Monday, June 14, 2010
Gene & Judy at MGM, Pt. 1
Welcome to a 3 part series I wrote detailing a very special meeting between Judy Garland and Gene Marshall. Hope you enjoy!
It was Monday, March 20, 1950; Gene Marshall would never forget that day for as long as she lived. It began with an early morning call from her friend Sydney Guilaroff, hair stylist supreme from rival film studio, MGM. Although he didn’t work at Monolithic Studios, Sydney was a close personal friend of Gene’s and often styled her hair for premieres, parties, and other special events.
“She’s coming in today!” Sydney breathlessly relayed to Gene. She knew exactly who he was talking about, even though he never said her name. “She recorded the song last week and is going to film the dance number this afternoon; please come if you could—she really could use a friend on the set.”
The “she” that Sydney was referring to was none other than the legendary Judy Garland. The last few years had been very troubling for the talented young lass; she’d been removed from a number of high-profile pictures (such as “Annie Get Your Gun”), was in a crumbling marriage to Vincente Minnelli, and was battling an addiction to pills that began from being overworked at the studio. Instead of giving their star the rest she deserved and needed after the fiasco of “Annie Get Your Gun,” MGM called her back prematurely for her next film, “Summer Stock,” and told her that she was required to lose weight—and fast! In the role of a farmgirl, the extra pounds hardly mattered. Still, Judy found herself back into the routine of taking pills to stay awake at work and then more pills to help her sleep at night. Years of doing this had finally begun to take their toll on her body.
After filming had wrapped up in early February, Judy took another break to try to get herself together and figure out just what her future held. Once again, MGM had other plans. “Summer Stock” was a cute picture, but it lacked the big production number Judy’s fans required of her. Summoning her back barely a month later, it was decided that the song “Get Happy” would provide the necessary punch.
Everyone at the studio was on pins and needles. Her recording session a few days ago had gone well; she sounded better than ever as she belted out the number. Still, she seemed so weak and tired—how could she ever pull off this solo dance number?
Gene Marshall knew that her support on the set would mean so much to Judy. They had met at several parties and always found themselves off in a corner giggling like schoolgirls. Judy had been there to help Gene with her first musical, teaching her every vocal trick in the book. When Gene was having difficulty with the steps in the “Song of Spain” dance number, Judy secretly rushed over to Monolithic and broke the difficult routine into manageable parts. On set, everyone thought that Gene made it look effortless; little did they know that MGM’s top musical star had assisted in Gene’s success! Needless to say, Gene cleared her appointment book and headed over to the MGM soundstages.
Naturally, Gene had no problem getting through the security gate! Each guard waved and smiled at their favorite beauty from Monolithic. Sydney was there at the soundstage entrance and quickly ushered Gene in. He had already done Judy’s hair and she was about to do the first run-through. “Gene, I can’t believe it,” Sydney whispered to her. “This just can’t be the same plump little girl who went home exhausted a month ago. She’s slim, trim, and full of energy! You will be shocked when you see her!”
Sure enough, Gene’s jaw hit the floor when she watched Judy step out of her trailer and onto the set. She was thinner than she’d been in years, wearing only the top of a men’s tuxedo jacket and a matching black fedora hat. Her long legs were shown to full advantage as she practically strutted towards the male dancers that were in the number with her. Judy saw Gene and gave her a loving wink, happily acknowledging the support she was showing by being there on the set. The two had just enough time for a quick hug before Judy had to get to work.
Stay tuned for part 2! Follow my Gene Marshall updates on Twitter. See more Gene Marshall & Friends photos at my regular website.