“Tis the season to be jolly, tralalalala…lalalala” sang Judy as she placed up the final decoration on her tree while waiting for guests to come around and spend a wonderful Christmas Eve for 1955 together. Judy and husband, Sid Luft were to play host this year for the Christmas Eve festivities. Sid and Judy then got the children, Liza, John, Lorna and baby Joey ready for bed to wait for Santa Claus to deliver their presents for Christmas morning. As always the children were a little too excited but Judy and Sid soon had them settled, especially as Judy sang “Silent Night” to them individually to get them settled.
At 8pm the doorbell rang and neighbours, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren (Betty) Bacall, were the first guests to arrive. Bogie and Bacall looked very glamorous and very much in love as always and greeted Judy with a huge embrace and kiss.
Five minutes later the doorbell rang again and it was guest number two, Doris Day, looking adorable armed with presents for everybody and accompanied by her darling Cocker Spaniel pet dog, Buffy. Judy loved dogs so always made a fuss and had dog biscuits ready for Buffy whenever Doris would visit with him.
A further ten minutes went by before the doorbell rang for the final guest of the evening, Frank Sinatra.
The evening began with Judy and Sid playing the perfect host and hostess and serving everybody drinks and nibbles. Then they all sat down in the living room all cosy by the fire as they chatted about the year gone by, the year to come and then shared anecdotes and jokes, as always Judy was the life and soul of the crowd and had everybody in shrieks of laughter with her funny stories. They all then sat and listened by the fire as Doris, cuddled up with Buffy sang a beautiful rendition of “Winter Wonderland” to the entire room.
“That was absolutely beautiful dahling!” said Judy to her
“Why thank you, dear,” replied Doris, “but no party is complete without a song from you” she said encouragingly to Judy with a wink.
Everybody then joined in, “yes, sing Judy! Sing for us at Christmas!”
“Oh, you’re too kind!” said Judy, very flattered as she got up and headed towards the piano. Playing the piano herself, which she only ever did in private or to a very select few, she started to sing her Christmas classic, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Frank looked on in awe,
Sid looked proud, Doris and Betty Bacall smiled and Bogie, being a softy at heart, had to fight back the tears from being so moved from her performance.
Once Judy finished with those famous lyrics, “so have yourself a merry little Christmas now” she then began to change the tune she was playing to “It Happened in Sun Valley” calling “Frank!!” for him to come and join her in a duet. Judy and Frank sang a very warm, rousing and cheerful duet as everybody else couldn’t help but smile and clap along. After the song had finished Frank gave Judy a big hug and wished her a happy Christmas and thanked her for having him over, especially as he had been going through a difficult break up with Ava Gardner.
Later Judy and Doris did a duet of “The Christmas Song” and Frank and Doris did a duet of a jazzed up version of “Jingle Bells” with Buffy barking along to everybody’s amusement. Bogie and Betty didn’t sing much, Betty did a little now and again, but she was reluctant to do any singing whilst in the company of three of the greatest singers ever known. Instead they both just proved to be a delightful audience and company. Whilst the men would be fixing more drinks, the three women together would discuss their children, all in bed with their nannies on hand in preparation for Christmas morning. Betty explained how they had felt so guilty leaving the children that they had let them have a present each early, explaining that if children are extra good then one of Santa’s elves will make a special delivery before Christmas Eve, but only for extra well behaved children. Judy giggled, “The things we tell our children at times!”
Later on Bogie entertained everybody with his stories of some of his location shooting with John Huston, particularly whilst filming “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “The African Queen.” As always Bogie and Frank enjoyed the refreshments a little more than everybody else and had a fair bit to drink, but only enough to make them giddy and humorous, not too much that they had no control…well, maybe a little for Bogie. It was time for Judy and Sid’s guests to be leaving, after such a lovely evening, and Bogie was on about his 10th trip to the bathroom in the past hour. Betty was waiting by the door at the bottom of the stairs for him when she heard a bang then shrieks of laughter from Bogie; also hearing the bang, Judy and Frank came rushing through. Bogie had missed a step on the stairs and instead of stepping down, he somehow found himself on his backside sat on the stairs. He hadn’t hurt himself, so he just found it highly amusing. Judy, Frank and Betty laughed with him, calling for him to get back on his feet as it would soon be Christmas.
Once Bogie was back on his feet, he, with everybody else, headed for the door. Everybody said their goodbyes to Judy and Sid and thanked them for a wonderful evening. As everybody was leaving, Judy happily looked at her beautiful friends and shouted:
“Merry Christmas everybody….and may your dreams be beautiful!”
Around 11pm Judy arrived at The Waldorf where the party was already in full swing, despite only starting half an hour ago. The band was lively and couples were already paired off dancing. Judy scanned the room, wondering whether Kristen Rae had passed the message on to Gene and wondering if he was expecting her, then from across the room saw an incredibly familiar and charming smile…it was Gene! Gene had received the message and was waiting expectedly for Judy.
Gene and Judy spent the evening talking intimately, dancing and laughing; they were having so much fun and enjoying each other’s company so much that they hardly noticed the time pass by as quickly as it did. It was early hours in to the following morning when the party came to an end.
“Well, I guess I better be getting back,” said Judy a little reluctantly
“I guess so…I’ll walk you back to your hotel,” responded Gene
“Thank you” said Judy
“Unless….,” interrupted Gene, “Let’s not go home yet…let’s spend more time together”
“What?” asked Judy “Where?”
“This is the city that never sleeps, remember” said Gene, “Let’s go for a walk along the East River”
So at 3am in New York City, Judy and Gene walked hand in hand along the river. There was a saxophone player playing close by and they both smiled as they heard that he was playing “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” from Gene’s show, “Pal Joey.” Gene held his hand out to Judy, “Dance with me?” and for the next ten minutes Gene held Judy in his arms as they danced cheek to cheek to the romantic tones of the saxophone player. After their dance, Judy and Gene sat together on a bench by the river as they watched the sun begin to rise. Every so often Gene would look at Judy and be completely taken aback by that beautiful perfect profile of hers. Eventually Gene leaned over and placed a very tender kiss on Judy’s cheek, before placing his arm around her shoulder, Judy responded by resting her head on his shoulder. After a while they turned to each other and Gene held Judy in his arms and passionately kissed her on the lips.
“I think it’s time to go now,” said Judy suddenly breaking Gene’s embrace
“Is everything ok?” asked Gene
“Yes, it’s just getting late” responded Judy
Gene offered to walk Judy back to her hotel room but she declined his offer and walked back by herself. Upon returning to her hotel she found David who had been sitting up all night worrying and wondering where she was. They got in to a brief row before Judy told David he was being unfair and he couldn’t expect her to just wait around in their hotel room while he was out enjoying himself. After a long serious discussion David realised that he had not been fair to Judy and he promised to make it up to her.
The following day Judy thought long and hard about what had happened with Gene and what she had discussed with David. She felt maybe David was sincerely sorry for treating her how he did, especially as he now realised that Judy was completely desirable to other men. Judy always wanted to do the right thing and after agonising and crying on her bed for several hours she decided that the moral and right thing to do would be to break it off with Gene and head back to Hollywood and marry David as planned. Judy called Gene asking him to meet her by the river before heading to the theatre.
At 6pm Judy arrived at The East River where Gene was already waiting
“Judy darling!” said Gene, stepping forward to embrace her before noticing Judy move away
“Gene, I’m so sorry…you have been wonderful…but…”
“..You are going to be married” said Gene interrupting Judy
Judy felt herself begin to cry:
“I really am sorry, but we’re engaged and I…I love him” said Judy tearfully
“Ok, I understand,” said Gene “But if he for one minute mistreats you or fails to appreciate you as he should, I will be there waiting…I swear it…”
“Gene, thank you for all you have done for me” said Judy before Gene took Judy in his arms and embraced her as a silent way of saying goodbye without having to really say it.
Judy and David headed back to LA earlier than planned and Judy started work on her new movie “Babes on Broadway.” In June, Gene read in the newspapers that Judy and David had eloped to be married.
Judy and David tried their best to make a happy marriage but after the attack on Pearl Harbour, David was drafted in to the army putting a strain on their marriage…and David after all did continue to play with his toy trains. Early in 1942 Arthur Freed called Judy in to his office and handed her the script to her new movie, “For Me and My Gal.”
“We haven’t decided on a leading man for you yet though Judy,” said Arthur
“Hmm, how about George Murphy?” asked Judy
“He is an option,” responded Arthur, “But we have heard about a newcomer currently making waves on Broadway…will you come out to New York to check him out with me? His name is Gene Kelly!”
The following morning David got dressed early and said his goodbyes to Judy before leaving for the toy train exhibit downtown:
“So have you decided how you are going to spend your day?” asked David
“Hmm…not sure yet,” replied Judy, “maybe shopping and coffee, see a few people”
“Well, ok then, you have a grand time” said David before placing a quick peck on Judy’s forehead before leaving for his day with his toy trains
As Judy lay in bed she pondered her day ahead and also reflected on the previous evening with Gene Kelly, “what harm could it do?” thought Judy inwardly to herself, “what harm could it do if I just invited him for a coffee and a chat whilst David is busy?” So despite her earlier reservations that she would be being disloyal to David, Judy picked up the phone from her bedside table and immediately began to call Gene.
“Hello, Mr Kelly speaking,” said the masculine voice on the other end of the phone
“Hi Mr Kelly… erm… it’s Judy Garland here….I hope you don’t mind my calling you…but….”
“Oh! Husband decided to go play with trains after all?” asked Gene to Judy’s astonishment
“Well, yes, he has gone to the exhibit downtown,” replied Judy
“Well springtime, you just stay there and I’ll pick you up at your hotel in half an hour and we’ll go for a coffee” said Gene, jumping at the chance to take Judy out, even if just for a coffee and showing her exactly how a woman of her beauty, intelligence and talent really should be appreciated and treated.
Half an hour later the bell to Judy’s hotel rang and when she answered there stood Gene looking even more dashing than he did the night before
“Hello springtime!” said Gene to Judy
“Why, hello there,” responded Judy “I really hope I haven’t troubled you…”
“Oh come on now, Judy,” said Gene interrupting “what man in their right mind wouldn’t jump at the chance to spend the morning with you?”
“Well, my husband for start,” replied Judy disappointingly
“Hmm….” said Gene as he glanced Judy affectionately up and down
Judy and Gene left the hotel and headed for a local intimate cafe on Broadway, which Gene was familiar with. During their time there they discussed music, shows, literature and Broadway and Hollywood musicals, they both found the other extremely exhilarating company and Judy had never known a man to be so giving in his time and praise for her before. Then they had a little session together at the piano in the small cafe; Gene taught Judy some of the songs from “Pal Joey” and he was absolutely mesmerised as she sang them back to him, word perfect after having heard them only once. Gene found Judy exhilarating and immediately wanted to spend more time in Judy’s company.
“What are you doing tomorrow night?” asked Gene
“Oh, I’m spending some time with David tomorrow night,” replied Judy
“Hmm…Really?” asked Gene, a little sceptical
“Well, yes from tomorrow, he has promised that we will spend plenty of time together and to dress in something special for a beautiful romantic evening” replied Judy, part hopeful, part defiant
“Ok, well I was going to say there is a party at The Waldorf Hotel after the show tomorrow night,” informed Gene, “it’s going to be a real swish affair and I would love to take the most talented and beautiful woman currently in New York to it, to show her a very special evening”
Judy felt herself blush before responding:
“Thank you so much, but I did promise my finance that I would spend the evening with him”
“Ok, fair enough,” responded Gene a little disappointed, “but if that bum lets you down again then you know where to call me…”
Gene left Judy with that thought provoking thought as she headed back to her hotel room to spend the evening by herself and wait for David to return home later that evening. Judy could only think that tomorrow she would spend all the time she hoped with David and that the evening they would have a grand old time together, yet Gene and his offer were still at the back of her mind.
Judy spent the evening in her hotel room listening to the radio and making long distance calls to her friends back in LA, catching up with things and always telling them what a wonderful time she and David were spending together…even if it wasn’t completely sincere. Eventually she fell asleep that evening and didn’t hear David arriving back at 2am in the morning. The following morning Judy awoke to David already awake and serving her breakfast in bed, Judy was ecstatic thinking this would be the start of their romantic week together.
“Baby, enjoy your breakfast,” said David suddenly, “I have to go see one of the gentleman I was jamming with last night, there is a talent scout in town and I am going to help him all I can to try and get noticed”
“But David…..”Said Judy suddenly
“Oh don’t worry darling, we will still spend our wonderful evening together tonight,” interrupting Judy to ease her anxiety, “still get yourself dressed up in that special evening gown and we will still paint the town red tonight!”
Judy relaxed a little and after she said goodbye to David, she immediately began to think about the evening ahead. She started really early getting herself ready, starting with a long soak in the bath, then primping for hours. She selected her very pale pale blue evening gown which she had been saving to wear on a very special occasion.
When 7pm arrived Judy was all ready and raring to go but David had yet to arrive back at the hotel room, Judy just presumed maybe he was going to pick her up at the hotel with flowers, just like a date traditionally would. The clock ticked by and 7.15pm came when suddenly the phone rang.
“Hello?” answered Judy a little tentative
“Judy dear, it’s David,” “I can’t get back, this audition is going on for hours and I really don’t want to leave the guy when he needs me”
“Oh ok,” said Judy disappointedly before quickly putting the phone down on David before he could hear her tears of disappointment.
Judy was extremely upset and heartbroken that once again David had let her down and again she would be spending the evening alone in her hotel room, when all of a sudden she heard Gene Kelly’s voice in her head referring to her as the most beautiful and talented woman in town. Judy once again picked up the telephone. Gene was performing in Pal Joey at this moment so Judy left a message with Gene’s assistant Kristen Rae:
“Hello, this is Judy Garland, can you please inform Mr Kelly that I will meet him for that party at The Waldorf after the show at 11pm”
To be continued…..
Judy and her fiancé, David Rose, were due to be married later in the year of 1941. They’d had a pretty stressful few months, they’d began dating late 1940 after Judy had her heart broken by Artie Shaw and both Judy’s mother, Ethel, and MGM studios had been against the marriage for a while so Judy and David decided to take a much needed break to New York in April 1941. Judy had recently finished filming “Life Begins for Andy Hardy” and was due to report to work on her next picture “Babes on Broadway” the following month, so a nice city break was much needed.
Judy was excited as a school girl as she and David departed to New York on the early morning train on that lovely Spring morning; she really felt and hoped she could have some time to just enjoy David’s company and be treated like a beautiful woman in a beautiful city, and to be treated like a grown up away from the prying eyes of her Mother and the studio.
Judy and David arrived in New York City the following day and were immediately picked up in a limousine and taken to their hotel suite to freshen up and plan how they would spend their time in New York City. The couple looked happy and excited as they made their way to the St Moritz hotel.
When they got to their hotel, they unpacked, showered and got themselves ready for a night on the town in New York City. Judy looked beautiful and fresh in a very pretty pink satin dress with a stylish white cardigan pulled over it, wearing a beautiful gold brooch; she wore her hair loose and natural and looked beautiful. Judy had noticed that David hadn’t been especially affectionate or attentive once they arrived at their hotel but she just presumed that he was preparing himself for the evening ahead, and she was relieved and touched when he informed her that they would dine at the “21” club before heading off to see the latest musical success on Broadway called “Pal Joey” at The Ethel Barrymore Theatre. So, like a little girl again, Judy got excited and began to fantasise about the beautiful romantic week that she and David would spend in New York City together; she imagined they would walk along the East river holding hands, go for romantic meals, dance to a beautiful jazz band and see some shows, at least tonight she could cross two of those fantasies off her list.
Once Judy and David arrived at the “21” club, as they were led to their table, it was clear that Judy was the hit of the evening, every gentleman in there could not take their eyes off her and the women could not be jealous of her as they were just totally mesmerised by her. Once Judy and David ordered their meals, they began to discuss how they would spend their beautiful romantic week in New York,
“David, I can’t tell you how excited I am about this trip and all the lovely things we can do,” said Judy excitedly
“Oh, I know, Judy” replied David, “There are so many things that I just can’t do in LA that I want to do this week”
“I?” asked Judy, starting to sense disappointment
“Well yes, there is a toy train exhibition in a toy store down town and I thought I’d pop along tomorrow for the day and maybe purchase some new trains….then there are some local up and coming jazz bands that are playing a few evenings and they want me to jam with them and give them some musical tips” said David not noticing the expression on Judy’s face begin to change.
Feeling her heart sinking in disappointment and sensing this wouldn’t quite be the romantic week she had envisioned, Judy humbly asked David, “and just where do I fit in to all this? What time will we spend together?”
Sensing Judy’s edginess creeping in and realising he may have been a little thoughtless and insensitive, David tried to coax her, “well….baby…I thought the times I’m busy you could catch up with your New York friends….then Wednesday evening get yourself all dressed up in something special and we’ll spend a beautiful, wonderful evening dancing together”
“Well, looks like you have it all planned out for both of us,” said Judy, still a little hesitant
“Oh baby I’m sorry,” said David “I’ll just do tomorrow at the train exhibit and one jam session tomorrow evening and then it’s Wednesday and you can have me all to yourself….and…You can decide what we do for the rest of the week…anything you want!” said David trying to coax Judy with a kiss on the forehead
Judy felt herself melt a little and come around to his plans. She felt a little silly for feeling so worried that he would neglect her and she actually, stupidly, found herself apologising to him rather than the other way around.
Once food was eaten and everything was calm, it was time for Judy and David to head off to The Ethel Barrymore Theatre to see “Pal Joey” which Judy had heard many wonderful reviews about, especially about the new leading man in town. From the moment the first note of the overture began, Judy found herself mesmerised by what she was witnessing on the stage in front of her; everything from the score, the sets, choreography and the cast just knocked her off her feet, but she was particularly smitten by this new leading man that she could see before her; he was handsome, charming and very very talented. When the show ended Judy couldn’t help herself but to jump to her feet in a burst of applause and scream “bravo!” from the top of her voice.
“Do you think we could go backstage and meet the cast?” asked Judy to David
“Judy, I think the cast would be ecstatic to meet such a star as you” answered David
“Oh please!” said Judy “Every single person in that cast is a true star!”
David led Judy backstage where they were introduced by the stage manager to several cast members including June Havoc and Stanley Donen. They were then led to the star dressing room where upon the stage manager knocked and said, “Mr Kelly, I have some special guests who would like to meet you, can I please show them in?
“How special?” shouted Gene Kelly in response
“Oh we only have the Queen of Hollywood back here!” replied the stage manager
Next moment Gene’s door flung open and there stood Judy and Gene face to face meeting for the first time. Gene flashed Judy a million dollar smile that almost knocked her off her feet.
As they were introduced to each other Judy could feel her palms sweating and her heart racing, for she found Gene even more charming and handsome off stage as he was on.
“Mr Kelly you were just sensational…I mean really marvellous!” said Judy
“Why thank you Miss Garland,” replied Gene as he took her hand to kiss it in gratitude, “that really is an honour coming from the most talented and beautiful woman in Hollywood”
Judy immediately felt the blood flow to her face as she blushed in embarrassment but also joy.
Gene introduced himself to David before asking how they would spend their time in New York, when David informed him about the toy train exhibit the following day, Gene immediately fired, “you are in New York with this beautiful wife to be of yours and all you can think of is playing with trains?” David didn’t answer just looked a bit bemused. Gene couldn’t help notice David constantly looking at his watch as if he was anxious to get out of there, whilst he found Judy utterly charming during their brief chat.
“Ok, Judy” said David eventually, “It’s getting late, we best go as I have to get up early in the morning”
“Oh ok” said Judy, rather disappointed
Gene noticed the hurt and disappointment on Judy’s face and he decided that perhaps David wasn’t quite the right man for Judy. As Judy and David were leaving, Gene briefly pulled Judy back in to his dressing room and to one side, he handed her his card and said, “here is my number, if you get bored and really want to see the delights of New York just give me a call and I’ll take you out after the show” He then again flashed that million dollar smile to Judy’s astonishment.
As Judy joined David back in the corridor backstage and as she listened to him talk about his toy trains, all sorts of exciting New York moments flashed through her head…the only problem was they no longer involved David……
To be Continued……..
Liza Minnelli behind the scenes of In the Good Old Summertime (1949)