Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Talent On the Brink

A recent encounter with a rarely seen Judy Garland film made me realize that I have a hard time watching her work after a certain point. There's no lack of talent, but it does make me uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, which are explored below in this week's blog from TCM's Movie Morlocks:



Confession Time

"I can't watch Judy Garland.

Well, let me amend that a bit. I can't watch much of the work of the legendary singer as she evolved over time. Sure, I've seen 'em all at least once: from that surreal Vitaphone short with the toddler with the unlikely name of Frances Gumm dancing for her supper in Bubbles (1930), to her last appearance on film, making Dirk Bogarde more miserable guy than usual in I Could Go On Singing (1963). Yet, aside from the glimpses of the sublime in that strange yet touching waltz down the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz (1939) and the visit to that fragile, cozy world of a family teetering on the brink of the 20th century in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), the sight of this talented little heartbreaker on screen pains me a bit. It's silly, I know, but seeing her makes me hope that somehow--some sort of retrospective child labor law might save her from all that exploitation of her vulnerable talent. Maybe I ought to turn in my membership card as a classic film fan.

I probably shouldn't be counted among that army of Garland fans. Hearing her bouncing through a peppy song or achingly wring the unspoken meaning from a ballad is an aural pleasure now and then. However, watching many of her movies leaves me with a queasy feeling, similar to that guilty sensation you get when you drive by a car crash in slow motion, battling the instinct to look as well as to turn away out of respect for those caught up in the overwhelming events and fear of what your eyes might see.

As my fellow Morlock RHSmith eloquently outlined here a few weeks ago in his blog on Hollywood's scandals and audience fixation on them, I would prefer to appreciate this singer's talent without prying too deeply into her pain, voyeuristically, once again. I think that this is one reason why I was so surprised to find myself completely enthralled by Presenting Lily Mars (1943) the other day on TCM"...please click here for the rest of the post

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