“I can’t be spread so thin; I’m just one person.”
While on tour in London, world-famous singer Jenny Bowman (Judy Garland) visits her former lover (Dirk Bogarde) and asks to see her son (Gregory Phillips), who was adopted by Bogarde and his recently deceased wife years earlier. Soon Bowman finds herself wanting to spend more and more time with Phillips, much to the anger and chagrin of Bogarde.
Judy Garland’s final movie — released after John Cassavetes’ A Child is Waiting (1963), though it was actually filmed before — remains a personal favorite of many diehard Garland fans, given how closely it seems to mirror certain aspects of her own fabled (but deeply troubled) existence. As a melodrama, it’s flawed and often overly maudlin; for instance, presumably to add to the film’s narrative tension, we don’t learn about the circumstances behind why Garland gave up her own child until very late (far too late) in the story — and even once we do, what we hear is simply not very convincing. [This is not to imply that someone like Bowman wouldn’t give up her own child the way she does here; just that the explanation given doesn’t suffice.] Meanwhile, Garland’s erstwhile romance with Bogarde never quite rings true, either — we see evidence of Garland’s lingering infatuation with him, but, quite honestly, wonder why they ever ended up together in the first place.
However, what saves the film from its own faults are the truly fine central performances by Garland and Bogarde, who somehow manage to transcend the limitations of both the script and their respective characterizations. Even if we (I) don’t believe in the viability of their romantic potential together, there’s nonetheless a clear “charge” between the two — one which, more than anything, comes across like immense professional respect and regard. Garland in particular immerses herself in her role to an extent light years away from her pallid performance in A Child is Waiting; more than ever before, we feel we’re being given a glimpse into the soul of Garland herself through her character here, particularly in her phenomenal final interaction with Bogarde. Phillips, for his part, holds his own admirably in the face of two such estimable co-stars; Garland’s enormous base of gay fans will surely be tickled by his cross-dressing performance in an all-boys rendition of HMS Pinafore (see still below). (What a curious choice to include in the script! It surely must have been intentional…)
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Judy Garland as Judy Bowman
- Dirk Bogarde as David
- Gregory Phillips as Matt
- Garland’s final emotional interaction with Bogarde
Yes, simply for Garland’s outstanding final performance on the big screen.