ByAn Nguyen, writer at
College student studying English who knows more about the Batman mythos than he'd like to admit.
An Nguyen

Judy Garland is known for her upbeat roles as one of the most prominent figures in the mid 1900's. Playing in roles such as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, and hosting her own variety show on CBS.

However recently, on the front page Reddit's popular /r videos page, a video of Judy Garland performing her song "By Myself" from The Judy Garland Show surfaced itself. The video was titled "Judy Garland delivers a stunning performance on the final taped episode of her cancelled one-season variety show. Exhausted, over-medicated, and humiliated by CBS, Judy tears into it. Producers cut this performance from the final broadcast because they found it "too dark". 1964." On the subreddit.

Watch this clip, one can see how much raw emotion Garland packed into this performance. Swells of anger, tied in with beautiful vibrato, seemingly lashes out spitefully at those who have wronged her. These emotions add an extra layer of meaning to her lyrics, and every move she makes, every step she takes, every twirl of her bedazzled dress, they're strained, and seem to take more and more away from her. She smiles begrudgingly, and looks to the audience with pleading eyes as she whispers "to hell with it all..." before taking a breathe to deliver the final chorus.

According to user /u/homasecksyul:

It's a long story but the CBS execs, particularly William Paley and James Aubrey, sought to topple the #1 show on TV, NBC's Bonanza, by treating audiences to Judy every week.

Up to this point Judy had done incredibly well on TV, appearing in several hour-long specials over the previous few years, and that was the deal she and her management wanted when CBS contacted them about a series. Judy rightly knew that she was just too much for weekly TV - you don't make a marathoner sprint - and for the same $ Judy's team counter-proposed 13 one hour, monthly specials instead of 26 half-hours.

Since the early 1950s, Judy had been spending most of the year on the concert circuit and while those performances cemented her legend, they left her not especially well-off, financially, and kept her from spending much time with her children.

CBS exec James Aubrey, known as 'the smiling cobra' for his ability to flatter and wheedle to one's face while at the same time ruthlessly manipulating situations behind the scenes, played on Judy's desire for financial and familial stability and convinced her that a weekly TV series was the answer to all her problems.

The hype CBS attempted to generate for The Judy Garland Show was unprecedented - similar to how Smash was shoved down everyone's throats a few years ago. The publicity was enormous, as was the fanfare Judy was given when she arrived at CBS in the summer of 1963 to begin taping.

Judy and the production team had been promised a relatively free-hand in creating the format for her variety show, but almost immediately CBS began interfering. They fired two (2!) directors in the first 13 episodes and insisted on Jerry Van Dyke (Dick's lesser brother) be added to the show as "comedy relief". Their version of comedy relief was Jerry making jokes about Judy's struggles with weight and self-image (Garland had been gotten quite heavy prior to slimming down for her show).

The humiliation comes into play because, while CBS bought a sophisticated musical variety show for grown-ups, when it came to actually tape the episodes they used a heavy hand in attempting to channel Judy into something she wasn't.

Judy, for her part, was a phenomenally good sport for the first 13 episodes and gamely went along with skits and jokes she must have found hurtful and unfunny. The tide began to turn when she was called from taping to a CBS board room for notes. Judy was told that her frequent hugging and hand-holding of guests was making audiences uncomfortable - that CBS test audiences didn't feel comfortable having Judy in their homes. With that, Judy requested a telephone and called her very good friend, President John F. Kennedy, in the presence of the board. After confirming that Kennedy had seen the previous week's show, Judy asked how comfortable he and Jackie were with having her in their home every week. Kennedy replied he was very comfortable with Judy and looked forward to the next time they could get together. Judy's power play backfired and William Paley, CBS head, began the process of gutting her show budget, which would hopefully lead to cancellation - his words "I don't want that cunt bringing down my Sunday evening".

JFK's death in November of that year saw the loss of one of Judy's biggest supporters and the struggle she had over performing a tribute to Kennedy on the show sealed the deal. In the end, CBS, allowed Judy to sing 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' but not dedicate the performance to "Dear Jack."

As kind and supportive as CBS appeared to be when wooing Garland was as mean and vindictive as they became when it was clear Judy would never beat Bonanza. Instead of moving time-slots and giving the show a chance, as they did with many of Judy's peers - particularly Danny Kaye - they unceremoniously cancelled the series - WHILE THE FIRST SEASON WAS STILL BEING TAPED!

Judy Garland not only had to face the negativity of the CBS publicity machine working against her, she had to suffer the humiliation of finishing out her contract when she knew there would be no second season. Her dreams of stability shattered, and with only enough budget remaining for 'concert-style' shows, Judy kicked it up a notch and gave some of her finest, rawest performances in the final episodes.

I'm sad for the circumstances surrounding The Judy Garland show, but it resulted in some of the best performances of Judy's career and gives us and idea of how electric and amazing Judy was live.

Despite the underhanded dealings of CBS, Garland still delivered each and every week in spectacular fashion, and this recent resurgence of her deleted video may, hopefully, renew interest in this legend of the entertainment industry.



Did Judy Garland deserve Better?


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