Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Anne Hathaway, 'Triple Threat' Garland?

Opened up the Variety this morning to this headline: Anne Hathaway gets 'Happy'. The actress, who nabbed an Oscar nomination this past year for her role in 'Rachel Getting Married', has been quietly gaining buzz for her voice, culminating in a live Oscar performance with Hugh Jackmen. Her name has been bandied about as a possible Elphaba in the musical version of Wicked (well okay, mostly by me), and she's set for her stage debut this coming June in 'Twelfth Night' in New York.

Even so, the news that she has tapped such a high profile role in both the stage and movie adaptation of Judy Garland's most acclaimed biography is a bit of a happy shock for me. I'm a fan of Anne, I'll admit it, but the fact that the producers have taken such a chance on Anne and her largely unproven voice (at least in film/theater - she's a gifted soprano) to helm such a challenging role of such an icon not just in the movie adaptation, but the theater run as well is a testament to how Anne's star is rising.

But it's going to be a challenge. Judy Garland is one of those Hollywood icons that defy representation. Her tragic story is told well in 'Get Happy'. I'm a loyal Judy fan and I own the biography, and man it's a downer. Most film lovers remember Judy as the young precocious Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz' or the gifted struggling musician of 'A Star is Born', but the MGM cultivated actress led a life that was both fascinating, tragic and uneven.

A vaudeville baby, Judy was signed by MGM at a young age. Judy had a very big voice for a very small child, but was often given 'Ugly Duckling' roles, until her big break came in both her pairing with Mickey Rooney and MGM's inability to acquire Shirley Temple for 'The Wizard of Oz'. From then on she became one of MGM's biggest draws, genius at what she did, but their habit of working their child actors to the bone, giving them uppers to keep them up and downers to put them to sleep, the constant issues with Judy's weight and her own insecurities of never being a bombshell like fellow starlets Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr took their toll. She became a problem for directors and the studio alike, and after a few too many missed days work on 'Annie Get Your Gun', she was replaced and fired from the studio. The rest of her too short life was one attempt after another to break herself from her addictions and her insecurities.

But when she was in her element, Judy Garland was incomparable. Anne Hathaway has her work cut out for her to truly embody the complicated wonder that is Judy Garland, but I'm definately excited to see what she could do.

To show you what I mean, here's a youtube link to one of Judy's more memorable numbers - from her last MGM film 'Summerstock', here's Get Happy:

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