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May 18, 2024

Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland Together on “The Judy Garland Show” in 1963

Judy Garland was a huge star, but at age 41, her star power had faded and she was having financial difficulties. Her agent Freddie Fields signed Garland with CBS Television for a weekly variety show that would pay her handsomely and reward her with ownership of the tapes after they aired. The show, as one journalist described it, was “sometimes stirring and memorable, other times mediocre and old hat.”

The Judy Garland Show could be accused of being overproduced and burdened with a fake format. Producers and crew were hired and fired. Instead of letting Garland simply sing, CBS insisted she have tea with her guests, be cognizant of how often she touched them, and quibble on screen with her costar Jerry Van Dyke over “budgetary concerns” about the show. Of course, Judy Garland also sang all of her big hits and dueted with great stars like Lena Horne, Mickey Rooney, Mel Torme... and Barbra Streisand.

Agents David Begelman and Freddie Fields of CMA handled Garland and also wanted Streisand as a client. “[Begelman and Fields] kept calling me,” Marty Erlichman recalled, “two, three times a day. I knew they booked the Garland show, so I said, ‘Okay, you get us Judy’s show and you got Barbra.’ They did it, and we signed.”

Barbra Streisand and the Smothers Brothers were Judy’s guests for episode 9, taped at Studio 43 at CBS Television City in Los Angeles.
“[Garland] was great. She was wonderful. Loved her ... I was very secure then. I was only 21, I think. I wasn't afraid of failure or anything. But it was interesting to see someone who was so great and so famous and so gifted ... She was drinking Liebfraumilch—you know, a white wine—and her hands were shaking and she was holding onto me. I thought, what was this about? As one grows older, what is this fear? And I understand it now.” – Barbra Streisand, 2005
Rehearsals for this special episode commenced on September 30, 1963. Mel Tormé, in his book The Other Side of the Rainbow; With Judy Garland on the Dawn Patrol, explained that it was Garland who called him into her dressing room, played Streisand's record of “Happy Days Are Here Again,” and sang a counter-melody of her signature song, “Get Happy.”

“The result was electrifying, one of those chance discoveries in which two great songs jell into one extraspecial opus,” Tormé wrote.

Tormé said that Streisand was “very quiet, very friendly, very Brooklynesque” during these rehearsals. “When Judy and Barbra met,” he continued, “it was instant warmth, and I knew Garland would be on her toes all week to keep pace with this extraordinary girl.”

Streisand was called at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, October 3, 1963 to stage “Be My Guest” for the cameras. She returned after a lunch break to work on the “Happy” duet at 2:00 p.m. Then she and Garland finished the day by 5:00 p.m. staging the “Hooray for Love” medley. After an hour for dinner, the principals all returned for an orchestra rehearsal from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

The cast returned Friday, October 4th and did a run-thru from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. They taped the final show at 9:00 p.m.

CBS executives Bill Paley and Jim Aubrey were impressed with the show and asked that it be edited and broadcast two days after it was taped.

Streisand reflected that, “Extraordinary talent went into the making of this show. The director was Norman Jewison, the musical director was Mort Lindsey and Mel Torme did special musical material. There’s also a brief visit by the wonderful Ethel Merman — but most of all there was Judy Garland. Miraculous ... soulful ... divine ... Singing these duets with her was sheer bliss. I was 21 years old.”

Barbra Streisand was paid $7,500.00 to appear on the show. Streisand also received her first Emmy nomination for her guest spot — “Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program.” (Danny Kaye won that year).


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