It’s June 11, 1929: the first of a three-day film shoot for Judy Garland and her two sisters known as “The Gumm Sisters” at the Tec-Art Studios in Hollywood, California, for the Mayfair Pictures short “The Big Revue” (aka “The Starlet Revue”). This is Judy Garland’s film debut. She’s just one day past her seventh birthday. The trio is featured singing “In The Good Old Sunny South.” The eighteen minute, two-reel short premiered at the Fox Belmont Theater in Hollywood, California, on August 14, 1929.
Now, what do we notice about young Judy (far left) that distinguishes her from her older sisters? Simple. She takes instantly to the camera and seems to intuitively grasp that she’s performing for the lens and not the theater audience (which was most likely non-existent anyway). Watch the number a few times and you’ll see how thoroughly her sisters play to the house–as they were trained to do in vaudeville–and how intensely Judy bonds with the audience that she can’t see but somehow knows is on the other side of that lens. This is an extraordinary piece of film that is both enchanting yet spooky at the same time.