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Listen, Darling (1938) marks the first time Judy Garland sang, "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart," which would become one of the signature songs of her career. In this black-and-white MGM musical, 16-year-old Garland plays the daughter of Mary Astor (as she would again in Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944) and conspires with pal Freddie Bartholomew to keep Astor from marrying Gene Lockhart. The kids disapprove of Lockhart and manage by the film's end to see that Astor is matched up instead with the much more suitable Walter Pidgeon. Along the way, Garland also sings "The Bumpy Road to Love" and "Ten Pins in the Sky."
Listen, Darling found Garland and Bartholomew at opposite arcs of their careers. Garland, already rehearsing The Wizard of Oz (1939) as Listen, Darling was being filmed, would emerge as a superstar the following year. Bartholomew, at 14, was seeing his fame as a child star grow dim. His best-remembered vehicles had come years earlier in the title roles of David Copperfield (1935) and Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936). After his roles dwindled, Bartholomew left movies and eventually became a successful advertising executive and television producer.
According to Garland biographer Gerold Frank, Bartholomew had a tremendous crush on Garland during the time of Listen, Darling, pinning ardent love notes to her dressing-room door and presenting her with gardenias. To Freddie's dismay, Judy looked upon him as a delightful younger brother and nothing more. For Garland, the chief irony of Listen, Darling was that her home life echoed the situation in the movie in that her mother, Ethel Gumm, was seeing a man named Will Gilmore who met with Garland's disapproval. Gumm and Gilmore would be married on November 17, 1939, the anniversary of the death of Garland's beloved father. Frank quotes Garland as saying, "That was the most awful thing that ever happened to me in my life. My mother marrying that awful man the same day my daddy died."
Producer: Jack Cummings
Director: Edwin L. Marin
Screenplay: Katherine Brush (story), Elaine Ryan, Anne Morrison Chapin, Noel Langley (uncredited)
Cinematography: Charles Lawton Jr., Lester White (uncredited)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Original Music: Milton Ager, William Axt, James F. Hanley, Al Hoffman, Al Lewis, Joseph McCarthy, Murray Mencher
Editing: Blanche Sewell
Costume Design: Dolly Tree
Cast: Judy Garland ("Pinkie" Wingate), Freddie Bartholomew (Herbert "Buzz" Mitchell), Mary Astor (Dottie Wingate), Walter Pidgeon (Richard Thurlow), Alan Hale (J.J. Slattery), Scotty Becket (Billie Wingate), Gene Lockhart (Arthur Drubbs).
BW-75m. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe