THE JUDY GARLAND CHRISTMAS SHOW (1963) is actually an special episode of Judy's short-lived CBS variety series. When a Christmas episode starts out with snow in Los Angeles you know you're in for a treat. When it's sponsored by Contac time-release capsules - you are in "huh?" TV heaven!
Well, things get off to a nice start as Judy sings her official holiday tune - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" which she introduced in the film MEET ME IN ST LOUIS. As she sings she cuddles with her young son Joe, constantly touching him and even rubbing noses with him all the while poor big sister Lorna stands by attentively and must settle for a slight tap on the hand. Judy then welcomes the viewers to her "home" and tells them that tonight she's staying home with her family (i.e. - no booze and pills for Mama tonight!). She then confides in us that her eldest daughter, 17-year old Liza is out skating with her "beau".
Judy then leads the kids in a rousing rendition of "Consider Yourself at Home" from the musical OLIVER! as she takes the viewer on a tour of her living room set. This makes me wonder why CBS choose to air this series in black & white - since it was originally broadcast on Sunday nights - opposite NBC's BONANZA - which was brought to you in "living color". Go figure.
Next up is the first Contac commercial - which had a soundtrack that sounds similar to Bernard Herrmann's PSYCHO score. Speaking of psycho, after the commercial break Liza storms in the door, ignoring her little sister Lorna and pretending to not know that she's on Mama's TV show. So they finish up the OLIVER song and hoist little Joe up on the piano where he bravely struggles his way through another song from OLIVER as Judy proudly looks on. Lorna sits quitely and pretends that she is loved.
After Joe's solo number, Liza's "beau" - choreographer Tracy Everitt - arrives wearing a sweater borrowed from LOST IN SPACE and black pants that are tighter than Liza's Capezios. I surmise that Tracy is the first in a string of painfully sexy and marginally talented young men that will break Liza's heart over the years. Today, Mr. Everitt teaches dance classes in Hoboken, NJ. For real. Google him.
Liza convinces the family to watch as she and Tracy perform "Steam Heat" as a pitch for Judy's stage act. The Fosse-like dance steps overwhelm Judy who jokingly asks them how long it took them to learn their little routine. When Tracy delivers his "two and a half years" punchline, you can hear crickets in the studio. So Tracy and Liza take little Joe over to the Christmas tree so Judy can warble a tune from her animated film GAY PURR-EE. No one even wonders where Lorna is - I think she's in her room crying at this point.
Next up is another great Contac commercial featuring characters from THE WIZARD OF OZ in stop-motion animation, complaining of flu and cold symptoms. Amazing.
After the ad, handsome family friend and LOVE BOAT theme crooner Jack Jones shows up singing "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" from MY FAIR LADY and another song called "Lollipops and Roses". He looks at Lorna as if to say "How did the neighbor's kid get in here? Don't you people have locks on your doors?" Afterwards, Lorna tries to get attention from Mr. Jones by convincing him to let her sit on his lap and sing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Didn't this happen in LOLITA too? Meanwhile, Liza seems slightly annoyed that Lorna is getting any airtime at all, but decides to let this one slide.
Next up is an ad from Judy's "alternate sponsor" Pall Mall cigarettes! First pills, now ciggies - what's next Jack Daniels? Oddly, the announcer pronounces the brand as "Pell Mell".
After the 'cancer sticks' ad, Liza sings a boring song as Tracy fiddles with a small package he has placed near his crotch. Huh?
After her solo number, Liza steals more camera time by getting under a blanket with Jack and Judy for a medley of snow songs - but they are rudely interrupted by a gang of Charleston-dancing Santas who crash the party - no doubt looking for pills and cigarettes! This is followed by an ad for Thrill dish soap - "it's like getting a new pair of hands in just 14 days!". Wow - what a tagline. There needs to be an episode of MAD MEN about that campaign!
After the dish soap commercial, the caroler's arrive - led by Judy's backstage nemesis Mel Torme (who I think she calls "Mort") - aka the Velvet Fog - aka the bastard who was hired to fix Judy's show. As scripted by Mel, Judy has to convince him to sing "The Christmas Song" (which he wrote) - and he invites her to sing along. Judy looks as if she's up to something. Mel begins to scat and Judy takes over the song - changing the lyrics right in front of the guy who wrote them! Judy rules.
The real lyrics:
"They know that Santa's on his way,
He's loaded lots of toys
, And goodies on his sleigh
, And every mother's child is gonna spy,
To see if reindeer really know how to fly"
"They know that Santa's on his way
, He's loaded lots of GIFTS,
And TOYS on his sleigh
, And every mother's child is gonna spy
,To see if RAINBOWS really know how to fly"
You can tell that Mel is seething inside and Judy's loving it. Mel later got revenge by writing a tell-all about Judy and the show after her death. Next up is another stop-motion commercial - this time for a free Betty Crocker and Gold Medal flour holiday cookbook! It's incredible!
After the ad, Judy's house is now full of freeloaders. Tracy brings out a bowl of eggnog and then they begin an endless medley of sacred carols. The self-important ham known as Mel Torme leads the choir. Then Lorna and Joe sing "Silent Night" - followed by an ad for Head and Shoulders! This ad features a woman well into her 30s worrying about having dandruff in her graduation photo. Honey, that's the least of your problems!
After the dandruff clears up, Judy boots everyone out of her house. Liza and Tracy dash off caroling - but the dancing Santas return to perform a crazy Rockettes-style dance with Judy. Damn - I wish this was in color!!!
So, then Judy shuts off all the lights - but Lorna and Joe come out calling "Mama..." to which she replies, as if annoyed - "WHAT???!!!". Well, it turns out she forgot to sing "Over the Rainbow". Which she then does - and it is a beautiful arrangement! Then Judy says goodnight for good and the camera pulls back to show it's still snowing in L.A.. All is well with the world, until CBS cancels her show...but that's another story. This show is a total 10 outta 10. Just for kicks, here's a recent pic of Judy's kids. Awww...Lorna.