Saturday, November 05, 2011

Screen Gem Saturdays: Making Over Judy Garland

Much has been written about Judy Garland and the poor self-image she had of herself, thanks to the MGM top brass. She was too fat. She wasn't young enough; she was too old. Her teeth were crooked. Her nose was wrong. Hearing those things as a teenager can be devastating; being put up on the big screen and being scrutinized by the public can make those insecurities even worse. Judy eventually got the plum role of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," but only after it was made abundantly clear to her that the studio wanted Shirley Temple. Just in case she didn't get the message that they didn't want her, the makeup wizards put Judy in a blonde wig, a false nose, capped teeth, and a ton-o-makeup. As Judy later jokingly recalled, "I looked like a male Mary Pickford!"

Under the guise of Director Richard Thorpe, filming actually got underway with the real Judy Garland buried under this layer of Hollywood artifice. Once the rushes were watched, it became painfully clear that Thorpe didn't have the right touch for the movie and that something had to be done.

Thorpe was canned and George Cukor was asked to take over the project. Not really interested in directing "Oz," Cukor turned the film down, but stayed around long enough to make a few important decisions. Cukor wisely realized that the Dorothy role was the key to the film's success, and that if Garland wasn't believable, the entire movie would flop. He had her scrubbed clean and given a makeover that more closely resembled the real Judy. With a Tinman, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Witch, it was essential that Dorothy be a real live person, otherwise the audience would have nobody to identify with. Here you can see the results of Cukor's advice:

Fifteen years later, Judy scored another triumph with "A Star Is Born." She and her husband Sid Luft put everything they owned on the line to make sure that the film was a top-notch musical. Here you can see what Judy looked like in the opening scene (with Tommy Noonan), showing off the famous Garland legs.

Recalling what happened to her during her early MGM days, there is a scene in the movie where the studio makeup team does their initial assessment of her. Talking right in front of her, they discuss each flaw of her face and hair, and bemoan the "miracle" they'll have to perform to make her presentable. Somehow, Judy was able to make a joke out of the pain of her childhood; knowing what happened to her as a child makes this scene somewhat uncomfortable to watch.

Norman Maine (played by James Mason) comes to pick up Esther (Judy) after the makeover, and initially doesn't even recognize her. Once he does, he begins to laugh out loud at the unnatural look that the "beauty" experts have slathered onto her.

Taking her into his private dressing room, Norman examines the situation.

Tapping around her face, he attempts to find out what is real and what is not.

Norman begins to peel away the artifice and restores the natural beauty that Judy Garland was able to exude without the assistance of a team of makeup artists. It is definitely one of the most touching scenes in the movie.

See more Judy Garland photos on my Judy Garland web page.


Major Pepperidge said...

If only some of that early footage could be found from "The Wizard of Oz"! Judy looks pretty cute with the long blonde hair.

Heart and Love said...

Well yeah... she had a very tough competitive job. Many people want to be an actor. She had to work so hard all the time. Had to lose weight. Hardly ever sleep. Just like on American Idol... those singers had to practice practice and rehearsed as group. And had to do well on stage. So that is how it is in Hollywood. I don't know why people are saying poor Judy. She should have retired and spent time with her children... but she chose to continue to work hard, did drugs to keep her alert and awake. Her job killed her.

Daveland said...

Ironic Blogger name considering your comment which has neither.

Anonymous said...

What were they saying was wrong with her nose that they put a fake one on? She had a tiny little nose! In fact I think young judy garland was beautiful, I don't know what more MGM could have been looking for.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know for sure if she wore a wig in the actual final version? Her hair length kept changing so I assumed it was

Unknown said...

Was that her real hair in the final version? Does anyone know for sure.

Daveland said...

Hi Cynthia - I read that there was a fall (the equivalent of hair extensions) used for Judy.

Anonymous said...

I believe that hair was braided into her own hair for the pigtails and later in the film, she wore a fall

Unknown said...

Exactly! Heart and love...really?!?! Judy was a teen. She had zero choice in the matter.