Archive for Judy Garland

Mickey Rooney: From 3 to 93

Posted in Child Stars, Hollywood (History), Irish, Movies, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2013 by travsd

This photo of Mickey Rooney was taken just last week. No, no…

Judy Garland’s pal from the Andy Hardy movies was also in vaudeville with his vaudeville parents. His father was Joe Yule (who later went on to a film career in his own right) and Mickey’s real name was Sonny Yule, Jr. — billed as “Sonny Yule”. He was born in a theatrical boarding house in Brooklyn on this day in 1920 and made his debut at the tender age of 15 months. Joe and wife Nellie soon dressed the tot in a tiny tuxedo and gave him songs to sing, such as “Pal O’ My Cradle Days”. When he could handle it, they gave me him a  line of patter: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m going to sing. I’m going to dance. I want to spend my life entertaining you, and I’m going to start right now.” He kept his word.

When Sonny was about five, Joe, Sr. and wife Nellie separated. The child went with his mother to Hollywood to star in the “Mickey Macguire” series of silent film shorts, based on a popular comic strip. Now identified with the name Mickey Macguire but unable to use it for legal reasons, he became Mickey Rooney. The elf-like entertainer (he stood 5’ 3” at his tallest) passed away in 2014 at age 93

Now here he is when he was at his most amazing. This clip from Broadway to Hollywood is from 1933.

To find out more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from etc etc etc


Easter Parade — Not!

Posted in Hollywood (History) with tags , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2011 by travsd

Feeling all Eastery, and wanting to do some Easterish Easter thing on this Easterly Easter?

Well, then for God’s sake, DON’T watch Easter Parade, the 1948 Irving Berlin musical that has absolutely NOTHING to do with Easter, except for the fact that the beginning and ending scenes happen to be set on Easter Day. But in no way, shape or form is the movie about Easter or even an Easter Parade.  The film is a flimsy, craven excuse to make hay out of the titular song…and little else. It seems to me as though MGM’s famous Freed Unit simply dusted off some pre-existing script and shoe-horned it under the Easter Parade title. You could have attached it to any old song and called it any old title and made just as much sense. “Eatin’ a Hamburger”. “Walkin’ Down the Beach, Y’all”. “Look! What’s that Up in the Road Ahead?” All of these titles would have worked just as well.  It’s about this dance team, played by Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, which breaks up then gets back together. I think it would be an easy matter for me to get more  emotionally involved watching a test pattern or static. As a base, I intrinsically hate movies like this, but then to have them gyp you on the Easter angle — it downright galvanizes one, converting mere indifference into an active tizzy.


At that point there’s only one thing to do. Watch a REAL Easter movie. Might I suggest the 1971 Rankin-Bass television special Here Comes Peter Cottontail, featuring the voices of Danny Kaye, Vincent Price, Casey Kasem, and Paul Frees. Incidentally, the tale is based on the Thornton W. Burgess stories illustrated by my great-great uncle Harrison Cady, who will be profiled on this blog in a few weeks.

Judy Garland (the Gumm Sisters) and Vaudeville

Posted in Child Stars, Hollywood (History), Singers, Sister Acts, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2010 by travsd
The Gumm Sisters: Little Frances is on the right

One of the two or three major factors that led your author to the subject of vaudeville was a childhood obsession with the film The Wizard of Oz. Almost all of the major cast members were vaudeville veterans: Bert LahrRay Bolger, Jack HaleyCharley Grapewin (Uncle Henry) and Singer’s Midgets. Judy Garland, 16 at the time of her casting, had spent ten of her 13 years in show business on the vaudeville stage.

This was possible because she was born in a vaudeville family and grew up in a vaudeville house. At the time of her birth in 1922, her father Frank Gumm, a singer, and her mother Ethel, a piano player, were managing (and performing at) the New Grand Theatre in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The couple had toured for years as “Jack and Virgina Lee, Sweet Southern Singers”, but settled down to raise their three daughters. It was natural for Mary Jane, Dorothy and Frances to join their parents onstage. Frances’ (Judy’s) debut came at age 3, when she sang 7 choruses of “Jingle Bells”, to wild acclaim.

The family formed an act out of the Gumm Sisters, with Ethel as manager. They toured for a couple of years, then, in 1927, made the Los Angeles area their new home base, in the obvious hope that they’d get into pictures. Their first big break was a 1928 booking in the Meglin Kiddie’s Review at Loew’s State Theatre. “Baby” Gumm was by now the star of the act and was doing solo numbers and a Fanny Brice impression by this point. The act played all over the west, did shots on radio and Vitaphone shorts.

George Jessel is credited with giving them their new stage name. At a 1931 booking at Detroit’s Oriental Theatre where he was M.C., the girls were mistakenly billed as the “Glum Singers”. Jessel noted that “Gumm” wasn’t much better, and suggested they take the last named of NY drama critic Robert Garland.

In 1934, “Frances” decided to become Judy, which she took from a favorite Hoagy Carmichael song. At this time, the Garland Sisters had a weekly gig at the Wilshire-Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles, which is where scouts from MGM spotted her. That year Louis B. Mayer announced, “We have just signed a baby Nora Bayes.”

This was an apt characterization, for, just like Bayes, Garland combined an incredible voice with an uncanny gift to carry the emotional content of a song. She “acted” the song. Such intensity must be incredibly draining; it no doubt contributed to Garland’s emotional problems later in life.

After a couple of years cooling the heels of her patent leather shoes at MGM, Garland began to get cast. Classics include the Andy Hardy series with Mickey Rooney (late 30s—early 40s), The Wizard of Oz (1939), Babes in Arms (1939), Strike Up the Band (1940), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Easter Parade (1948), A Star is Born (1954), and dozens more.

In 1951 she headlined the revival of two-a-day vaudeville at the Palace. Originally booked for 4 weeks, Garland and the show were held over by popular demand for 19 weeks.

Garland’s last years were characterized by breakdowns, failed marriages, drug problems, collapses, and cancelled engagements, eventually ending in her unfortunate death by drug overdose in 1969. But the memory of how she was at her peak continues to endear her to millions of devoted fans.

Distinguished Progeny: Judy’s daughters Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft carry on the Gumm family tradition to this day.

To find out more about the history of vaudeville including acts like the Gumm Sisters and Judy Garland, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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