AMERICAN MASTERS “Judy Garland: By Myself”
Friday, June 22, 2012
9:00-11:00 p.m. ET on PBS
– Winner of Two 2004 Emmys Features MGM Archival Material, Rare Radio Interviews, Outtakes, Childhood Performances, Garland’s Greatest Hits and Clips From Garland’s CBS Series Featuring Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Mickey Rooney and Ethel Merman –
Picture a late night, amid the craziness of the 1960s, and see a vulnerable, largely misunderstood woman in her 40s. She’s at home, or maybe on the road again. One thing is certain: she’s alone, with just her thoughts for company, speaking randomly into a tape recorder. “I’m just trying to get a few things down,” she says. “I’m all by myself, as usual. Don’t know if anybody is interested, but I am. I’m just trying to be heard.”
The woman is Judy Garland, and heard she is, in AMERICAN MASTERS “Judy Garland: By Myself,” the first film that drew on Garland’s own words to tell her story. Culled from recordings she made in preparation for an autobiography she never finished, her writings and archival interviews, “By Myself” uniquely reveals Garland as she saw herself. “Do you realize how many people have talked about me, written about me, imitated me?” Garland says in the AMERICAN MASTERS documentary. “Well, it’s high time to stop. This is the story of my life and I, Judy Garland, am gonna talk.”
AMERICAN MASTERS “Judy Garland: By Myself” encores Friday, June 22, 2012, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET on PBS to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Garland’s birth (6/10/22), 43 years after her death (6/22/69). Actress Isabel Keating, who starred as Garland opposite Hugh Jackman in Broadway’s record-breaking hit The Boy From Oz, provides the voice of Garland and actor Harris Yulin narrates. The film won two 2004 Emmy Awards, for Writing and Picture Editing, and earned an additional three Emmy nominations. That year AMERICAN MASTERS also earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series; it has won the award eight times since 1999.
“Judy Garland: By Myself” goes well beyond a biographical recounting of a star’s rise and fall by interweaving Garland’s personal story with discerning parallels from her films. An extended sequence from A Star Is Born, intercut withGarland’s own thoughts, echoes her own broken marriages, extended bouts with addiction, spectacular comebacks and never-ending yearnings.
Of A Star Is Born,Garland — divorced, broke and unemployed by age 28 — said, “The picture had to be the greatest. It couldn’t merely be very good. I had things to prove.” Of that performance, which showcased the full range of her talents, director George Cukor said, “I knew that anyone who could sing like Judy had the emotional ability to become a great dramatic actor. I wanted very much to direct her.”
Although she described herself as just an entertainer, Garlandwas, by all accounts, the definitive entertainer of the 20th century. In an exclusive and unprecedented arrangement, Turner Entertainment granted AMERICAN MASTERS unlimited access to the archives at MGM, the mega-studio that used corsets to hideGarland’s breasts and provided uppers and downers that made the 4-foot-11 singing sensation feel like a wind-up toy.
“That’s the way we got mixed up,” Garlandsays in “By Myself.” “And that’s the way we lost contact with the world.”
Extraordinary entree to never-before-seen material allows AMERICAN MASTERS “Judy Garland: By Myself” to tell never-before-told stories, including the heartbreaking account of her CBS television series. The CBS offer was the biggest the network had ever made: a $24 million, four-year contract, with $1 million annually for Garland, who hoped the long-sought financial security would finally provide a real home for her family. The film includes extensive clips from the show, including performances with Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Mickey Rooney and Ethel Merman. But the rigors of formula TV, coupled with constant complaints from the networks president — who expressed an acute dislike forGarland — killed the critically acclaimed show, which couldn’t win in a time slot dominated by “Bonanza.”
When film and television failed her, the vaudeville veteran always returned to the one certainty in her life: her voice. Prominent in “By Myself” are extended versions of “Me and My Gal,” “The Man That Got Away,” “You Made Me Love You,” “Stormy Weather” and “Over the Rainbow,” which Garland sings with daughter Liza at her side. The film also includes footage and stills from Garland’s record-breaking appearances at the London Palladium and Carnegie Hall, where, gripped by self-doubt and terrified of failure, she received thunderous standing ovations as soon as she stepped on stage. “She rocked that theater,” actress Ann Miller says in “By Myself.” “She just ripped that audience to pieces.”
Garland’s wit and vulnerability are apparent in long-forgotten radio, press and TV interviews, including a 1962 appearance with Jack Paar. When asked what she missed most during her teenage years, when she appeared in back-to-back MGM films, Garlandsays in a Canadian TV interview: “Eating.” Even after receiving a special juvenile Oscar for The Wizard of Oz,Garland — nicknamed the “little hunchback” by studio head Louis B. Mayer — still considered herself an ugly duckling.
Instead of emphasizing her much-publicized struggles with addiction, which she fought with electric shock therapy and stints in sanitariums, “By Myself” celebratesGarland as a consummate entertainer. All told,Garland worked for 43 of her 47 years, appearing in 32 feature films, making more than 1,100 theater, nightclub and concert performances, and recording nearly 100 singles and more than a dozen albums. Performing first as a toddler, she went on to master singing, acting and dancing while raising, and largely supporting, three children caught in a very public spotlight.
The film also explores the star’s complex personal life, including a critical marriage to a much-older Vincente Minnelli, who, like Garland’s beloved father, was rumored to be gay. Genuine insight into Garlandherself — the roots of her storied problems as well as her indomitable spirit — are provided by intimates such as Minnelli and A Star Is Born director Cukor, who said ofGarland, “She had an innate intelligence to her. She could have you screaming with laughter … She was the most marvelous company.”
Never a quitter,Garlandperformed until her abrupt end in 1969. Says director Joe Mankiewicz, “You’re not going to close the book on Judy Garland. Oh no. I don’t think anybody’s going to close the book on her.”
Now in its 26th season, AMERICAN MASTERS is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET, the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations, and operator of NJTV. For nearly 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local documentaries and other programs to the New York community.
Underwriters: American Century Investments, National Endowment for the Arts, Rosalind P. Walter, Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Jack Rudin, Andre and Elizabeth Kertsz Foundation, Public Television Viewers, PBS and Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Co-producers: Turner Entertainment and American Masters
Series creator/executive producer: Susan Lacy
Director: Susan Lacy
Producers: Susan Lacy and John Fricke
Writers: Susan Lacy and Stephen Stept
Format: CC Stereo
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