Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ford Has A Judy Idea.

The 1950s was truly the Golden Age of anthology television.  In 1955, the Ford Motor group entered the fray, teaming with CBS to produce the Ford Star Jubilee.  The timing of September 1955 was an ideal time to promote the new line of 1956 Fords.

The Tiffany Network and Family Of Fine Cars produced top drawer monthly entertainment.  Running 90 minutes in length, each program was presented in color and boasted a constellation of stars that included:  Bing Crosby, Orson Welles, Betty Grable, Julie Andrews, Noel Coward, Lauren Bacall, Claudette Colbert and Jack Lemmon.  Over the course of it's run, it was nominated for 8 Emmy Awards and won 3.

For it's inauguration, the show cooked up The Judy Garland Show.  This was a sure-win tie in with Capitol records, who, the day after the broadcast was releasing the album "Miss Show Business".

For her part, Garland had never appeared on television to this point and was, understandably a nervous wreck, even developing laryngitis the day before the show.  I'm pretty certain that her nervous condition was partially assuaged by the $100,000 (826k in today's money) she was receiving for the show.  The salary figure was a closely kept statistic as all the networks were afraid that other top performers would start demanding the same.  Another safeguard was that husband Sid Luft was producing a concert formatted show that was basically a condensed rehash of her record breaking Palace engagement.  And let's face it, our girl could always put over a number while darning socks! 

She probably didn't even the wire of encouragement from Bogie and Betty but, my, wasn't it nice.  The result:  she delivered.  Big time.  So did the viewing audience.  The program broke existing ratings records for a televised special. 

Photos found here

The album didn't do so bad either, staying in the Billboard top 40 for seven weeks and peaking at #5.

Now, to prove my theory that Everything Goes Back To Judy, for it's 12th and final, episode the Ford Star Jubilee abandoned it's live format to instead air the "The Wizard Of Oz".  This was a couple of firsts:  The first time that picture was ever broadcast on television.  And the first time CBS had ever broadcast any feature motion picture.

Of course what resonates the most for me is that by airing the movie, CBS set the table for what became (for kids of my generation) an annual household event.


normadesmond said...

once again, marvelous post! that
telegram's the brass ring, love it!

jason said...


Ask the Cool Cookie said...

Wonderful Mr. Felix! I remember watching the Wizard of OZ on TV as a very young child at our house on Sherrington Road in Shaker. I was so terrified of the Wicked Witch and the Flying Monkeys back then. Now, at work I am surrounded by Flying Monkey's. Everything does go back to Judy!

Stephen said...

I watched The Wizard Of Oz on TV every year from 1956- 1976. I have never seen it on the big screen.

I have been working myself through DVDs of The Judy Garland Show... she sang them all!