Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Renée's Judy Garland Biopic

Lord know I am a serious Judy Garland fan and have been ever since I was a little boy and Mom sat me down in front of the TV in the living room to watch THE WIZARD OF OZ. Writer Charles P. Pierce is a celebrated and sharp contributor to Esquire magazine. If you contacted him today and asked him, "What is a classic film that Bobby Rivers worships?," his immediate response would be "A STAR IS BORN with Judy Garland."  Charlie and I lived on the same dorm floor in college. He frequently heard the 1954 A STAR IS BORN soundtrack being played in my room.
Oscar winner Renée Zellweger plays the enormously talented singer/Hollywood film actress in an upcoming biopic. As much as I love Judy Garland, my initial gut-feeling is that this would be a hard sell for a big screen theatrical release. From what I have read, this film covers Garland in the last year of her life when she was not in the finest form vocally, physically or financially. She was living in London and had married for the fifth time. The superstar died in London in June 1969.
To me, Zellweger looks more like Polly Bergen from the original CAPE FEAR playing Judy Garland. I can't see millions of moviegoers heading to the box office to make this a hit biopic the way they did the mediocre but popular BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.  But I could be wrong.  Here is the current trailer for the British biopic, JUDY, starring Renee Zellweger in the lead role:
Another thing: I don't know if any big screen or TV biopic today about Judy Garland could match or top the outstanding one presented as an ABC mini-series in 2001.  Judy Davis was so sensational as adult Judy Garland in LIFE WITH JUDY GARLAND: ME AND MY SHADOWS that straight guys on New York City FM radio were raving about her performance the mornings after it aired. The feature was based on a book written by Garland's youngest daughter, Lorna Luft, and Lorna was a producer on the TV adaptation. Tammy Blanchard played young Garland as a new teen contract player on the brink of being cast in THE WIZARD OF OZ to up the laborious shoot of GIRL CRAZY, an MGM musical directed by Busby Berkeley and co-starring Mickey Rooney. Davis comes in as Judy when she's a new queen on the MGM lot about to meet Vincente Minnelli for MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and goes through her A STAR IS BORN screen comeback and Oscar nomination, her Carnegie Hall concert triumph, her CBS weekly TV variety show disappointment, her home life, marriages and motherhood.
In that mini-series, you can away with a sense of what an extraordinary entertainer and underappreciated actress Judy Garland was. You also saw that, although she was making movies which seemed to be a fun and glamorous life, by the time she was 16, she was the breadwinner of her family and putting in long hours at a factory-like studio.

Reportedly, none of her three kids -- Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joe Luft -- were involved in Zellweger's production at all.  Lorna Luft's father, Sid Luft, produced Garland's magnificent artistic and critical success in the first remake of A STAR IS BORN. The original starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in 1937. She did not win, but Garland was the favorite to win for her musical/dramatic screen performance directed by George Cukor. After the film's exclusive engagement, studio head Jack L. Warner cut several scenes from the 3-hour film without the director's approval in order to make it shorter for theater showings in wide release. Many felt his cuts cost Garland the Oscar.

Lorna has written two books. Her first was ME AND MY SHADOWS: A FAMILY MEMOIR.
Her current book hit the marketplace shortly before the Lady Gaga remake of A STAR IS BORN premiered.

Lorna Luft's A STAR IS BORN: JUDY GARLAND AND THE FILM THAT GOT AWAY goes into the making, the unkind cuts and the eventual 1980s restoration of her parents' critically acclaimed 1954 film.

Judy Garland's final film was 1963's I COULD GO ON SINGING. In it, she plays a successful American singer who has booked a concert engagement at the London Palladium. While in London, she has a bittersweet reunion with the man she fell in love with years earlier. Here she is singing the title tune written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, the men who wrote "Over the Rainbow" and all the other original songs for 1939's THE WIZARD OF OZ.



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