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Geneon Entertainment presents
The Judy Garland Show, Featuring Ray Bolger, Vic Damone (1963)

Jane: Oh Judy, you really are a gem.
Judy: Be my guest, be my guest.
Jane: Uh, considering it was I who took your place at MGM.
Judy: Oh well, be my guest, be my guest!!

- Jane Powell and Judy Garland ribbing each other during the weekly Be My Guest segment

Review By: David Krauss  
Published: April 05, 2006

Stars: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Vic Damone, Jane Powell, Zina Bethune, Jerry Van Dyke
Director: Bill Hobin

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:40m:00s
Release Date: March 14, 2006
UPC: 013023273597
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-AA C

DVD Review

Though it lasted only a single tumultuous season, The Judy Garland Show was and is a lasting gift to the legendary star's legion of devoted fans. Sure, we love to watch Garland dance up the yellow brick road, cavort and clown with Mickey Rooney in their backyard musicals, sing The Trolley Song in Meet Me in St. Louis, and ham it up as a tramp with Fred Astaire in Easter Parade, but there's nothing quite like witnessing this brilliant entertainer sing her heart out live on stage. And for 26 glorious episodes—in various settings and with a glittering array of guest stars—she did just that. Dorothy Gale and Vicki Lester notwithstanding, Judy Garland's greatest role was just being herself, and The Judy Garland Show gives those of us who never had the privilege of attending a live Garland performance a taste of the excitement, electricity, and emotion—not to mention the powerhouse vocal talent—that distinguished hundreds of her concerts.

Several years back, Pioneer Artists acquired the rights to the original master tapes of The Judy Garland Show, and eventually released all 26 installments on DVD. A handful of shows, however, only were available as part of a pair of lavish boxed sets, but thankfully Geneon Entertainment is righting that wrong by at last marketing those rare episodes individually. Back in January, the company released two Garland discs, featuring guests Peggy Lee, Ethel Merman, Tony Bennett, Steve Lawrence, and June Allyson, and now four more programs on two separate DVDs have hit the racks. The Judy Garland Show, Featuring Ray Bolger and Vic Damone and The Judy Garland Show, Featuring Mel Tormé and Jack Jones continue to showcase the incomparable Garland, and contain several marvelous musical and personal moments that make them well worth watching again and again.

The Ray Bolger hour—which also prominently features Judy's MGM pal, Jane Powell—displays a glamorous and relaxed Garland singing a handful of songs new to her repertoire. (One of the many joys of The Judy Garland Show is seeing Judy perform fresh material, much of which would never be repeated in her post-series concerts and revues.) She opens the program with a sprightly reading of A Lot of Livin' to Do from Bye Bye Birdie, then (after her musical introduction of Powell and Bolger) warmly warbles the tender ballad, That's All, which segues into a comic rendition of the Sinatra standard, One for My Baby (and One More for the Road). Judy performs two more new songs at the end of the show, wringing every drop of emotion from When Your Lover Has Gone, and raising the roof with the defiant Some People from Gypsy.

In between, Powell and Bolger shine in solo spots, then share the stage with Garland. Bolger, of course, played the Scarecrow to Judy's Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and over tea they fondly reminisce about the film and perform an "impromptu" rendition of We're Off to See the Wizard. (Bolger also touchingly reprises If I Only Had a Brain.) Their mutual admiration and affection is palpable in this segment, as well as in an earlier duet of On the Sunny Side of the Street, which Garland croons while the 59-year-old Bolger dances an energetic tap routine. Later in the show, Powell joins the duo for a rather slapdash but entertaining run-through of The Jitterbug, a big production number cut from Oz. Powell and Garland also team (along with series regular Jerry Van Dyke) for a rollicking spoof of famous MGM duets.

At times during this uneven show, Garland seems a bit ill-prepared, fluffing lyrics or, in one instance, briefly dropping out of a duet, but her energy, enthusiasm, and showmanship carry the day. One of the hour's best segments, a mini-concert comprised of three classic Garland standards—Hello, Bluebird, If Love Were All, and Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart—was actually taped a few weeks after the rest of the program and later edited in. In fine voice and with plenty of verve, Garland nails the trio of numbers, and makes us pine for more in the same vein.

The episode featuring Damone and dancer Zina Bethune possesses far more polish, but some sub-par material keeps it from reaching its full potential. As always, Garland is a most gracious hostess, and makes both of her guests feel at ease, especially the 18-year-old Bethune, with whom she performs a charming rendition of Getting to Know You from The King and I. (As the two reveal personal likes and dislikes between stanzas, Judy confesses with impeccable comic timing, "I think warm milk is the most miserable drink in the world. I can't take it without a shot of—[dramatic pause]—CHOCOLATE in it!")

Other highlights include Judy's "Tea for Two" chat (taped a few weeks earlier) with impresario George Jessel—the man partially responsible for changing her name from Frances Gumm to Judy Garland when she was 12; Garland's exquisite solo of Moon River, accompanied by harmonica; and a raise-the-rafters rendition of one of her most beloved signature tunes, Rockabye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody. Still, the hour's indisputable highlight remains an impeccably performed medley of songs from Porgy and Bess, in which Garland and Damone alternately caress and soar through such gems as Summertime, It Ain't Necessarily So, and Bess, You Is My Woman Now. Such ambitious, sophisticated material was a hallmark of The Judy Garland Show, and the two vocalists color the challenging arrangement with beautiful emotional and musical shadings.

Like most TV series, the quality of The Judy Garland Show runs the gamut from spotty to superb, and the episodes included on this disc most definitely reside in the middle of the pack. Yet Garland's talent, warmth, and magnetism rise above any mediocre material, and make the programs eminently watchable and enjoyable. Though the television variety show may be all but extinct, Judy reminds us what a fun, exciting genre it could be—especially when she's the star.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Sublime is the only word for these meticulously remastered transfers. The Judy Garland Show was one of the first TV series to be shot on videotape instead of film, and the format lends each program a sparkling clarity and luxurious sheen—even in black-and-white. The performances thus gain a striking immediacy, giving the term "front row seat" new meaning. Yet because the master tapes were stored in less than ideal conditions for three decades, some irreparable deterioration has occurred, but this marvelous restoration masks most deficiencies. Blacks are generally rock solid, rich, and deep, while subtle accents like the sequins on Garland's gowns possess plenty of visual pop. The first half of the Damone-Bethune hour looks a bit flat and hazy, but the quality improves as the show progresses, and though some slight shimmering occasionally afflicts busy patterns, it's only a minor annoyance and never detracts from the on-stage musical magic. The Judy Garland Show is now well over 40 years old, but these terrific transfers prove just how contemporary, sophisticated, and ahead of its time this series was.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The remastered DD 5.1 track will please the most discriminating audiophile with its superb clarity, fullness of tone, and dynamic fidelity. Garland's vocals wrap around us without a hint of distortion, and no age-related defects soil the sonic purity. Scripted chatter, ad-libs, and song lyrics are all easy to understand, and the mix perfectly balances the orchestra and vocals. Garland fans won't be able to resist pushing this excellent track to its limit, but those who crave a more vintage experience can sample the equally fine original mono also included on the disc.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 31 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: Some of the Garland TV discs are packed with supplements, but the offerings on this edition are rather slim. Of special note, however, is a nine-minute clip of comedian Dave Madden (who would gain fame several years later as Reuben Kincaid on The Partridge Family) warming up the studio audience with a mildly amusing, but hopelessly dated monologue. The only other video extra is a false start of Vic Damone's solo of Let's Take an Old-Fashioned Walk.

New and exclusive to these Geneon discs are attractively designed booklets that provide background on Garland and her show. The trouble is, one must wade through a rambling narrative, poor grammar, and sloppy sentence structure to digest the information. As a rule, I love DVD production notes, but the shoddy writing and careless editing that so often pervade them really make my blood boil, and the essay included here is a prime example of both.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

The Judy Garland Show, Featuring Ray Bolger and Vic Damone may not represent the Garland series at its zenith, but it's still musical entertainment of the first order. Whether singing solo or with one of her guest stars, Garland reminds us time and again why she's such a revered performer, and her luster hasn't dimmed one iota since her death almost 36 years ago. Geneon recycles the superb Pioneer Artists transfers, which make these episodes look and sound better than ever before. Recommended.

 


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