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Thursday, June 9, 2022

June 9, 2022: Judy Garland Studying: Judgment at Nuremberg

[June 10th would have been Judy Garland’s 100th birthday. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy a handful of Garland’s performances, leading up to a weekend post on LGBTQ icons.]

I’ve seen Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) only once all the way through, at some point in high school while we were in a unit on the Holocaust. I don’t know if I was aware at that time that the role of Irene Hoffmann was played by Judy Garland, but if I was, I had entirely forgotten that fact before researching options for this week’s series. And I mostly wanted to include the film in the series to make sure we’re all aware, and in particular to share this scene (the YouTube clip’s title for which seems to be making a point about another context of which I’m not certain, but the scene is the scene):

A couple of additional thoughts on that stunning scene, one of only three in the film for Garland totaling just under 15 minutes (but does she ever make the most of her limited screen time):

1)      It had been seven years since Garland was last in a film (in yesterday’s subject, 1954’s A Star is Born), and she was apparently so happy to be working again that it took some effort for her to be able to cry on camera (she used her relationship with her late father as inspiration for the scene’s heightened emotions). As you can see, she certainly got there, one more testament to her serious acting chops.

2)      One of the most important things about Judgment as a feature film focused entirely on the war crimes tribunal (rather than, for example, using that as a frame to flash back to the Holocaust/war itself) is that it can explore in depth a number of layers to the Holocaust, the Nazi regime, and their effects on both Jewish and non-Jewish victims. Garland’s character is the latter, a German woman who had an intimate (non-sexual) relationship with an older Jewish man, and in this scene we can see what he and that relationship meant, and what it meant when the Nazis destroyed it and him.

3)      It’s very tough to get typecast as a certain kind of performer and then find opportunities to branch and break out. Garland’s typecasting led to some lifelong successes to be sure, including the show that will be the subject of tomorrow’s last post in the series. But I’m sure it also meant she missed many chances to demonstrate the full range of her talents—and I’m very glad that she didn’t miss the chance to be part of Judgment, nor that my failure to remember her and scenes like this were permanent.

Last Garland performance tomorrow,


PS. What do you think? Other Garland works or moments you’d highlight?

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