I Could Go On Singing Blu-ray Review

A unique musical drama with stupendous performances 4 Stars

In her final completed film, Judy Garland triumphs dramatically and musically in I Could Go On Singing. With its raw, honest emotions and its unique perspective into the psyche of a woman who is alive on stage but floundering when off it, the movie has easily stood the test of time.

I Could Go on Singing (1963)
Released: 11 Oct 1963
Rated: N/A
Runtime: 100 min
Director: Ronald Neame
Genre: Drama, Musical
Cast: Judy Garland, Dirk Bogarde, Jack Klugman, Aline MacMahon
Writer(s): Robert Dozier (story), Mayo Simon (screenplay)
Plot: Jenny Bowman is a successful singer who, while on an engagement at the London Palladium, visits David Donne to see her son Matt again, spending a few glorious days with him while his father...
IMDB rating: 7.1
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: MGM
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 39 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: clear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 05/10/2016
MSRP: $29.95

The Production: 3.5/5

For those who were never fortunate enough to see the legendary Judy Garland live in concert, Ronald Neame’s I Could Go On Singing offers about the nearest approximation to the spine-tingling electricity the lady could produce in person that can be found in her thirty-plus filmography. The four concert numbers presented during the movie offer Garland in a variety of moods, completely appropriate to the dramatics which surround them, but on their own offering a one-of-a-kind opportunity to see what the performer could do best: presenting popular songs to a mass audience while insinuating herself into them in such a way that it seemed as if she were singing only to you.

Legendary concert singer Jenny Bowman (Judy Garland) takes the opportunity while appearing at the London Palladium to seek out her former lover Dr. David Donne (Dirk Bogarde) and take her first look at the child they had together more than a decade earlier and which she had given over to his father while she continued touring the world with her concerts. David isn’t anxious for mother and son to meet, but at her insistence, he takes her to son Matt’s (Gregory Phillips) boarding school where she’s instantly charmed by his fresh-faced openness and is eager to spend time with him. When David is called away on an emergency medical case in Rome, Jenny and Matt spend two glorious days together which validates in Jenny’s mind that her son needs her and she needs him and which sets up a certain angry confrontation with Matt’s father once he returns to London.

The screenplay by Mayo Simon certainly bares similarities to the actual life of Judy Garland who waged continual war against her estranged husband Sid Luft over her own fitness as a parent to two underage children while she toured the world earning a living for all of them. Perhaps that’s why the movie’s narrative sequences, spare as they sometimes are, ring so true especially for those who are familiar with the rocky domestic situation that was to mark the last decade of Judy Garland’s life. Those dramatic moments, bolstered by the fiery and tumultuous performances of Garland and Dirk Bogarde, certainly haven’t dated the film at all and give it more than a reason for existence. But it’s the four on-stage song sequences at the London Palladium that remain the film’s highlights, each one not only individually entertaining and mesmerizing but also each one (as Cabaret would later do but with much more élan) mirroring the emotional texture of the character at that particular given moment in the script: buoyant and optimistic in “Hello, Bluebird,” thoughtful and hopeful in “It Never Was You” (recorded live during filming and showing director Ronald Neame’s supreme understanding of Garland’s mystique as the staging frames the singer and her accompanist on opposite ends of the frame and then slowly embraces the singer as she gets to the heart of the plaintive Kurt Weill melody), defiant and angry in “By Myself” (staged moodily in near total crimson echoing her passion for her child though costume designer Edith Head let the star down by garbing her in a terribly unflattering tight dress emphasizing Judy’s size in all the wrong places), and the survivor anthem “I Could Go On Singing” (written by her “Over the Rainbow” scribes Arlen and Harburg but sadly not a song that had a lasting impact in her career as she had hoped it would).

While it’s generally acknowledged that Judy did her best on-screen work in George Cukor’s A Star Is Born, her performance in I Could Go On Singing must come a close second in sheer artistry and emotional impact to that Oscar-nominated tour de force. While she may occasionally pour on the volume where finesse might be more appropriate, she nevertheless unleashes a musical and dramatic performance of great power and intensity: honest, raw, and ultimately poignant. Dirk Bogarde is more than up to the challenge of meeting her force field head-on without flinching, and his performance is achingly real and heartfelt: fighting to save their son from her indulgences and megalomania while also admitting that he does love and admire her despite himself. Gregory Phillips makes for a very appealing pre-teen Matt. Jack Klugman has a wonderful role as Jenny’s manager and performs it admirably while Aline MacMahon is likewise solid as a rock as Jenny’s assistant Ida.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully presented in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Despite a few specks here and there and black levels that are sometimes a bit chalky, this transfer is eons ahead of any previous release of this movie on home video. Sharpness is superb, and color is spot-on with lifelike and very appealing skin tones. Contrast has been consistently applied for an often startlingly good high definition image. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is typical of the era, but engineers have cleaned up the track wonderfully so that any possible hiss or crackle is gone leaving only crystal clear dialogue, the marvelous score where Judy’s voice really shines with Mort Lindsey’s masterful musical direction (he was the conductor of her concerts at the time and appears as himself during the concert scenes), and the occasional atmospheric effects.

Special Features: 4/5

Audio Commentaries: historians Nick Redman and Lem Dobbs welcome the film’s producer Lawrence Turman who reminisces candidly about the troubled film and many others he produced during his prodigious career. A second track features more direct analysis of the movie by historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros. For fans of the movie, both tracks are irreplaceable and infinitely interesting.

Isolated Score and Effects Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo (including Garland’s vocals which offer an interesting stereo contrast in the concert sequences to the mono originals heard in the movie).

Theatrical Trailers (3:47, 3:06, HD)

TV Spot Ad (0:57, HD)

MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)

Six-Page Booklet: contains some black and white and color stills, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s thoughtful commentary on the movie.

Overall: 4/5

In her final completed film, Judy Garland triumphs dramatically and musically in I Could Go On Singing. With its raw, honest emotions and its unique perspective into the psyche of a woman who is alive on stage but floundering when off it, the movie has easily stood the test of time. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested in purchasing it should go to either www.twilighttimemovies.com or www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

Published by

Matt Hough

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23 Comments

  1. Just a word about Judy's "Oscar-nominated tour de force" in "A Star is Born":  She was CHEATED on Oscar night.  No disrespect intended toward Grace Kelly, but Kelly's performance was routine compared to Garland's.

  2. I tend to agree with that, although I have always had a huge crush on Kelly (despite her looking intentionally unglamorous in THE COUNTRY GIRL) and never felt that way about Garland. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that Judy was by leaps and bounds the more dynamic performer, and should have taken that statue home.

  3. After I finally saw "A Country Girl" I was struck by the realization Judy would have been much better in the part than Grace Kelly.The award is supposed to be for the best performance by an actress. Judy by far gave the best performance.  But Grace Kelly completed four major films in 1954 without causing any problems, making her "The Best Actress." That's why she got the Oscar.

  4. Both the two commentaries on this bluray are about the best I've ever heard.  You actually get people who worked on this film and people who know what they are talking about.  They don't just describe what you're seeing on your TV screen at the moment, they give you interesting anecdotes and behind the scene info on the film and about the scene that's currently playing.  And they give you some good dirt, too, which we all love about the people who worked on this!  They keep philosophizing on the story down to a bare minimum which is rare these days.  No judgement of the time the film was made, just good old-fashioned, intriguing information.  And the quality of the picture is good, too!

  5. HII saw Judy Garland in concert in 1961, actually three concerts that year.  She was and still is the greatest entertainer I ever seen and I've seen a few. I agree that her acting and singing are wonderful in this film and the rest of cast is very good. The Hospital scene near the end of the movie is worth the price of admission. The producer said in the commentary that it was improvised but in Dirk Bogarde's autobiography he states that He and Judy rewrote the scene. I think it's one of those scenes from a film you never forget.

  6. The character in "A Country Girl" is a conflicted, but loyal spouse of a self-centered alcoholic. A part Garland had just nailed in "A Star is Born." Kelly was out out of her depth, but massively popular at the time. She was brilliant at what she did well. I would have nominated her for "Rear Window."

  7. No disrespect to Judy, who I think is better than most Best Actress award winners; but, I hate A STAR IS BORN, and simply cannot be objective about her performance.As for her concerts, I saw her twice.  Once, one week following the recorded Carnegie Hall performance.  Same performance, but at Philadelphia's Academy of Music.  The other time was, what would be her very last United States concert, also in Philadelphia.  The first was a super, polished affair, and most enjoyable.  The second, was less polished, but even more memorable, as she completely engaged us in one-on-one conversations, between numbers.  It remains among my most memorable theatrical moments (although it was in the cavernous JFK Stadium).

  8. Don't miss this one if you're a Garland fan.  The picture is amazing and these commentaries don't get any better.  The thing that struck me the most about the commentaries is that they all concur that this is as close to the real Garland concert experience as we can have today.  Bogard's performance is also excellent and apparently he wasn't just acting in their confrontation scenes.  Twilight Time does it once again.  They are doing such excellent work with these classics and should be commended.

  9. I saw her here in 1965. She had some slight laryngitis and a dry throat (sounded similar to the way she sounds on the Palladium album with Liza Minnelli) and spent much of the concert apologizing profusely for not being in better voice. But she sang her entire show, and the audience didn't care that she wasn't at her vocal peak. She worked her magic and left us completely satisfied. A night I'll never forget.

  10. After I finally saw "A Country Girl" I was struck by the realization Judy would have been much better in the part than Grace Kelly.

    The award is supposed to be for the best performance by an actress. Judy by far gave the best performance.  But Grace Kelly completed four major films in 1954 without causing any problems, making her "The Best Actress." That's why she got the Oscar.

    And your evidence, sir…

  11. Can't wait to get my hands on this one. Just a couple of days ago I played through the DVD 'Judy at Carnegie Hall' and was bowled over again by her sensational performance. If you don't have a copy, try to find one .. it exists on disc in several versions .. I think I have them all .. and by far the best sounding one (the one to have) is on DCC Gold, mastered by audio guru Steve Hoffman. I found a second-hand copy a few months ago for about $20.

  12. I was when I saw Judy. Now, not so much….

    I was just in Charlotte to see my youngest daughter graduate from college. While we were there, my wife and I also went to this small theatre to see the musical Under the Rainbow.

  13. Just a quick check, John. I haven't been able to get the movie yet and it's years since I saw it, but I don't recall Judy doing 'Swanee' in it. She certainly does a definitive performance on the Carnegie Hall concert recording, but does she do it in 'I Could Go On Singing'?

  14. I believe John was referring to his own post here regarding A Star is Born. Judy does not perform Swanee in I Could Go On Singing.

    Just a quick check, John. I haven't been able to get the movie yet and it's years since I saw it, but I don't recall Judy doing 'Swanee' in it. She certainly does a definitive performance on the Carnegie Hall concert recording, but does she do it in 'I Could Go On Singing'?

  15. I have been rewatching Garland's television series over the past week or two (and re-reading the appropriate chapters of Rainbow's End pertaining to whichever episode I'm watching). GET-TV has been showing it on Monday nights for the last few months, but I have all the episodes on DVD, and have been finding them more entertaining than even I remembered them being.

    At any rate, on the episode I watched tonight, she sang "By Myself." It's the exact same arrangement used in I Could Go On Singing, and she performed it very similarly to her rendition in the movie. "Hello, Bluebird" was on an episode I watched a few nights ago, and it, too, was very similar to the film performance.

  16. Bought this with the SAE sale.  Wow!  Is it ever an improvement over the DVD.  This was one movie I didn't think would ever see the Blu-ray light of day as the DVD was pretty grim (not even anamorphic and pretty gritty looking) and we all know how "keen" MGM is about preserving their films.  This was an extremely pleasant surprise.  A real bonus is having Judy's four songs in stereo on the isolated track.

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