TJGS Episode 10: Ray Bolger Talks to the Instruments (and They Don't Listen to Him)

Episode 10 is a cobbled together, cut and paste mess.  Having guest stars Jane Powell and Ray Bolger should have made for a great show, but instead it's amongst the worst of the series. 

One of the things I wish they would have dropped from the show completely the "Be My Guest" segment.  Once again, a guest star comes out and ribs Judy about some mistake she'd made in her past, and once again it doesn't play well.  Plus, there's this odd mixture of ad-libbing and scripted material that throws off the rhythms and makes everyone, especially Judy as the driver of the segment, look like they don't know quite what they are doing.  The sketch didn't quite know if it wanted to be loose and casual or tight and quickly paced.  As a result it isn't much of anything.  And the transitions!  They're so awkward, and having to make them look natural and organic is a near impossibility, which Judy doesn't achieve, and yet, who could?

Another reason I'm not so fond of the show is that Judy looks the least prepared that she has on any of the episodes show so far.  There's lots of manic energy and hand wringing galore as she looks every minute like she's about to go up on a line, and pulls through about a half a second late.  It's an obviously "unsettled" Garland on episode 10. 

There's this strange phenomena amongst Garland fans.  There's an urge to protect her that's stronger than with most.  We don't want anyone to think ill of her, and are so tired of the same old untruths about her that we, or I guess I should speak only for myself, I cringe every time I see her looking unprepared because it's just more fodder for the ignorant, who will of course jump to the conclusion that she's drunk.  Well, 95% of the time she's not.  But that 5% has a real impact on some, and the myths and legends surrounding it have an even greater impact.

Jerry Van Dyke had just been fired, and this would be his last episode on the show.  Garland was pretty upset by it (incidentally, at the same time she was campaigning to get Schlatter reinstated as Producer of the show) and in her few moments with him you can see even more affection than usual, as the two of them know this will be it.  Bill Hobin would soon leave the show as director, citing creative differences with Hunt Stromberg, Jr and Norman Jewison.  The production team was dividing up into sides, tensions were high, and it all had quite an impact on Garland, who started showing up late to rehearsals more often than not.  Garland was the type who soaked up the emotions of her environment, and the emotions now on the set were filled with tension.

Adding to the lack of cohesion is what seems like a mini-concert plunked down in the middle of the show, and appears to have been filmed weeks apart from the rest of the show due to the very different hairstyles and costuming.  After Judy sings a few numbers there's an abrupt cut and Judy returns in the same hairstyle and dress she'd been wearing before.

The numbers themselves are pretty weak.  Ray Bolger sings a medley of songs in a so-called rehearsal room full of empty chairs with instruments seated upon them, and he spends his entire number talking to these inanimate instruments, much as Clint Eastwood would later do at the Republican convention.  He sings, badly, every possible song with a woman's name in it.  The only enjoyable moments are when he dances. 

Judy sings "One For My Baby" as a throw away number in the middle of a comedic sketch, and I would have loved to hear her do it seriously.  Not just without all the interruptions, but with an approach that treated it as a dramatic monologue, something at which Garland excelled.

Judy, Ray and Jane sing "The Jitterbug", and it's difficult to watch.  Not just because it's overtly "cute", but there's something disconcerting about watching two middle aged women in teenaged bobby-soxer outfits.


On the upside?  It's nice to see Judy and Ray together remembering the filming of The Wizard of Oz, even with an awkward moment in which Ray mentions the first edition of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" that he had given her.  He seems pretty proud of it and she seems to have completely forgotten about it. 

There is one segment that is always a joy to watch.  No matter what else happens in the show, good or bad, as the credits roll Judy dances and cavorts, claps for the audience, shakes hands with her fans, and generally makes magic as only she can. It never disappoints.