This is my contribution for the British Invaders Blogathon. Please be sure to check out the other entries being exhibited during this event.
Hollywood is known as the land of the movies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that motion pictures that are made outside of California or the United States are a complete failure. The United Kingdom also has a significant film industry, and many people consider British films to be better than those made in America. In some cases that assumption is true. For over a century, the British market for motion pictures has been a prominent factor in the English entertainment system. By 1936, the British movies had reached it’s pinnacle, and would continue to escalate to great heights as time progressed.
Some of Hollywood’s most eminent stars were born in England, and started their acting career in Britain, where they received international fame and critical success, some of these names include, Cary Grant, Greer Garson and Alfred Hitchcock, who were known for their English heritage and popularity in the United States. In other instances, top notch American stars yearned for a stint in the British film industry, some even relocating to the United Kingdom for a short period of time during their career. Judy Garland often divided her time between the United States and England, especially in the 1960’s, and as coincidence has it, her last film, “I Could Go On Singing” is an authentic British production.
Without a doubt, Judy Garland is the brightest and most powerful entertainer to ever have her presence grace the stage and screen. At the age of seventeen, she hit super stardom and melted the hearts of millions worldwide, with her memorable portrayal of Dorothy in the 1939 classic, “The Wizard Of Oz”. From there on, she pioneered her way through an array of notable MGM musicals until 1950, when her contract was suspended.
Ever since her legendary 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall, Judy Garland spent the remainder of the 1960’s, touring the concert circuit to appearing in a few movies or hosting her own television series, which garnered her positive encomium. It was during these years that Judy had reached the status she attained during her early years of her career, and now that she had made her comeback, she wanted to be able to gain rapid success on her return to the big screen, but sadly only one of these productions earned her accolades, and the other two didn’t requisite the results that she had hoped for.
Her last film, “I Could Go On Singing” could have been a personal triumph for Judy, and in all accounts it should have been better regarded, as the film captures Judy doing everything from singing, emoting and being humorous, when clowning around with the audience. The only fault that dissuaded critics from giving it rave reviews was the old fashioned love story, attached to the glitz and glamour of Judy’s remarkable performance. On a higher note, the picture wasn’t entirely disastrous. It was favored by audiences, especially in major cities like New York, Los Angeles and London, where it received a warm reception and opened to glowing reviews, so much that at least many can say that Judy’s farewell to the big screen went out with a bang.
Splendidly directed by Ronald Neame, who was known for his directorial efforts in productions like, “The Poseidon Adventure”, and shot in glorious technicolor, the film paired Judy Garland alongside Dirk Bogarde. It was written for the screen by Mayo Simon, with assistance from Bogarde, who was involved in rewriting Garland’s lines in the script, and produced by Stuart Millar and Lawrence Turman.
The plot centers Judy Garland as Jenny Bowman, an eminent singer, who enjoys success in different continents of the globe. During a tour of London, she consults with her ex lover, David Donne ( Dirk Bogarde ), now a prominent physician in England, about a minor illness and an attempt to see her illegitimate son, Matt ( Gregory Phillips ) who she left with his father several years earlier.
At first she receives a rather negative response from David, who tries his hardest to hide Matt from her, but after much pleading, he finally gives in to Jenny, and allows her to spend a few short moments with her son. On their first meeting together, the two immediately form a close friendship, and Matt invites Jenny for a tour of the school and his matinee that is taking place that night. Much to the indignation of David, Jenny agrees, and returns the favor by asking Matt to be present at the opening of her show the following evening.
Complications arise when David is suddenly called away to Rome for business and leaves Matt behind in England. Jenny sees this as the perfect opportunity to take Matt under her wing for a few days and spend some quality time with him. As each hour progresses, Jenny finds herself growing more and more attached to Matt, that she tries to pursue her way back into David’s life to become Matt’s mother again, but faces several altercations along the way.
Matt is still unaware that Jenny is his mother, and Jenny conceals it from him, but eventually he discovers the truth, when he over hears a heated argument between Jenny and David in the hotel suite. Now Matt is faced with the most important decision of his life, whether to remain in England or to go and live with Jenny.
Judy Garland ended her film career by delivering one of her most culminating performances of her lifetime with her poignant and touching portrayal of Jenny Bowman. This is not a difficult role for Judy, whose life resembled Jenny’s in so many ways, but here she was able to showcase her indelible acting talents in the way that she was able to exemplify the characteristics and imperfections of Jenny, and make the viewer believe that they are really watching Jenny Bowman on screen instead of Judy Garland.
Dirk Bogarde is also commendable in his role as David, but sadly for an actor of his stature in Britain, his screen time was diminished in quantity, and is overshadowed by Gregory Phillips, who had a larger part, and was present almost all through the movie.
One of the major highlights of the film are Judy’s song numbers, that are carefully staged with costumes that match the backdrops in a way that they don’t blend in. The most dramatic comes with Judy’s inimitable rendition of “By Myself”, a tune that Fred Astaire had previously sung in “The Bandwagon”, but has now been made famous by Judy Garland. In a flaming sequined red dress (and an equally fiery mood), Garland unleashes all the passion of her performance by making this scene completely unforgettable.
“I Could Go On Singing” is the perfect example of a 60’s melodrama. What a shame that for the occasion of Judy’s final film, it wasn’t auspicious as Judy hoped it to be.
Judy Garland’s younger children, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft serve as extras in the film, and can be spotted during the boat scene.
Edith Head, the films costume designer was much criticized for the dreadful red dress Judy wears to sing “By Myself,” but she insisted that she had not designed it or been asked to approve it.
Laurence Olivier was initially the producers first choice to play the role of David, until the part went to Dirk Bogarde.
Jenny: “And if you do go, don’t drink the martinis.”
Jenny: “Because they’re half gasoline.”
David: “And you’ve had enough.”
Jenny: “I’ve had enough to float Fire Island. Does it show?”
Jenny: “I can’t be spread so thin, I’m just one person. I don’t want to be rolled out like a pastry so everybody can get a nice big bite of me. I’m just me. I belong to myself. I can do whatever I damn well please with myself and nobody can ask any questions.”
David: “Now you know that is not true, don’t you?”
Jenny: “Well I’m not gonna do it anymore. And that’s final! its just not worth all the deaths that I have to die.”
Jenny: “I’ve hung on to every bit of rubbish there is to hang on to in life. And I’ve thrown all the good bits away. Now can you tell me why I do that?”
David: “No, no I can’t tell you why you do that. But I can tell you this, you are going to be late.”
Jenny: “I don’t care”
David: “They are waiting.”
Jenny: “I don’t care if they’re fasting, you just give them their money back and tell them to come back next fall.”
Judy Garland: Born, Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10th, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Died: June 22nd, 1969, in Chelsea, London. Aged 47. Cause of death: Barbiturate overdose.
Dirk Bogarde: Born, Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde on March 28th, 1921 in West Hampstead, London. Died: May 8th, 1999 in Chelsea, London.