 2020 and focus on her time in Vienna (where she was born) and on Berlin where her acting career began.

Hedy Lamarr


……..And another great quote from that terrific book, LETTERS FROM HOLLYWOOD:

It’s 1928 and Talkies are on the horizon. Ronald Colman writes to studio executive Abe Lahr:

……”Except as a scientific achievement, I am not sympathetic to this ‘sound’ business. I feel, as so many do, that it is a mechanical resource , that it is a retrogressive and temporary digression in so far as it affects the art of motion picture acting – in short that it does not properly belong to my particular work (of which naturally I must be the best judge.)……”


Ronald, we are all glad you changed your mind (quickly!) and allowed us to hear that marvellous voice!

I think BULLDOG DRUMMOND (1928) was Colman’s first sound film.


On this day in 1925 , ANGELA  LANSBURY was born.
Angela’s career on stage,television and films is well known.
We salute this fine actress.

I will forever be grateful to have seen Angela in person at the Piccadilly theatre in London in GYPSY in 1973. A wonderful memory!


With Edith Head. THE COURT JESTER.







Irene Dunne

I loved listening to a phone interview with IRENE DUNNE from 1971. Irene was talking to a Chicago radio host,Chuck  Schaden and it was fascinating to hear her views:


I was in the original SHOW BOAT company and played a few times  in New York, and then came to Chicago, the Illinois theatre – with Helen Morgan and Charles Winninger.

I think it was a magnificent play. I did the picture a few years later – I didn’t think it compared with it.”


”There was a retrospective recently and they showed 16 of my films and I would say that CIMARRON was the only film that did not stand up. It was just a little hammy! Though it wa such a tremendous success in those days.

But the others – all those that I made with Cary Grant and Charles Boyer – they held up beautifully.

THE AWFUL TRUTH and MY FAVOURITE WIFE were very good films, directed beautifully by Leo McCarey who was one of the outstanding directors.”


”They wanted to start the series with CIMARRON but I had not seen it in many years, and I said , oh please, don’t do it – let’s start with something lighter.”


”I loved making LOVE AFFAIR. It was made during the Christmas holidays and we had a great time – it was a joy to make.
And I loved working with Spencer Tracy on A GUY NAMED JOE -a magnificent actor.

Van Johnson was out of the film (A Guy Named Joe) for ten weeks  and during that time I started another film, THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER, so I was riding on a bicycle between the two films.”

I REMEMBER MAMA was almost my favourite film because it was a character part and I had never really done that before.


”I managed to get away from the seven year contract after RKO, and then I could do pretty much as I pleased. Claudette Colbert, who was my next door neighbour for many years, I think she and  I  were the first freelance players.”


”I enjoyed my career but as I look back on it, I wish I’d had more time – I made pictures rather close together.

I think my batting average was quite good and I decided to leave it at that…..I still see my friends Loretta Young  and Rosalind Russell. I’m going to see Katharine Hepburn tomorrow night – I have already seen her in COCO. 

She and I came out to a Hollywood at almost the same time – we were on the same lot at the same time.”

(Hepburn did COCO from 1969 to 1971. Unless Irene meant she was going to meet Katharine in person, she may have been referring to Katharine’s 1971 film, THE TROJAN WOMEN.)


Some Irene Dunne photos:



Dorothy Lamour, Irene Dunne. HIGH WIDE AND HANDSOME.

Dorothy and Irene performing “Allegheny Al” by Kern and Hammerstein.



Irene Dunne, Cary Grant.


Charles Boyer, Irene Dunne.



Irene Dunne, George Stevens. I REMEMBER MAMA.


Irene Dunne, Loretta Young.


Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell.



Irene and her husband Francis Griffin.



James Stewart, Thelma Ritter. REAR WINDOW.

Nurse and patient.


Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, George Cukor.GASLIGHT.


Howard Hawks, Jane Russell, George Winslow, Marilyn Monroe. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.


Busby Berkeley, Ruby Keeler, James Cagney. FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933).

Looks  like a  rehearsal for ’ShanghaI Lil’.



Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn. .STAGE DOOR.


Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. STATE OF THE UNION (1948)



Ann Blyth, Gregory Peck. THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS.


Barbara Stanwyck, Director Allan Dwan. CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA.



Director Delmer Daves checks out the scene, with a bandaged Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the set of DARK PASSAGE.



Eleanor Parker, Robert Taylor, Director Robert Pirosh on location in Egypt for VALLEY OF THE KINGS.


Valley Of The Kings. Eleanor Parker in costume, Robert Taylor.




A superb new book by Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall gives us over 130 communications from Hollywood’s filmmakers, covering 50 years of film history.

I hope a volume 2 might be in the works!
Here are some samples:


John Barrymore writes a note to Edward G. Robinson ,praising his performance in 1932’s SILVER DOLLAR, calling it – “a superlative piece of cumulative natural acting and made one proud to be in the same game!”

Edward G. Robinson


Tallulah Bankhead to David O. Selznick In 1936:

“I feel it is only fair to tell you I will not make any more tests,either silent or dialogue, for Scarlett O’Hara , on probation.”
(Selznick has refused to guarantee her the role.)

Tallulah Bankhead


In 1939, Alfred Hitchcock, having signed with David Selznick, wrote from his home at 153 Cromwell Rd, London to Daniel Winkler of the Myron Selznick Agency, asking him to find a house for his family, including a pool for his ten year old daughter,Pat – and a nice flat for his assistant, Joan Harrison.


A lovely note from Fred Astaire to David Selznick in 1940:

“Phyllis and I have just seen “Rebecca” and really had to write this note to express how really great we think it is.

We thought  nothing could ever follow “Gone”, but this one certainly  does…..  Joan Fontaine’s performance absolutely amazing.”

Joan Fontaine


Tyrone Power to Darryl Zanuck In 1944. (Power was a Marine Corps Officer/pilot.)

”I see from the billboards that you  are not suffering any acute manpower shortage…….I trust there is still a place for me.”



Raymond Chandler , himself an alcoholic, to Charles Brackett, writer with Billy Wilder of “The Lost Weekend.”

”I haven’t the slightest doubt that it is the best picture I am likely to see this year……..the performance by Ray Milland is the finest piece of sustained acting I have ever seen in ages, and I never expected him to bring it off.”

Ray Milland


Alan Ladd’s letter of  thanks to Director George Stevens in 1951:

”I would like to repeat again how honored  I was being in your capable hands during the making  of  SHANE.”

Alan Ladd


Joel McCrea to Sam Pekinpah in 1962 after the making  of “Ride The High  Country.”

”It was a pleasure to do a picture with a man who can write, direct and knows the West…….I expect to hear big things about you in the years ahead.”

Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea


And my favourite:

RKO head Pandora Berman to Director Mark Sandwich regarding difficulties with Ginger Rogers before the start of filming CAREFREE:

”I refer specifically to a conversation you had with Lela (Rogers) in which you told Lela that if Ginger didn’t learn to improve her singing and dancing, she would at some future date find herself in great difficulties in the picture business…….

And the numerous times in which Ginger has been made to feel that she is of less importance to any given picture than Fred Astaire.”

Mark Sandwich directed five of the Astaire/Rogers films but ‘Carefree’ was his last picture at RKO. Ginger as we know went on to win an Oscar.

Ginger Rogers, Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire