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Featuring: Judy, Frank & Dean - Once in a Lifetime, Judy Garland Live at the London Palladium with Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland - The Concert Years, and Judy Garland, Robert Goulet & Phil Silvers Special.
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After her MGM film career was derailed by personal problems, Judy Garland revived her career on the small screen and on the concert stage, as evidenced in the four-DVD Judy Garland Collection. In the one-hour 1962 TV special Judy, Frank, and Dean, Garland is in fine voice, belting out signature tunes like "When You're Smiling" and "The Man That Got Away." Rat Packers Sinatra and Martin are at their unctuous best, with Sinatra at one point casually flicking ash from his cigarette right onto the stage while singing an emotional "I See Your Face Before Me." The patter is a bit stiff, but the numbers are all showstoppers, and Garland, especially, is belting in her most over-the-top Carnegie Hall tradition. She also shares the stage with two costars, Robert Goulet and Phil Silvers, in a 1963 TV special. Garland's performances are forceful and confident, but, unfortunately, she gets little time to sing by herself; that would come later on her own TV show. She and Goulet sing a love medley that includes five complete songs, and there's also a bizarre sequence in which the trio changes costumes after every song; at one point they warble "If I Had a Hammer" while dressed as beatniks.
The novelty of Judy Garland: Live at the London Palladium is the spectacle of the great entertainer sharing the stage with her up-and-coming daughter. In November 1964 Liza Minnelli was not yet 20 and still pretty raw, and Garland seems alternately proud of and bemused by her, but fans of this brand of showbiz razzmatazz will be satisfied with the duets (especially trading verses on a medley of "Happy Days Are Here Again" and "Get Happy"). Garland opens the show with the reliable chest sweller "Once in a Lifetime" and delivers a tutorial in song dynamics with "The Man That Got Away." She appears rather shrunken and tired but still comes on like a trouper, fending off the audience's constant heckling for "Over the Rainbow" (as though she might forget it?) before finally handing the song back to them as a touching sing-along.
Garland's "second career" is summed up in Judy Garland: The Concert Years, a 1985 documentary narrated by her "other" daughter, Lorna Luft. The 85-minute retrospective collects comments from family and colleagues and shows clips from concerts at the London Palladium, Carnegie Hall, and the Palace Theater; a 30-second scene cut from her famous comeback film, A Star Is Born; and scenes from her short-lived TV show. There are also a number of complete performances, including a duet with Barbra Streisand of "Get Happy" and "Happy Days Are Here Again," her dramatically charged rendition of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" following JFK's death, "Ol' Man River," and "The Man That Got Away." And of course "Over the Rainbow" is here, in a 1955 performance that is the only TV recording of how she performed the song in concert: sitting on the edge of the stage, face to face with the audience. And it's a credit to Garland that even in hobo makeup, she lets the raw emotion of the song pour through.
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