Judy Garland


  1. Deanna Durbin, Three Smart Girls, 1937.    “Drop the fat one,” rasped LB Mayer while screening the Every Sunday short, 1936. He meant Judy, but due to a misunderstanding, Deanna was hired – and dropped six months later. Looking for a teen to stop her parents divorcing, producer Joe Pasternak checked the short again, and chose Judy – booked at Fox. He looked again and… made Durbin a star. And himself. But, withering on the Universal vine, she could never get back to join him at MGM.
  2. Eleanor Powell, Born To Dance, 1936.    When Ted met Nora… Ted was a toss-up between Allan Jones, George Murphy and the surprise winner, James Styewart (sinbging, undubbed, for his supper). Nora was aimed at Judy and the UK’s Dancing Divinity, Jessie Matthews, before Powell was signed
  3. Mickey Rooney, Stablemates, 1937.       Hollywood Reporter insisted that Judy was to be the horse-mad kid, given an old wreck due for the glue factory – and then helped by another old wreck, Wallace Beery, to make Lady Q a winner. Obviously, some MGM suit saw that Beery, as an alcoholic bum, being in such close proximity with Judy at 15 would not look, work or sell well. The Mick saved the day – and the four-handkerchief weepie.
  4. Ann Rutherford, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
  5. Anna Neagle, No No Nanette, 1939.    MGM had been keen on securing the rights for Garland and Mickey Rooney. Instead, UK producer-director Herbert Wilcox provided a lesson in how not to make a musical. He insisted that Neagle, his future wife (not known as a singer) should play what IMDb calls “perky young Nanette.” Neagle was a perky old 36! It all fell apart from, there.   Wilcox next signed a bunch of LA characters (Eve Arden, Helen Broderick, even Zasu Pitts) and gave them precisely nothing to do. And slashed the 15 musical numbers to… two!
  6. Eleanor Powell, Ziegfeld Girl, 1941.     Part of the 1938 plans with Joan Crawford and Virgina Bruce (the ex-Mrs John Gilbert).  
  7. Virginia Weidler, The Youngest Profession, 1942.   MGM bought Lillian Day’s novel in 1940 for Judy. But she was 20, too old to remain a  teenager. Weidler retired at 15 after putting her  Best Foot Forward,  her 45th film in a dozen years! Including The Philadelphia Story and The Women. 
  8. Kathryn Gayson, Thousands Cheer, 1942.        MGMusical icon Arthur Freed planned his version in 1941 with Judy as (to use the original title) Private Miss Jones. The next producer, Joe Pasternak, kept Judy (among the multi star cameos: Lucille Ball, Ann Sothern, Mickey Rooney) but made the new-Jude into his Jones. Irving Berlin’s original Broadway show had starred… siblings Fred and Adele Astaire.
  9. Katharine Hepburn, Dragon Seed, 1943.   Insulting! Pearl Buck’s book had a point – exposing Japanese atrocities in China. MGM made it a farce, with the unlikeliest-looking Chinese family ever spawned by Hollywood. Taped eyelids for Hepburn (twice Judy’s age!), Walter Huston, Aline MacMahon, Akim Tamiroff… Greer Garson and Hedy Lamarr failed their Eurasian tests for Hepburn’s Jade Tan. “Mayer must have been drunk when he called me to cast Judy as Jade,” commented co-director Jack Conway. “I talked him out of that.” Good – but Jack still blotted his copybook. “I was the one who first suggested Katharine Hepburn… Even so, I was shocked when Hepburn actually accepted the role. [Pause]. Of the 33 actors with speaking roles, only three were Oriental.”
  10. Ginny Simms, Broadway Rhythm, 1943.    First due as the fifth of the Broadway Melody series, the project was based on Broadway’s Very Warm For May (after dropping nearly all the songs by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II). Gene Kelly, Kate Smith, Fats Waller, Keenan Wynn – and the incredible Danish comic Victor Borge – were given roles or star turns by producer Arthur Freed. But it was a Judy vehicle. Until, as head lion LB Mayer churned it into a show(off)piece for his mistress, singer Ginny Simms. Good voice. Decent face. Zero charisma. He then tore up her MGM deal when she refused to marry him. Classy guy!

  11. Lana Turner, Week-End At The Waldorf, 1944.    MGM wanted Judy in the far from  illustrious re-hash of Grand Hotel – the 1944  Garbo’s role going to… Ginger Rogers! (Actually, she and Walter Pidgeon, are the best coupling in the mess). Garland had been  due for the stenographer falling for the war-wounded Van Johnson in an ensemble cast never actually seen ensemble on-screen.
  12. Lucille Bremmer, Yolanda And The Thief, 1945.     The first plan of Fred Astaire and Judy was dropped when Garland was pushed into The Harvey Girls. Fred and Judy finally happened – memorably – there years later in Easter Parade.
  13. Anne Baxter, The Razor’s Edge, 1946.     Nothing had changed in the four years that Tyrone Power had been away in WWII.  Anne Baxter was still among his co-stars as  in  his last film before enlisting in  the US Marines: Crash Dive, 1942.   Indeed, Baxter won a support Oscar as the alcoholic Sophie on March 13, 1947 – in a role rejected for  Garland by MGM  chief LB Mayer  as being “too depressing” for his  “little hunchback.”  Such a gent!
  14. June Allyson, Good News, 1946.       Garland and Rooney were set to make this as a sequel to their Babes In Arms, 1938, when chief lion, LB Mayer, felt they’d be better off with something about this, er, new, er… swing music? Hence: Strike Up The Band, 1939. One of Judy’s pet directors, Charles Walters, then made the re-make with June and Peter Lawford. The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther qwws not impressed. . Lawford, was “weak in the vocal department and practically null on his pins and June Allyson… can’t sing worth a fig.”
  15. Doris Day, Romance on the High Seas (UK: It’s Magic), 1947.      MGM would not loan Judy to any studio.  Warner offered Georgia Garrett to Betty Hutton (pregnant) and then, at one of his parties, the film’s composer Julie Styne heard a band chanteuse singing “Embraceable You.” And Michael Curtiz embraced the ex-Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, without knowing she had failed a Warner screentest. Variety called her “a charming and talented newcomer… a winner, any way you look at her!”
  16. Esther Williams, Take Me Out To The Ball Game, 1949.     All set to be KC Williams (opposite Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra) when her drug problem began being a real issue. And as June Allyson was pregnant, enter: Esther. Dry.
  17. Ginger Rogers, The Barkleys of Broadway, 1949.    A registered MGM letter sacked her and suspended her contract. “I’m missing the greatest role of my career,” she sobbed.After their accidental teaming in Easter Parade, Arthur Freed rushed up a Garland-Astaire reprise.”Judy got sick,” said Freed, the first time Garland’s “health” problems were publicised. Her vocal coach Kay Thompson more honestly put it down, with arched eyebrows, as “Drugaroonies.”So Fred ’n’ Ginger were reunited a tenth and final time and Astaire received an Oscar that year for raising the standard of musicals.

  18. Betty Hutton, Annie Get Your Gun, 1950.    
    “I bought it [for an unprecedented $700,000] to give Judy a kick,” said producer Arthur Freed. “That’s when she got sick.” Busby Berkeley started shooting and, according to choreographer Charles Walters (who wanted to direct): “He was such a brute with her – ‘You do this – like this. You do that – like that.’ There was never any diplomacy, so she soon fell apart. She’d come in, do a few days, then quit and go home.” Summoned by Freed to rescue Garland and the film, Walters saw the first ten days’ footage. “My God, it was horrible. Nothing that Buzz shot was usable.  Judy had never been worse.   She couldn’t decide whether she was Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Martha Raye or herself.” She told him: “Too late, Chuck. I haven’t got the energy or the nerve anymore.” Couple of weeks later,” she came apart at the seams. It was so sad. The studio just had to let her go.” Said Freed: “I had to take her out… The girl just couldn’t function. She couldn’t get out of bed.” Betty Hutton could.  Soon as she finished Let’s Dance, 1949.

  19. Ava Gardner, Show Boat, 1950.      Some years after Judy was given Julie LaVerne, an MGM suit discovered a contract clause allowing her a four month break between films.  Meaning the musical could not be made until 1950. By which time her contract would be finished.  Ava’s singing was dubbed. Nothing was what it seemed. Even the ole Mississippi River was really Tarzan’s lake on the Metro lot.
  20. Loretta Young, Cause For Alarm!, 1950. What an apt title… ! You are Tom Lewis. Profession: You want Garland for Ellen Jones. But your wife wants the rôle. (Young actually made plans to go to court to get the role!). So what do you do? Avoid a divorce! That came later in 1969. Ironically, their daughter was called Judy. (Her actual father was Clark Gable).

  21. Jane Powell, Royal Wedding  (UK: Wedding Bells), 1951.      The role? Fred Astaire’s sister. Judy was called up when her pal, June Allyson, was pregnant, Then, Judy was replaced, when she did not show up for work. On June 19, 1950, newspapers reported Judy had attempted suicide… using broken glass on her neck. A victim of MGM, itself, as much as the drugs (it fed her) and the booze (she fed herself), ,Judy never made another film until A Star Is Born in 1953. This one was best remembered for Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling… the song (take a deep breath), How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life… Metro tore up Judy’s contract. And replaced her in her next planned film with…
  22. Jean Simmons, Young Bess, 1952.   Back in the 40s, Queen Elizabeth I’s early years was aimed – somewhat  inaccurately – at Garland! Opposite  James Mason as her lover, Sir Thomas Seymour,  They were far better suited, the following year as Mr and Mrs Norman Maine in A Star Is Born.And it was Simmons and husband Stewart Granger helping MGM to cash in on the 1953 Coronation  of… Queen Elizabeth II.
  23. Kathryn Grayson, Lovely To Look At, 1952.      Judy was told that Ginger Rogers’ 1934 Roberta role was for her – opposite Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett.  Instead, MGM did it with the B Team. Only remembered as Zsa Zsa Gabor’s debut.
  24. Mitzi Gaynor, Bloodhounds of Broadway, 1952.   In February, producer George Jessel tried to persuade Judy to join Scott Brady in ther Damon Runyon musical. Garland passed. Enter: Mitzi… indeed a brace of Mitzis. Gaynor and Green. Madonna’s 1989 version worked better.
  25. Vera-Ellen, The Belle of New York, 1952.     Planned for Garland-Astaire in the 40s. Fred then retired in 1946 – until MGM called him for Easter Parade and a sparkling comeback, including three movies with Vera-Ellen.
  26. Debbie Reynolds, Give A Girl A Break, 1953.      Stanley Donen’s high-flying 1951 plans – Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller – became MGM’s Second XI: Marge and Gower Champion, Bob Fosse and darling Debs. With old time choreography by Kelly and (director) Stanley Donen.  (Bob Fosse did his own). 
  27. Cyd Charisse, Brigadoon, 1954.      Director Vincente Minnelli’s first choice. Obviously. (He was Judy’s second husband – of five). At least her songs would not have been dubbed by Carol Richards.
  28. Shirley Jones, Carousel, 1956.      After her comeback in A Star Is Born, it was nearly The Old Firm of Garland and Kelly as Julie and Billy. But Shirley had already headlined the previous Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammersteins filmusical: Oklahoma!
  29. Ann Blyth, The Helen Morgan Story, 1956.    “No more sad endings for me,” pleaded Judy… For six months, Warner Bros scanned some 32 possible Morgans, including Dani Crayne, Susan Hayward, Jennifer Jones plus singers Doris Day, Helene Grayco, Peggy Lee, Jaye P. Morgan, Patti Page, Keely Smith. And even fashion model Nancy Berg.   Morgan’s friends and fans were furious when director Michael Curtis chose Blyth, with Cogi Grant dubbing the songs, as neither looked or sounded like Morgan. Curtiz said Blyth was the best actress for the rôle and Grant’s voice was better than Morgan’s “kind of high-pitched, low-voiced torch singing… it’s outmoded.” So, tell another story! Berg’s life, for example, was way heavier.
  30. Joanne Woodward, The Three Faces of Eve, 1957.  Rather too close to home  for  director Nunnally Johnson’s daring first choice as the Eve of three multiple personalities. (The real “Eve” had 26!)  For some odd reason, he next considered June Allyson (!) Her husband, Dick Powell, wisely talked her out of such (monu)mental miscasting.  Johnson then went for broke with an unknown. And in her third film, Woodward won the Oscar … and eventually Paul Newman. (They wed in 1958 to his death in 2008).

  31. Mitzi Gaynor, South Pacific, 1958.   Mary Martin, Broadway’s original Nellie Forbush, was frankly too old. So, all the younger stars were checked over: Doris Day, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Patti Page, Ginger Rogers, Elizabeth Taylor. Judy was re-born sure, but now with weight problems.  As the show stopper put it…  This Nearly Was Mine.
  32. Shirley Jones, Pepe, 1960.     Plan A, circa 1958, was Judy and Fred Astaire helping to bolster the titular Cantinflas, the Mexican comic from Around The World In 80 Days in 1955.  Finally, Fred was not even one of the 80 Days-style guest stars. Garland was heard but not seen when singing “Faraway Part of Town” on the radio.
  33. Rosalind Russell, Gypsy, 1962.     Head Brother Jack Warner refused to let Judy come back as Gypsy Rose Lee’s showbiz mama because of the way Garland’’s delays had ruined the Star Is Born budget, making any profit impossible. He also refused Broadway’s Judy Holliday and Ethel Merman. Most of Russell’s singing had to be dubbed. By Lisa Kirk.
  34. Edie Adams, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1962.  Producer-director Stanley Kramer’s movie was stuffed with stars – mainly comics. Not all agreed to join the party, being terrified at the prospect of working with the great Spencer Tracy.  Hardly a problem for Judy and Mickey Rooney, originally booked as Monica and Melville Crump. But Judy had problems with her TV show, so The Mick settled for Ding Bell.  Edie, first tagged for Emeline,  became Monica, despite the car-crash death of her husband, Ernie Kovacs, before shooting began. She took the role and all following offers to pay off Ernie’s debts.   Which she accomplished
  35. Doris Day, Billy Rose’s Jumbo, 1962.  If at first you don’t succeed…  MGM’s  first cast in 1943:  Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland.  In 1947 : Frank Sinatra-Judy Garland  – or Gene Kelly-Kathryn Grayson.  1949:  Frank Sinatra-Esther Williams. 1952:  Donald O’Connor-Debbie Reynolds. 1962: Dean Martin-Doris Day. Finally: Stephen Boyd was Day’s (weak) partner in her last musical.  A flop.
  36. Ginger Rogers, Harlow, 1965.      Poor Judy had dropped so low that she actually accepted the offer of playing Jean Harlow’’s mother in one of the two rotten Jean biopix that year. Carol Lynley played Harlow.  Wisely, Judy changed her mind, fearing this Electronvision version was more than a trifle slapdash. Ginger won it from Rita Hayworth and  Eleanor Parker  and made it her final film. But Judy was right – shooting lasted just eight days!   Certainly not something she’d want to  go out on. And so her final feature remained the 39th, I Could Go on Singing, made (correctly) at the UK’s  Shepperton studios  in 1962.
  37. Susan Hayward, The Valley of the Dolls, 1967.
  38. Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967.    

    Footnote… I survived an (amazing) Evening with Judy Garland at the London Palladium in 1960,  where the largely gay audience applauded her for everything – including for bending down in mid-song to pick up her fallen hairpins.









 Birth year: 1922Death year: 1969Other name: Casting Calls:  38