When John Met Judy
There are some people who are art historians.
Some people are classic car buffs.
Others are film historians.
Still others claim to be historians of different forms of musical enterprise.
Many people are historians and researches of different subjects in different fields, ranging from astronomy to horticulture. There are people who study the evolution of vacuum cleaner technology and there are people who know of the history concerning the hot dog in America and abroad. Its seems that there is no end of subjects that can be researched and studied. Surely there are enough to suit the seemingly infinite peculiarities of our human nature. This is a soothing thing to know for those of us who are perpetually worried about the threat of boredom. However, even when the random and unique nature of human inquiry is considered, it is still possible to be surprised with a field of research and history that is very out of the ordinary. Even though I have known of historians of everything from candy bars to car tires, to this day, i’m aware of only one man who is a (professional) historian of Judy Garland.
This man is John Fricke
John Fricke is a historian/author on both Judy Garland and “The Wizard of Oz”. He has been a major figure in the Oz fan community for many years. He has discussed Garland and her body of work on literally hundreds of media outlets including the “Today Show”, A&E’s “Breakfast With the Arts”, “Entertainment Tonight”, CNN, and National Public Radio. He has appeared on many occasions as spokesman for Warner Bros, Turner Entertainment, Capitol Records”, and MGM. Fricke’s four books include “100 Years of Oz”; an overview of the entire Oz phenomenon, “Judy Garland: World’s Greatest Entertainer” and the recent “Judy: A Legendary Film Career”. He has appeared on audio commentaries for a variety of Garland Films including “Babes in Arms” and “For Me and My Gal”. He has also produced and written liner note introductions for countless reissues from Judy Garlands musical library.
Its been my pleasure over the years, as a fan of both Garland and “The Wizard of Oz” to encounter John Fricke’s wonderful passion and insight for the lady and her films. Its always fascinating to encounter someone who has been so touched by the artistry of a performer (in a way that is not at all disgusting or fetishistic) that they devote their life to the study of that persons craft. It speaks volumes of the depth of individual artistry not to mention the enrapturing power of the arts themselves.
I first encountered Fricke’s work in the form of an audio commentary accompanying my umpteenth viewing of “Meet Me and St. Louis”. I was immediately aware that I was listening to something very unique; that is, not like any other audio commentary I’ve heard before or since. Most of the film commentaries I’ve heard before consisted of a stodgy old film historian yawning out boring antidotes from the making of a particular film. Also there are those awful commentaries where the cast gathers together to have a giant party while neglecting to invite the viewer to join in on the festivities. Nonetheless, I would endure these lackluster and non-inclusive diatribes due to my thirst for cinematic knowledge and my appreciation for the film I was viewing. How I would often long for someone who could talk about a film I appreciated with as much lively passion and insight as I felt toward the film myself. John Fricke was the answer to my prayers.
I was moved by the passion and heart he had for the film (“Meet Me in St. Louis). His knowledge was deeper than the grand canyon and not just on Garland but on all things concerning the production of the film. He was able to explain and touch on acting beats and character portrayals. He spoke at length of director Vincente Minnelli’s crafting of certain scenes. He told great behind the scenes antidotes and enlightened the listeners concerning the source material for the film (Sally Benson’s original short stories). His prose was so rich, his passion so grand and his knowledge so great that something happened that I never thought could. I actually found a whole new way to appreciate “Meet Me in St. Louis”. To think an audio commentary for a film could actually make a person like the film any better is a very wild thing to consider but it did happen and I have John Fricke to thank for that.
Even if you are not a fan of Judy Garland (somewhere a drag queen just shuddered), Fricke will still be able to regale you (be it in book, audio, or video form) with a portrait of a ferociously talented artist at various stages of her career. You’ll be given a detailed, honest, heartfelt, non-scandalous view of the life and scope of a woman entertainer. You’ll come to respect Garland the artist regardless of how you feel about Garland the person. If you open yourself to him, Fricke will be the perfect person to show you her world…..over the rainbow.
John Fricke Audio Resources
John Fricke Bibliography:
“100 Years of Oz: A Century of Classic Images”
“Judy Garland: A Portrait in Art in Anecdote” (with Lorna Luft)
“Judy Garland: World Greatest Entertainer”
“The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History”
“Judy: A Legendary Film Career”
John Fricke Audio Commentaries
“Babes in Arms”: 1939 Dir. Busby Berkley
“Easter Parade”: (with Ava Astaire Mckenzie) 1948 Dir. Charles Walters
“For Me and My Gal”: 1942 Dir. Busby Berkley
“Girl Grazy”: 1943 Dir. Norman Taurog
“Meet Me In St. Louis” (with Margaret O’Brien, Hugh Martin, Irving Brecher and Barbara Freed-Saltzman): 1944 Dir. Vincente Minnelli
“The Pirate”: 1948 Dir. Vincente Minnelli
“The Wizard of Oz”(various other contributors): 1939 Dir. Victor Flemming