"Judy: A Legendary Film Career"
by John Fricke
Running Press, 352 pp., $30 (deluxe coffee-table size, with hundreds of pictures)
Reviewed by David Marshall James
John Fricke has spent the past twenty-plus years standing the Judy Garland legend upright, with the accent where it ought to be--
On the artistry.
With each passing year, the power of that artistry gains further dimensions, as the realization becomes abundantly clearer that there will never be another performer with the depth of JG's talent, with the breadth of her abilities, and the extent of her accomplishments.
Fricke's third volume (the earlier ones are "Judy Garland: World's Greatest Entertainer," 1992, and "Judy Garland: A Portrait in Art and Anecdote," 2003) spotlighting JG is, as the title indicates, devoted to her film oeuvre.
Yet, that doesn't keep the author from providing basic biographical information as well as segments on her stage, radio, and recording careers.
In her heyday, at her home studio of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, from 1935 to 1950, it wasn't unusual for the "triple-threat girl" to knock off a day of filming, then head to a live radio broadcast or a recording session.
The author soon gets down to the business at hand, making a chronological examination of JG's films. For each, he provides a listing of cast and credits, a plot summary, an historical perspective on the production, contemporary critical commentary, and commentary from those who were involved in the production.
And the photos! What a stupendous selection! And what a fascinating array of fashions they supply, from the 1930s through the 1960s. How did JG, in her forties at that, ever perform on stage in four-inch stiletto heels? She never had any trouble showing off her great legs, particularly in the "Get Happy" number from "Summer Stock" (1950).
This deluxe volume (a steal at $30) also features:
A retrospective of JG's work in film short subjects, from 1929 (!!!) onward;
An informative section on all the films for which JG was suggested, considered, or even approached;
And a detailing of all the films for which JG actually commenced production, but from which she withdrew.
However, as the author points out, what's important is what there IS.
JG never made a bad film. There is no Garland film for which the viewer regrets her appearance.
She brought something significant to every one of her films, regardless of the scope of the role.
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