TJGS Episode 4: Mad Guest Stars and Englishman
This is the episode where Judy talks, Lena growls, Jerry vamooses, and Terry Thomas is an all around British charmer. This is also the episode in which the CBS brass, in the form of Programming Executive Hunt Stromberg, Jr, got hands on. The Garland show was looking like it might stick around, Garland hadn't imploded under the stressful schedule as some predicted she would, and so concern began to rise and they turned, as execs often do, to the average citizen of America through the focus groups I'd mentioned earlier. They were Garland's appeal, and the fact that she didn't quite fit the CBS mold. They were worried she that America didn't find her approachable, that she was too affectionate with the guests, and so they made some "suggestions" and encouraged Garland to talk and tell stories so the audience could get to know her. They added a segment called "Tea For Two" in which Judy would chat casually with one of her guest stars, and swapped out a song for an anecdote about how she lost the Academy Award in the upcoming episode's "trunk" spot. All of this input put a lot of folks on edge, especially Judy and her producer. They'd been left relatively alone for awhile, and this new input could not be good news.
"Rainbow's End" implies that Schlatter directed Judy to make an exit from the set for awhile, as he also was largely absent, and unfortunately Lena Horne, the guest that week, was put off by it. Now, Judy was never really fond of rehearsing and thought too much rehearsing for this show would rob it of freshness and spontaneity, and in the past she hadn't needed it. She was the "one take wonder" who could pick up a dance step by seeing it once, could look at a piece of sheet music onte time and have it down pat, which even Mel Torme conceded to having seen in action. So even now, when she could use the rehearsal as her dancing chops had somewhat rusted, she didn't have the discipline in her muscle memory, and the set was hardly the pleasant place to be that it had once been, and Garland had always soaked in her environment like a sponge. So there were probably a few factors that led to her absence from rehearsals this week. Regardless, Lena was not pleased, and it shows.
Now, I, for one am leery of those who think they can read what's going on behind the scenes by body language, etc. because in a very real way the "insights" of the lightly informed often say more about the audience member than the subject. For example, people are always making sweeping statements about Garland when they watch her perform. "Oh she looks nervous", "you can tell she's really sad", "She looks drunk" and I have always been a very strong believer that
1. You see what you think you will see. You've heard that Garland drank, and are looking for are seeking evidence to prove your juicy beliefs. Trust me, you will find them even if they aren't there. As a pretty rabid fan I've seen and heard lots of footage, including occasional footage in which Garland is "overmedicated", and it's quite apparent when that's the case. Trust me, give your discerning eye a rest and enjoy what actually is up there.
2. Judy was an actress, and when she performed a song, she felt and radiated the emotions of the song and character she was playing. It's part of what makes her so special. It ain't American Idol where someone smiles, sells it, and performs vocal yoga ad nauseum, even if it's a ballad of loss. It's called acting.
If you still think you are so perceptive, let's try an experiment, if you are game. Watch Lena Horne on the show. What do you think? She sways a bit, she leers, wobbles, twitches and growls through the show, she flubs a line...she's a prime candidate to be one "drunkin punkin"! She looks drunk! And yet, she ain't drunk.
What I will posit however, based on my understanding of the show's dynamics that week, and the body language, that she seemed a bit...tense compared to her usual self. She hardly looks at Judy while performing with her. She's closed off, determined, like a locomotive chugging down the track. She's on her own. And what camaraderie there is, at least from her side, seems forced. A good example of this is the hyper-manic cackling and shaking, kicking and head tossing at the end of the "Judy Sings Lena/Lena Sings Judy" number. We get it, ladies. You are having one fucking amazing time. On the upside? Tense set or not, Lena and Judy both put out some great performances. If you are not familiar with Lena Horne, give her a listen. Lady had some pipes...
As for the rest of the show, it's certainly above par, and as a guest star Terry Thomas is just charming. He's extremely agreeable, polite, warm, and ever so British. Judy is once again looking gorgeous in this show, and she sings a really intimate rendition of "A Foggy Day in London Town" that is pretty fascinating. I've always loved watching her sing to an individual because the intimacy does something to the words, make them so...immediate.
One thing you won't see on this episode is Jerry Van Dyke. Though filmed fourth, the episode aired 10th, after it had been announced that Van Dyke was leaving the show, so his work, which is pretty enjoyable in this episode, I have to say, can only be found in the outtakes.
Final Note: I wish I could go back in time to 1963 and burn those weird trench coat gowns Judy and Lena are wearing in the opening number before they get a chance to put them on. They look like wrapped up sateen mummys. No Ma'am, Pam.