Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A movie I like (for sentimental reasons): I Could Go On Singing, 1963

I COULD GO ON SINGING, 1963. Not quite a forgotten movie, Judy Garland’s final completed film is not seen much now, but remains fascinating viewing, capturing Garland at her then peak – when she was also doing those TV shows. 

The mundane story is a mere device to showcase Garland singing, emoting and just being sensational. She is Jenny Bowman famous singing star returning to London to play the Palladium but also wanting to see the son she gave up in order to follow her career. Cue Dirk Bogarde as the icy surgeon and former lover whom the son lives with …. Judy/Jenny of course oversteps the mark when she meets the son (Gregory Phillips) and soon a battle of wills ensues between the star and the surgeon. 
This is a posh view of London – all Harley Street surgeries, helicopter rides over the Thames, posh hotels. Garland’s numbers are interestingly staged: “By Myself”, “Hello Bluebird”, “It never was you” and that title song. That long opening scene is good, when the singing star arrives at the surgery late at night, ostensibly to have her vocal chords checked, with Jenny initally nervous and then belligerent as Doctor Dirk refuses to let her see her son - who is away at boarding school, dragged up to sing Gilbert & Sullivan ! As she sings "By Myself" (a totally different reading from the throwaway Astaire one in THE BANDWAGON, with the intensity ramped up; the audience applaud as the star rushes off to continue her discussion with her manager about getting her son - the people love her but she remains obsessed in her own "lonely stage" - the film's original title.
A lull in that complex scene ?
There is the stunning dramatic scene at the hospital when the sorry for herself star and lover confront each other and their feelings; Judy has a great telephone scene too with the son. Bogarde wrote that he and Garland wrote the hospital scene themselves; it may have been a difficult shoot as he wrote in his “Snakes & Ladders” with Garland antagonising cast and crew and not trusting director Ronald Neame, who works wonders here. Judy and Dirk are the whole show, Jack Klugman plays her manager – he gets one good moment – and Aline McMahon does wonders with the underwritten role of Judy’s assistant. Garland herself is electrifying as she waits to go on stage …. Nice scope and colour compositions too. 
My mother, a Garland fan, and I went to see this at the time, while its no A STAR IS BORN, its still a satisfying view and a nice companion piece to the Cukor classic. (Judy looks just right here - by 1967 when she was supposed to be in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS she was looking painfully emaciated, as she was until her death in 1969).

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