Wise: Well, at first I was worried that someone had slipped me a mickey, but then I realized the focus was just incredibly soft.
Werth: Not as soft as those layers of pancake makeup they were both wearing.
Werth: I think that the premise of showing her as the girl next door who puts on her flowing bell-bottoms one leg at a time just like the rest of us was misguided. We don’t watch Liza to see someone we could run into at Gristedes. We watch Liza to see her explode with quirkiness and lust for life in ways that only a Hollywood legend can. But it is nice to see her alive and kicking.
Werth: I know it well. What did you think?
Wise: Well, for a long time, I had always thought of Cabin as the movie that used a couple leftover effects from The Wizard of Oz. It was hardly ever shown on TV and a lot of the books I read praised it, but dismissed it as less important and less accomplished than Minnelli’s later work. So I was surprised by how immediately engaging it is.
Werth: It’s funny you should say that because when I saw Cabin in a film class this semester a number of the students were offended by it.
Wise: Sure, there are a couple cringe-worthy moments, but I think that’s mostly due to some of the actors playing to type. It was unavoidable at the time—Clark Gable had a type, Bette Davis had a type, Vincente helped create Judy’s type—but an actor playing to persona could sometimes allow for more creative risks.
Wise: Gorgeous, beautiful voice, funny, electric. It’s just a shame that the culture didn’t allow us to see more of her talents on screen.
Werth: Since you’ve dealt so brilliantly with Vincente, I’m going to handle Judy.
Wise: Is that what Vincente said?
Werth: That depends which biography you’re reading. But Wise, even though I hate to do this, I’m going to fly in the face of Werth & Wise tradition—
Wise: All four weeks of it?
Werth: I’m going to talk about… Television.
Wise: Should we change the name of the blog to Media Gab?
Wise: Sounds a bit all over the place.
Werth: It was. The main problem was that the TV execs had no idea what to do with Judy. They tried giving her Dick Van Dyke’s brother Jerry to enhance the comedy. He wasn’t funny. They tried Judy serving “tea” to certain notable guests who would banter with her and tell stories. Censors yelled at her for touching her guests too much. They finally got on the right path when they decided to just turn the show into a weekly concert special where Judy would do what she did best—sing. But by then Judy was exhausted from a floundering marriage, the assassination of friend JFK, and the renewed influence of pills and white wine. So brand new CBS head honcho, Hunt Stromberg, Jr. (who’d never liked her to begin with) sent her a bouquet of flowers with the card, “You were great. Thanks a lot. You’re through.”
Wise: It always feels like she lived the lyrics of her songs.
Wise: If you want to bring the variety show back, we could start juggling flaming pins on the blog.
Werth: But then we’d have to change our blog name to The Werth & Wise Media Variety Hour.
Wise: Tune in next week for Film Gab with Werth & Wise.