Jean Carson / Original London Cast

Love from Judy [Original London Cast]

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Jean Webster's novel Daddy Long Legs, the story of an orphan whose education is sponsored by an anonymous benefactor whom she grows up to marry, was adapted into a play that ran for 264 performances on Broadway after opening on September 28, 1914; two years later, it opened in London and ran 514 performances. The property was adapted into a silent film, Daddy-Long-Legs, starring Mary Pickford, in 1919. It was remade in 1931 and again in 1935, this time under the title Curly Top. In 1938, a fourth film was made in the Netherlands. Fourteen years later, on September 25, 1952, a musical comedy version titled Love from Judy opened in London. The songs were written by the American Hugh Martin (with some lyrical assistance from Timothy Gray), a songwriter known for the 1941 Broadway musical Best Foot Forward (co-written with Ralph Blane); the 1944 movie musical Meet Me in St. Louis (again with Blane), starring Judy Garland; and two more Broadway shows, Look, Ma, I'm Dancin' (1948) and Make a Wish (1951). Martin was closely associated with Garland, for whom he had served as piano accompanist on her recent comeback appearances, and the new title may have been intended to play off of that in the public mind. Jean Carson (later billed as Jeannie Carson when she starred on American television in the 1956 series Hey Jeannie!) had the title role; Bill O'Connor was Jervis Pendleton, her benefactor, and Adelaide Hall played Butterfly, a black maid who provided comic relief. (A secondary part was assigned to June Whitfield, who much later went on to play the part of Edina Monsoon's [Jennifer Saunders] mother in the popular 1990s British TV series Absolutely Fabulous.) Although the show was a hit, eventually running 594 performances, Great Britain was still in a state of post-war economic trouble, and record companies were not ready to finance full-scale cast albums in the American mold. The English Columbia Records label, however, did plump for a double-EP release of two 78s containing four medleys of songs from the show performed by the original cast. (There was never an American production, possibly because the property was owned by MGM, which had its own plans. In 1955, yet another Daddy Long Legs movie was released, this one a musical with songs by Johnny Mercer [including "Something's Gotta Give"], starring 23-year-old Leslie Caron opposite 55-year-old Fred Astaire, which gave the story more of a May-December quality than any previous version. The only U.S. release of the British cast recordings came on the 1974 JJA Records bootleg LP Three by Hugh Martin.) The material on the EPs totaled about 18-and-a-half minutes of music, but this unlicensed reissue (taking advantage of the 50-year copyright limit on recordings in Europe) runs over 73 minutes. How can that be? The compilers begin with those four medleys, which demonstrate that the score of Love from Judy was a pleasant, fairly typical Martin effort (the lively "Go and Get Your Banjo" in particular sounds like the work of the man who wrote "The Trolley Song" in Meet Me in St. Louis), and that the cast was talented. The remaining 20 tracks and 54-plus minutes of the disc consist of long out print pop records, most of them originally issued by the then newly founded Philips Records label in England, made by members of the cast. There are also studio-cast recordings, again medleys, of songs from the 1952 movie musical Hans Christian Andersen and the 1953 stage musical Peter Pan in its pre-Broadway form, featuring only songs by Sammy Fain and Sammy Cahn. And there's a pop cover of "I Ain't Gonna Marry," a song from Love from Judy, sung by Eve Boswell. Most of these tracks are forgettable, second-rate impersonations of American pop of the early '50s (much of which wasn't all that great to begin with), complete with exaggerated American accents. For example, Johnny Brandon, a featured performer in Love from Judy, seems to be trying to channel Johnnie Ray on such songs as "I'll Be Hangin' Around," while Whitfield makes like Patti Page on "Dancing with Someone." [Columbia also released a version of the CD with the original London cast.]

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