Life Begins for Andy Hardy • 1941


Here’s the title card I’ve designed and lettered for the next film in Judy Garland’s filmography, Life Begins for Andy Hardy, where Andy (played by Mickey Rooney) weighs post-graduation options—college or a New York job?—while tempted by a Manhattan “wolfess” and championed by the ever faithful Betsy Booth (played by Judy Garland).

I decided to reference the main title sans serif and to create a deco-inspired necktie pattern for the background.

It’s the third and final Andy Hardy movie that Judy plays a part in and it is also the darkest Andy Hardy film to ever be released. It was quite controversial as there is a pal of Andy’s who commits suicide (which was later changed to a heart attack due to the Production Code censors) and the Catholic Legion of Decency slapped an “objectionable for children” rating on the film because of its mature themes and Andy’s affair with a married temptress.


The typography in the trailer is a bold sans serif which I’m noticing is a very common choice in 1941.


Luckily, the main titles are more interesting using a sans serif with varying widths and a script “L.” The MGM lion backdrop was used in many films that a backdrop was not designed. The film was nothing to be taken lightly as Andy Hardy played by Mickey Rooney was a huge commodity and a box office smash. It’s very surprising that the main titles were not more elaborate. The script that accompanies the sans serif is very beautiful though!


Here are a few posters that have a fun deco sans serif that is different than anything else used in the promotional materials. I also love the magazine ad below them that features an iconic illustration of the stars by Al Hirschfeld. The script lettering is nice as well!


Here’s the theatrical trailer for the film!

Ziegfeld Girl • 1941


Here’s the title card I’ve designed and lettered for the next film in my Judy Garland film-title series, Ziegfeld Girl, where a teen vaudevillian, an elevator operator, and a faithful wife face personal repercussions when selected to perform in the legendary Ziegfeld Follies. For this piece, I referenced the dimensional type from the theatrical trailer and played around with a sexy satiny background.

After finishing Little Nellie Kelly, Judy went straight into rehearsals for this picture which had actually been intended for Eleanor Powell, Joan Crawford, Margaret Sullavan, and Virginia Bruce in 1938. The leading ladies ended up being Garland, Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr, and Eve Arden for this 1941 musical.

Although Judy was not heralded as the glamor girl she wished to be, like her co-stars, she could sing gigantic circles around all of them. The powerful and dynamic performances she gave in this film are the reason it is still remembered and referenced today.

The main titles use a really lovely serif type solution with a sexy “Z” accompanied by some portraits of Ziegfeld girls in fantastic fashions.


The theatrical trailer titles are dimensional, shiny, and super sexy with a gorgeous voluptuous woman illuminated in marquee lights.


I love the opening frame for the film that showcases the bulb-lighted scripts and sans serif typography of Broadway!


These two images are the closing shots of the film showcasing Judy Garland in a blonde wig! This is the only time she got to don the color she thought would make her glamorous and a true bombshell. You can really see how happy she is to look like a Lana Turner-type girl. She was briefly blonde in the The Wizard of Oz and was thrilled about it but quickly made very disappointed when she was asked to be herself and more plain with auburn pigtails. One of the things that is so heartbreaking is that she never knew how truly beautiful she was by just being herself.


Here she is in a very rare color screen test wearing a dreadful blonde wig for The Wizard of Oz. The image comes from a fabulous book I had the pleasure of working on a few years ago available on Amazon here. Take note that even the yellow brick road and scarecrow set is different!


This is an article from the June 1941 Motion Picture magazine I have in my collection that talks about her filming Ziegfeld Girl. The article is called, Old Enough to Know What She Wants, by Carol Craig, and it’s a truly fascinating read and look into the making of films back in a time when completing a scene in one take wasn’t just a feat of will but necessary and it truly proves the existence and caliber of talent that reigned in Hollywood at this time.

This is Judy’s co-star Hedy Lamarr. If you have a moment, I would recommend reading her fascinating life story or even just her wikipedia page. She left Hollywood to become a successful inventor. She even aided in the invention of the wifi you may be using right now. As you can see, her unusual beauty was unrivaled.


I love this brush script I found in a print ad for the film in Screenland  magazine from my collection.


Here’s the theatrical trailer for the film! It’s over-the-top in true MGM style but it’s worth the watch enjoy the bold deco typography.

Little Nellie Kelly • 1940


“It’s a Great Day for the Irish!” Here’s the next title card I designed and lettered for my Judy Garland film title series.

The trailer features some fun inline typography (seen below) but I thought the treatment created for the main titles was much more interesting and in-line with the content and themes of the film so I chose that as reference for my piece instead.

It’s 1940 and MGM producer Arthur Freed was looking for the right vehicle to move Judy into more “adult” parts. In Little Nellie Kelly she would play a dual role, one part as an Irish woman who travels to the U.S. with her feuding husband and father only to die in childbirth, and the other as the daughter raised by the two quarreling men.

Just before Judy began work on Little Nellie Kelly, MGM raised her salary from $600 to $2000 a week with options for seven years that would eventually bring her to $3000 a week.

In the film, Judy sings a chorus of “A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow” as Nellie Kellie, and a jazzed-up reprise of it as Little Nellie. She would later describe the song as one of Roger Edens’ discoveries: “ obscure Irish folk song that fit the picture well. And we did it, and they released the picture, and the song became... an obscure Irish folk song!” Edens also wrote “It’s a Great Day for the Irish,” which became a Garland standard. The song was written to capitalize on her identification with her Irish roots and was used in a recreation of New York’s famed annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade marching up Fifth Avenue. It was a major production number requiring the New York Street set on the backlot of MGM to be enlarged, involving the main characters of the film and showcasing Judy’s enormously strong voice as she sang and danced up the avenue.

Little Nellie Kelly is an important film for Judy as she practically grew up on the screen bearing a child, playing a death scene (the only one she ever played on-screen), and receiving her first romantic adult kiss. It was also the first film to showcase her very impressive dramatic abilities. Sadly, MGM would do very little to build on her dramatic impact in film, confining her to musicals for all but one feature called The Clock, during her time there.


Here’s the main title treatment for the film which I really enjoy although it is a bit too “woodland” and “fairy-tale” for the movie.


The promotional materials for the film included a wide range of title treatments and I especially enjoyed the sans-serif inline type on this colorful half-sheet poster.


Here you can see Judy growing up and looking mature and beautiful in her first “real” romantic role.


I love reading the articles found in the popular movie magazines in the 40s and 50s. Here are two from my collection.

The first article is called Beginning Judy Garland’s Gay Life Story from Screenland magazine in December 1940. It’s the first part of a two-part story of Judy’s life according to her as told to Gladys Hall.

MGM loved putting out the life stories of their stars to make them seem like everyone else but deeply and importantly talented.

The second article is part two and is called Judy Garland’s Gay Life Story from Screenland magazine in January 1941. In this second and final installment, Judy addresses filming Little Nellie Kelly and includes a lovely picture with her on-screen father.

In the article, Judy says: “And now I’m playing my first grown-up, dramatic character part in Little Nellie Kelly. I even die in Nellie. And—and this is a VERY important first in my life, I play my first grown-up love scene in the picture, too! I’m really blushing even as I write about it. I, who have said I was never embarrassed on the stage, in front of a mic or camera, take it all back now. George Murphy plays my sweetheart (and my husband, I play a dual role, too!) in the picture. And he was certainly the most perfect choice, for he is so kind and tender and understanding—and humorous, too. But just the same, after we made that love scene, I didn’t know what to do or where to look. I’d just kind of go away between scenes because I couldn’t look at him. He kept kidding me, too, saying he felt like he was “in Tennessee with my child bride!”


Here’s the theatrical trailer! I love how its copy references two films that Judy had just filmed.

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!