Spotlight on Judy Garland in Presenting Lily Mars

Today is Judy Garland’s birthday and there’s no way I could let it pass without acknowledging it. You see, I’ve loved her ever since I was a little girl and caught my first glimpse of her in The Wizard of Oz. While my peers were watching Kids Incorporated and You Can’t Do That On Television I was watching Babes in Arms and Babes on Broadway. Unlike other childhood favorites my love of Judy Garland never faded and to this day she remains my favorite performer. To celebrate her birthday I thought I’d  join the The Judy Garland Blogathon, hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, and share my thoughts on one of her lesser known films, Presenting Lily Mars.

Presently Lily Mars was released in 1943 and is regarded (alongside For Me and My Gal) as Garland’s first adult role. In fact, she was given a makeover, including lightened hair and a glamorous wardrobe, just for the part.

In the film Garland plays the aforementioned Lily Mars, a 19 year old small town girl with aspirations for stardom. Her neighbor’s son, John Thormway (played by Van Heflin), just so happens to be a Broadway producer and Lily incessantly attempts to get a part in one of his plays. But Thornway only sees her as the annoying neighbor kid and blows her off again and again. Filled with ambition Lily moves to New York to pursue her dreams and eventually starts to impress John. So much so that he finds himself falling in love with her. But the road to fame is never easy and the tribulations of showbiz come between the couple and Lily’s dreams may end before they start.

I first discovered Presenting Lily Mars as a kid when my mom taped it off TV for me. The funny thing was the beginning of the film was cut off and I watched it for years never knowing its name! When I fully embraced my love of Garland as a young adult I sought to discover just what film I’d been watching all those years and grabbed me a good copy to boot!

In Judy Garland’s overall filmography Presenting Lily Mars certainly doesn’t rank among her top films but I love it just the same. Garland does it all – sing, dance, cry and perform a bit of slapstick. In fact, her famous sense of humor is on full view here and there are quite few funny moments. A bevvy of character actors, headed by Richard Carlson and Spring Byington, are sprinkled throughout the film and shine in their small parts. Van Heflin has never been a favorite of mine but he plays the part of an exasperated adult well and has some comedic moments of his own. Unfortunately, he and Garland don’t have much chemistry and I can’t quite buy their relationship. Not only is there a matter of age difference but he consistently comes across as a father figure to her and I must admitting cringing at their romantic scenes.

Nevertheless, Presently Lily Mars is an enjoyable film and it includes some wonderful musical moments including those featuring cameos from Bob Crosby, Tommy Dorsey and their respective orchestras.

I loved Presenting Lily Mars when I had no idea what it was called and I still love it to this day. If you’re looking for a little escapist fun I highly recommend it.

Comments

  1. Nice tribute! I love that you picked Presenting Lily Mars. Judy was so charming in this. She really had a dash of everything – comedy, drama, song, and dance. Van was definitely an odd choice for her to star opposite of, and I agree, they make an okay duo.
    Kat recently posted…For Me and My Gal (1942); a splendid showcase for songstress Judy GarlandMy Profile

  2. I have never seen this one. I enjoyed your essay. I can relate to your experience about missing the beginning of a movie on television and not knowing what it was. You have sold me on seeing this one. I will keep my eyes open.

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