Strike Up The Band • 1940

Here’s some fun futurist deco type for the next title card in my series!

Strike Up the Band was a follow up to the massively successful film Babes in Arms. Its title was chosen for no other reason than that it sounded “patriotic” which was especially important with the rumblings of World War II overseas. The film encapsulates the optimism of America’s youth and the finale is a fascinating commentary on the state of the nation in 1940.

In the film, Rooney plays a high school band drummer with hopes of leading his own jazz orchestra one day, while Garland plays Mary, a singer who can't get Jimmy to notice her as anything more than a friend. Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Jimmy and his band eventually get the chance to audition for the famous orchestra leader Paul Whiteman which leads to a manic baton-whirling finale with enough cheerfulness to bring a smile to any pessimist’s face.

The film is obviously a vehicle for Rooney, but Garland’s role is quite a feature and she sings many memorable songs. One of them is a beautiful number called, “Our Love Affair” with music written by her mentor Roger Edens and the lyrics by Arthur Freed, the film's producer. The song was nominated for an Academy Award that year!

Judy turned 18 years old while making this picture and she met one of her future husbands, director Vincente Minnelli. They wouldn’t fall in love, however, until they worked together in 1944 on a little film called Meet Me In St. Louis.

Minnelli was on the set at the request of Arthur Freed who was having trouble with a scene. “We need a big production number here,” Freed told Minnelli. “Mickey and Judy are in the house, and he’s telling her he wants to be a famous band leader like Paul Whiteman. Something big has to happen.” Minnelli looked around and noticed a bowl of fruit on the table and said, “Why don’t you take that bowl of fruit and have Mickey set each piece of fruit as if it were a musical instrument. Apples for fiddles, oranges for brass, bananas for woodwinds. Then have Mickey conduct with his hands. The pieces of fruit are now puppet characters of musicians." (This is an excerpt from his fascinating 1974 autobiography I Remember it Well.)

The charming and imaginative number is one of the film’s highlights and Louis B. Mayer always referred to Minnelli as “the genius who took a bowl of fruit and made a big production number out of it.”


The trailer titles feature two deco sans serif type treatments and the standard music note motif which was very popular at the time with the explosion of the musical motion picture.


The main titles are really lovely and feature some unique futurist deco type. Paul Whiteman even gets third billing!


It’s fascinating to see Garland growing up on film. She’s one of the first stars we get to see grow from a child star into an icon and observe what happens to a person during those years. I’ve bored so many of my friends to death telling them about how much I believe Judy Garland and Britney Spears have in common and how the time they existed in facilitated many of their successes or failures and the constantly observed life is bound to be affected by that observation and the constant commentary that goes along with it. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll get to writing that book eventually...


I love collecting lobby cards and posters. Check out the cool type solutions found here and also the color photographs of Garland and Rooney. I believe these were shot in Kodachrome.


Here’s the theatrical trailer! Warning: It’s quite frantic and joyful!

Andy Hardy Meets Debutante • 1940


For the next title card in my series I created a monoline slab-serif!

I really enjoyed the script lettering created for the theatrical trailer but I had just referenced something similar for the card for Listen, Darling. The slab-serif type created for the main titles was also interesting so I decided to use it as reference for my piece instead.

Because this Andy Hardy film leaves the fictional town of Carvel behind for New York City, I created a subtle art deco background and some cheeky “cleavage” referencing the many crushes of Andy Hardy.

Andy Hardy Meets Debutante is the second of three Andy Hardy movies where Judy plays Betsy Booth, the pal who always finds a way to help Andy, played by Mickey Rooney, sort out his troubled romantic life, even while pining for his affection and attention herself.

In this film, Betsy gives Andy a tour of New York City and introduces him to a wealthy debutante named Daphne. Although she is out of his league, Andy falls for her, of course, and it takes him suffering through a bout of public humiliation before realizing that happiness lies back at home in Carvel with his sweetheart Polly Benedict.

Judy shares her first on-screen “romantic” kiss with Rooney in the back of a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park. This film is important in Judy’s career because it shows a glimpse of the true beauty Garland had and even though she was consistently cast as the ordinary best-friend character her glamour and beauty still shone through to the dismay of studio executives.

Time Magazine said at the time of the film’s release that “seventeen-year-old Judy Garland, growing prettier by the picture and armed for this one with two good songs...treats Mickey with a dose of his own medicine.”


Here’s a lobby card and poster that feature some fun and funky type:


Here are some screen-grabs of Judy (fresh off of Wizard of Oz fame) looking more mature and glamorous:


Here’s the theatrical trailer for the film:

Babes In Arms • 1939


Here’s a shadowed serif for my next title card in my series! I referenced the quaint serif type that was used in the main titles of the film. I really liked the inline deco type from the theatrical trailer but since I just did one like that I thought I would try something less bold and blocky.

Judy had just finished filming The Wizard of Oz when she began work on Babes in Arms. It’s loosely based on the play of the same name by Rodgers and Hart and only retains three of its original songs! One of the new song in the film, “God’s Country,” had music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. They’re the same team that crafted “Over the Rainbow.” It’s quite a rousing finale number!

Judy was given an Academy award “for her outstanding performance as a screen juvenile for the past year” of 1939.


Here’s the inline deco sans serif type from the theatrical trailer:


Heres some fun promotional ephemeral and sheet music:


Heres the theatrical trailer:

Listen, Darling • 1938


“Are you looking for a husband? Let Judy and Freddie show you how to find one!” That’s the tagline for the next film in my series of Judy Garland films! 

Judy was 16 and rehearsing for The Wizard of Oz when she made this film and it marks the first time that she sang, “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” on screen, which would become one of the signature songs of her career. She sang it on a radio program in 1935, on the greatest night in show business history in 1961 at Carnegie Hall, and on her television show in 1963. 

The main titles, below, contain this fun script and heart motif which remind me of Desilu and I Love Lucy.


For my piece, I referenced the fun deco script that was made for the theatrical trailer and the window of the family’s mobile home trailer. Yes, this is a romance where Judy and her family travel in their mobile home and all they want to do is to find a new husband for their darling mother who has terrible taste in men.


Here is the radio performance during The Shell Chateau Hour with Wallace Beery. On the night of the show's broadcast  Judy was told that her father was seriously ill in hospital but had no choice but to go on and perform. This performance has an added intensity because of this. A radio was placed next to his bed so he could hear the broadcast. Her father died the next morning.

Here is the performance from The Judy Garland Show.

Here is the theatrical trailer for the film. Check out the bizarre advertisements in the newspaper!

Love Finds Andy Hardy • 1938


Next up in my series is Love Finds Andy Hardy released in 1938!

Who will Andy Hardy take to the Christmas Eve dance and will he find a way to get the 18 dollars he needs to buy a car for the occasion!??! You’ll have to watch to find out, haha. Judy was assigned this part at MGM while Arthur Freed was putting together the team that would make her immortal, as Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz the following year.


The main title type had a fun stitched theme but I really loved the inline deco type used in the theatrical trailer so I created my piece based on that lettering instead. Imagine how big the type in the trailer would have been for audiences. The quiet and tracked-out sans-serif titles of today just seem plain and lethargic in comparison.


The promotional materials created for the film were very delightful and featured some fun type solutions as well:


Check out the original theatrical trailer:

Everybody Sing • 1938


Next up in my series is Everybody Sing from 1938! The film teams up Judy and Billie Burke one year before they were immortalized as Dorothy and Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. It’s a musical comedy where Judy plays a precocious singing daughter of a madcap theatrical family who saves them from financial ruin with help from their Russian maid (Fanny Brice, in a rare film role!) and singing chef. Why not? haha.

The film is certainly an important reminder of the the development of Garland’s career and was even more important due to a seven-week, seven-city promotional tour made to promote the film. She traveled with her mentor, Roger Edens, who accompanied her on the piano. (Roger used to be the mentor of Ethel Merman who was a great battle ax of a broadway belter!) These performances were the first opportunities for her to command large stages, alone, to sing in front of adoring crowds and establish a dedicated audience and sincere rapport that would, in time, make her one of the world's greatest live entertainers in the world. (Listen to Judy at Carnegie Hall  recorded in 1961 if you need me to convince you of this!)


The main title type uses a very lovely deco sans serif and the trailer uses more of that fun deco bulb typography. I combined both for my reinterpretation and I am really loving working with “bulbs” as building blocks for type.


Here’s the complete theatrical trailer. You must watch it for the hilarious use of music notes as windows for all of the actor’s faces. It’s quite a sight and thoroughly enjoyable!

Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry • 1937


For my next redesigned and lettered title card in my series, I was inspired by the super-condensed sans serif typography found in the theatrical trailer produced for the third film in Garland’s filmography.

The main title lettering is a very simple art deco sans serif seen below.


Here’s the condensed type from the trailer as well as the type introducing the three top-billed actors of the film which was a very simple and very deco lettering style.


Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry has the distinction of being the first film to team up Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. The story concerns an English boy, Roger Calverton (Ronald Sinclair), who travels to America with his grandfather (C. Aubrey Smith) to race their beloved horse, Pookah. Mickey Rooney plays the smug but talented jockey Timmie Donovan, whom Roger wants to ride Pookah to victory. Judy Garland plays Cricket, the precocious niece of Mother Ralph (Sophie Tucker), who runs a boarding house for jockeys where Timmie lives.

At first, the film didn't include a role for a young female lead, however, MGM was eager to showcase their rising young singing star who had just made a memorable hit in Broadway Melody of 1938 where she performed her iconic and very charming “You Made Me Love You (Dear Mr. Gable)” number.


Here’s the very strange but entertaining theatrical trailer:

Broadway Melody of 1938 • 1937


Check out the cool illuminated shadow type in the trailer for Broadway Melody of 1938, the 2nd of 34 feature films in Judy Garland’s career! (below)

The trailer has such a range of typography including an illuminated sans serif with bubbles (bottom left) and funky over-the-top closing titles. (bottom right) I do enjoy those deco numerals though!


The illuminated deco script main title type is so interesting as each individual “light” spins during the title sequence. It was hard to capture as a still image but that made me want to use this as reference for my piece. I used this as a blueprint for the type but expanded upon where things could extended and pull things closer to create a tighter unit of light-bulb type. (below)


Here’s the complete theatrical trailer:

Pigskin Parade • 1936


I don’t know much about football and I’m not crazy about brushy type so I drew some funky deco shadowy type instead for Judy’s debut feature film!


Judy, billed 13th, plays a hillbilly melon-thrower’s musical kid sister who propels a Texas college to a singing, dancing, and gridiron victory.

Judy had been signed at MGM through the interest of Louis B. Mayer’s secretary, Ida Koverman, who discovered her singing with her sisters. The studio tested her and another contract singer, Deanna Durbin, in the musical short Every Sunday, then decided to drop both. Koverman and executive Benny Thau intervened on Garland’s behalf, but with no projects under development for the pudgy 14-year-old, the studio loaned her to 20th Century-Fox, her only loan-out during her 15 years at MGM.

When the film was released, the public and press praised Judy’s talents and memorable numbers. This was the final impetus for MGM to include Judy in a film made on her home turf. That film would by Broadway Melody of 1938. More on that in just a few days!


The following is a performance from the film of what I would call her very first of many torch songs that were written for her throughout her career. (She hadn't quite mastered lip-syncing to pre-recordings yet...)

A Star is Born • 1954


I designed and lettered a retro title-card in honor of my absolute *favorite* film! 

Released before Barbra Streisand’s remake in 1976, this incredible 1954 musical version of the 1937 film dazzled audiences with its super-widescreen Cinemascope format and new musical material by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin.

The iconic shiny red serif main titles in the stars above Los Angeles (below) are directly referencing the titles setting from the 1937 version seen below them.


I have always really loved the script lettering created for the theatrical trailer and especially enjoyed the treble clef inspired “S.”

My reimagined title card is inspired by this script lettering and the iconic stage set of The Academy Awards scene in the film.


If you’ve never seen it, I would highly recommend it!