Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RAINBOW: With JUDY GARLAND on the Dawn Patrol. Mel Torme. Galahad; 1970.

Mel Torme, who had a successful career as a singer in his own right, was importuned to sign up as the musical director of the new Judy Garland Show for television during a slow period. Torme's marriage was also breaking up at the same time, and dealing with the difficult, mercurial, and neurotic Garland while also dealing with his unhappy wife almost gave him nervous prostration. Then there was the usual behind-the-scenes backstabbing and power plays that are generally a part of TV shows where more than one ego is wrestling for control. Due to her consumption of pills and liquor, Garland went through mood swings and personality changes and the crew and co-stars never knew if the lady would even show up for the rehearsals and taping and how good -- or how bad -- she would be if she did. Torme talks about the best and worst moments of the show, and many of these bits can be seen on youtube. While The Other Side of the Rainbow is a good and fast read, the details of how this show was put together by an insider may be more interesting than the already familiar and unpleasant stuff about dipsomaniac Garland. Torme gives the woman her due as a great singer and entertainer, but underneath the praise you can tell there was some honest hatred of Garland over her two-faced and unfair dealings with Torme. For one thing, she sort of tried to push him out after she developed a hankering for young singer, Bobby Cole.

Verdict: Anything you ever wanted to know about The Judy Garland Show and a good look at the inner workings of a dying TV series as well. ***.


angelman66 said...

You're right, Bill, this is a fascinating record of the short-lived Judy Garland Show. Mel was instrumental in its success, with his innovative concepts for the show, unique arrangements (those amazing duets!)and special material.

But it was a battle royale of the egos; I fault Tormé as much as Garland for their stormy relationship. He seemed as concerned with his own guest shots on the show, and his own image as a performer, as he was with the success or failure of the show.

Judy, of course, was impossibly troubled and unreliable at this point, but looking at the shows today, she could still generate the Garland many of those shows are classic. And a lot of that is thanks to Mel Tormé.

I own this book, and need to read it again, now, for the umpteenth time!

William said...

It is a very good read, isn't it? And I've no doubt that Torme skewered things a bit in his direction, as generally happens when people want to settle scores. I think the main problem, besides Garland's difficulties, was that Torme felt it was a bit of a comedown to be a musical director when he was a performer in his own right. I don't remember if he ever got the money Garland owed him!