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Geneon Entertainment presents

The Judy Garland Show, Featuring Mel Tormé, Jack Jones (1964)

"Days may be cloudy or sunny,
We're in or we're out of the money,
But I'm with you baby,
I'm with you baby,
I'm with you always,
Come rain or shine!"- Judy Garland, belting out the final notes of Harold Arlen's Come Rain or Come Shine

Stars: Judy Garland, Mel Tormé, Jack Jones, Diahann Carroll, Ken Murray
Director: Dean Whitmore

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:40m:00s
Release Date: 2006-03-14
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

After CBS executives chose not to renew Judy Garland's weekly television series in the winter of 1964, the embattled star thumbed her nose at the network and decided to do the season's remaining seven shows her own way. That meant breaking free from the stale, constricting formats in which she was often trapped, ridding herself of comics, dancers, and second-rate guests, and putting the artistic emphasis where it should have been all along—on music. In an unprecedented move, Garland turned her weekly show into a weekly concert, and on three occasions made it a one-woman affair—Judy, alone on the stage for a solid hour, crafting enchantment. The other four episodes featured mini-concerts of varying length, a solo spot for her designated guest star, and the requisite medley duet. Like magic, the ratings shot up, but sadly, the renewed interest came too late to save the series. Still, Garland reaped tremendous personal pride from these concert shows, which contain some of the finest work of her legendary career.

The Judy Garland Show, Featuring Mel Tormé and Jack Jones spotlights two of these classic episodes. Previously available only as part of a multi-disc collection of Garland shows, this DVD allows us to revel once more in Judy's supreme talent and showmanship. Garland once stated she always sought to give her audiences "two hours of just POW," and she accomplishes that goal with these simply produced but riveting programs. Unlike other stars who need to be meticulously "presented" to make an impression, all Garland requires is an orchestra, microphone, and empty stage to draw us in. (Oh, the hair, makeup, and couture help, but are hardly essential.) After that, we're putty in her hands, as she belts, croons, and most importantly, connects with each and every member of her audience.

After a very brief overture, Garland emerges from the wings and begins the Tormé hour (which also features a young Diahann Carroll) with a full throttle version of Hey, Look Me Over, followed by two beautiful ballads—Charlie Chaplin's Smile and the old standard I Can't Give You Anything But Love. A rousing After You've Gone (one of Garland's most requested numbers) and the haunting Alone Together come next, but nothing can prepare us for the unbridled power, dynamism, and sheer brilliance of Come Rain or Come Shine. Talk about POW! The driving Nelson Riddle arrangement is a blaze of bongos, screaming brass, and demanding vocals, and Judy rips through it like a tigress, building to an explosive, thrilling climax that deservedly earns unabashed bravos. Without a doubt, it's the highlight of the show, and one of the high points of the entire series.

After such euphoria, it's difficult to calm down, but Carroll captures our attention with a stylish solo set in which she, intentionally or not, emulates Barbra Streisand in tone and delivery. Tormé then performs an overcooked and overwrought interpretation of Blues in the Night before Judy joins him for an entertaining—if rather odd—duet of The Trolley Song told from the-boy-next-door's point of view. Despite their mutual disregard, Garland and Tormé (who worked with Judy on a weekly basis composing the show's special material) create a chummy rapport and look like they're having a ball. Then it's Carroll's turn to harmonize with Garland, and their sophisticated medley of Richard Rodgers and Harold Arlen tunes (including such gems as Dancing on the Ceiling, Ill Wind, The Gentleman Is a Dope, and That Old Black Magic) is masterfully delivered. Judy's tender reading of Jerome Kern's Don't Ever Leave Me and a spirited rendition of the optimistic anthem Great Day bring the show to a rousing conclusion.

Yet believe it or not, the mini-concert Garland performs in the Jack Jones episode is even better. A svelte Judy struts on stage wearing a sleek, zebra-striped gown and opens the hour with a tune usually saved for an encore—the powerhouse Swanee. The lively standard with its lung-busting penultimate note sets the tone for the evening, and shows Garland to be in superb voice and ready to rip into the rest of the show's musical lineup. Her patented medley of Almost Like Being in Love/This Can't Be Love features a euphoric climax, as does her thrilling arrangement of Jule Styne's Just in Time, which begins as a tender romantic statement, then, through a series of difficult key changes, builds to an explosion of sheer joy. A couple of lovely ballads, A Foggy Day and If Love Were All, sung to solo piano accompaniment, follow, and then Judy kicks off an intimate jazz combo and tears through the lightning-fast ditty Just You, Just Me. The concert sequence closes with the gorgeous Last Night When We Were Young, exquisitely shot with Judy in silhouette, and a rare TV performance of the Judy at the Palace Medley, a nostalgic tribute to the famed New York vaudeville house where Garland triumphed in 1951 and 1956. The lengthy piece includes a smattering of old standards, but the pièce de resistance is Judy's red-hot-mama rendition of Sophie Tucker's Some of These Days.

Following Garland is no easy task, but Jones (who's perhaps best remembered for singing The Love Boat theme in the 1970s) does his best with adequate but listless readings of Love With the Proper Stranger and Wives and Lovers. Unfortunately, the sublime musical mood is then interrupted by an installment of Ken Murray and His Hollywood Home Movies, a banal segment left over from the series' more traditional variety show format. Murray presents silent, informal footage of Golden Age movie stars while Garland supplies unscripted voiceover commentary often laced with welcome wit. (Astute viewers will notice Garland is wearing an outfit from the previous episode with Tormé and Carroll—a clue the segment was originally intended as part of that hour.)

Garland and Jones then team for a medley of songs associated with operetta icons Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. The pair breezes through jazzed-up versions of Will You Remember (Sweetheart)?, Rosalie, I'll See You Again, and The Donkey Serenade (made famous by Jones' father, Allan Jones), but the highlight is Garland's lovely, romantic interpretation of Lover, Come Back to Me. To close the program, Judy performs a scorching rendition of Arlen's torchy When the Sun Comes Out.

Garland was one of but a handful of entertainers who could whip an audience into an emotional frenzy, and though these two hours of POW can't quite replicate the atmosphere a couple of years earlier at Carnegie Hall (the scene of her greatest professional triumph), they provide more than a glimmer of what she could inspire when at her best. So, here's looking at you, Judy. Now and forever.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: For years, Garland fans suffered from severe eye strain as they viewed third and fourth generation videotapes of her TV series. (I should know; I was one of them.) So when Pioneer Artists (now Geneon) began releasing impeccably remastered episodes in the late 1990s, Judy's faithful rejoiced. The glorious transfers (struck from the original master tapes) highlight the supreme artistry of The Judy Garland Show, which often looks like a glitzy special instead of a run-of-the-mill variety hour. Inky blacks, excellent contrast, and breathtaking clarity distinguish almost every episode, and very little video noise afflicts the image. Unfortunately, the Hollywood Home Movies segment during the Jack Jones episode obviously was copied from a secondary source, as quite a bit of deterioration and fuzziness is evident, but that's the only blemish on an otherwise superior effort.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The remastered DD 5.1 track lends Judy's voice a marvelous depth and resonance while underscoring the nuances and subtle shadings of her performance. The orchestra sounds robust, and almost every lyric comes through clearly. No hiss, pops, or crackles intrude, and even when Garland belts at full throttle, distortion is utterly absent. Purists may opt for the original mono track, but with such dynamic 5.1 audio, there's no reason to dial Judy down.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Production Notes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes
Extras Review: A handful of interesting outtakes comprise the supplements, the most noteworthy of which is an aborted version of the dynamite Just in Time. Garland cuts the number off just as she approaches its climax, and it's fascinating to see the subtle differences between this unused attempt and the complete take that ultimately aired. (Strangely, Geneon also incorporates the outtake into the body of the Jack Jones episode, disrupting its flow.) Abandoned versions of both Don't Ever Leave Me (which outclasses the rendition that aired) and Great Day are also included, and show Garland's willingness to embrace and master new material.

A brief—albeit charming—clip of Garland joking with the orchestra between takes, and a series of final bows from the Tormé-Carroll hour complete the outtakes.

As noted in my review of Geneon's companion disc, The Judy Garland Show, Featuring Ray Bolger and Vic Damone, printed production notes take us behind the scenes, but slogging through the rambling narrative, poor grammar, and sloppy sentence structure is a chore. Garland deserves an essay as polished as her performances, but unfortunately doesn't get one here.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

It may not be Carnegie Hall, but to many of us, Studio 43 at CBS Television City is the next best thing. The Judy Garland Show, Featuring Mel Tormé and Jack Jones showcases one of the all-time great entertainers in a concert setting, belting and crooning a cavalcade of beloved tunes. Top-notch video and audio transfers, and a slew of priceless outtakes enhance this classy disc. Highly recommended.

David Krauss 2006-04-05