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Judy Garland

Judy_Garland_in_The_Wizard_of_Oz_trailer_2“Come out, come out, wherever you are and meet the young lady who fell from a star …”

When I found out that The Wizard of Oz would be coming out in 3-D to celebrate its 75th anniversary and that it would be shown in IMAX  theaters for only 1 week, I went ballistic.  I mean, I was frantic to get tickets.  It was Friday already, which meant it was opening day and probably the only day that I would be able to attend.

But would I be able to score tickets? I was certain it would be sold out if I waited and just showed up without tickets.  Surely there would be throngs  of other Oz afficionados waiting in line. Why, they would probably even be dressed up as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, or the Wicked Witch.  They might even bring their own Munchkins along with them, explaining how when  growing up they had to watch this  yearly tradition on a little black and white television.

“She fell from the sky, she fell very far …and Kansas, she says, is the name of the star …”

Alas, my companion and I were able to get in without a hitch:  there were only two other people in attendance! And this was at 4:30 on opening day. I was so disappointed. If there were any wild fans out and about, they were only there to see Vin Diesel in Riddick.

But the classic movie itself did not disappoint.  As soon as Leo the MGM Lion announced himself, I knew I was back and that this year the trip to Oz  would be spectacular.

Having  recently read the book Judy, by Gerold Frank, I was able to revisit some of the things I had heard and read over the years about the child actress Judy Garland and the making of the film that would make her a star.

Some interesting tidbits:  according to Judy, her ever-present companion in the film, Toto the terrier,  had horrible breath. All I could think about when I saw the film in IMAX 3-D was what a wonderful little actor Toto was and how he never seemed to miss any of his marks! I’d like to see a cat manage those stunts—don’t get me wrong, I’m a cat lover with three of my own—but there’s just no way.

Many  people have heard about the fact that Shirley Temple was the first pick  for the role of Dorothy. According to Hollywood’s First Choices by Jeff  Burkhart & Bruce Stuart,  not only was Judy Garland not the first choice for Dorothy, the Tin Man was originally played by Buddy Ebsen.  Unfortunately, though,  he had an extreme allergic reaction to the makeup and landed in the hospital. Jack Haley ended up with the role. W.C. Fields was first pick  for the Wizard, but he turned it down and it eventually went to the delightful Frank Morgan.

Now, about the urban legend that a munchkin can be seen hanging in the background of a scene:  I never heard about this until the age of the VCR and people’s ability to stop, rewind, play and slow-mo through movies. True, when I checked it out and researched it online, the scene did appear to have a silhouette of a person hanging in the far background. I can see where the rumor started!

But, according to snopes.com, the legend is not true—no desperate munchkin took their own life on the set of  the film!  The shadow was actually that of one of the many birds loaned to the film by the L.A. Zoo, most probably a crane spreading its wings.  But I do believe the rumor is a testament to how scared  some of us tots were with parts of this film!  The Wicked Witch had me and the Tin Man and plenty of children all over the world just shivering and clattering.

“Kansas, she said, was the name of  the star …”

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Jan 13 2010

Divas at DCPL

by Jnai W

I happen to love all kinds of music but more than anything else I love The Divas. You know the types: singing sensations who have been blessed with extraordinary musical talent, undeniable charisma and, in a few cases, possible delusions of grandeur (even though, in truth, such singers are grand). Thanks to the Library, I’ve been able to “discover” the amazing singers of previous  generations (I hate to say of past generations because, to me, that implies that their impact has somehow diminished with time). I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect upon my favorite Divas of all time:

The Greatest Star/DivaBarbra Streisand: I had been wholly unfamiliar with Barbra Streisand’s work until a few years ago.  The first record I’d ever heard of hers was The Movie Album featuring the Charlie Chaplin classic “Smile” (one of my favorite songs of all time). I remember being in awe of the power, clarity and beauty of her voice, thinking I wanna hear every song this woman has ever sung! I haven’t yet, but I figured I should start with a greatest hits compilation (The Essential Barbra Streisand is a great place to start for the uninitiated). It also occurred to me to read up on the Brooklyn-born legend so I’ve picked up a fascinating book about her, Barbra: The Way She Is by Christopher Andersen.  It’s a captivating, fast-paced read that, if any of it is to be believed, casts Streisand as the Diva of all Divas; a woman of magnificent talent, unfettered ambition and enormous ego (but what’s a diva without an ego?).

Diva SupremeDiana Ross: I’ve always loved the Supremes, probably a little more than I’d enjoyed Diana Ross’ solo work but she’s another unabashed Diva. DCPL has lots of music by Diana Ross, as a Supreme (we have this great box set, covered in magenta velvet, that I really like) and as a soloist. Also for fans of unauthorized biographies, such as myself, J. Randy Taraborrelli has written a fun, action-packed tome about this diva.

Over The Rainbow DivaJudy Garland: I’ve been a fan of Judy Garland since seeing her in The Wizard of Oz as a youngster. Her voice is an instrument of heartbreaking beauty; rich and soaring with its distinctive vibrato . The Library also has lots of music and several books about the magnificent Ms. Garland.

Material DivaMadonna: Arguably, Madonna can’t exactly hold a candle (vocally, at least) to the aforementioned Divas, even though she’s delivered many of the seminal pop classics of the late 20th century. But she is remarkable in her ability to re-imagine and reinvent herself with the times.  She’s also got several tell-all books devoted to her mythic and perhaps even cutthroat journey to the top, including one by her brother Christopher Ciccone.

I Will Always Love This DivaDolly Parton: I’ve always admired Dolly Parton as a talented, ambitious and shrewd performer, businesswoman and artist. Also, she happens to be one of my all-time favorite songwriters, having penned such classics as “Coat of Many Colors,” “Joshua” and “I Will Always Love You” (which has been covered by another Diva, Whitney Houston). Her way with words and her one of a kind, crystalline voice (not to mention her country-girl-made-good sense of style) put her into a class all by herself.

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