For having been born too late, I missed dates with Judy far greater in number than what I’d assumed was her sole appearance in the 1948 MGM musical starring Jane Powell, just released on DVD. Turns out this character had a near twenty-year run in various media, a brand name on radio and television, plus comic books and motion pictures. What started as summer replacement for Bob Hope in 1941 evolved into nine seasons of home listening. Shows like A Date With Judy revolved around teen problems at home and among school friends, with parents baffled over juve slanguage and exhibits of immaturity, but always right in the end. According to sex-deprived boys who grew up in radio's era, the girl’s voices were a major turn-on, despite all programs being scrubbed clean of such inference. Guess you took it where you could get it back then. I pulled up a handful of Judy shows for on-line listening. One of them guest-starred Frank Sinatra; another had Joseph Cotten visiting the family. At times it sounded as though they were talking out of barrels. Radio archives are flush with some shows, bone dry on others. I located fifteen Dates With Judy. Maybe more exist, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this were all. The similar Meet Corliss Archer is said to be largely gone, which is too bad, because my elementary school band teacher, Priscilla Lyon, was the first actress to play her on radio. None of these shows are particularly funny, but it is possible to lull yourself into a sufficiently comatose state to groove with them. Girls act silly, boys their eunuch pets. Teenagers as a group behave as utter fools, presumably to blunt any threat they might otherwise pose. You can tell sponsors were parsing these scripts with surgical precision, careful to disperse reality’s intrusion. I’d love to hear from a then-faithful listener, but how many of those visit Greenbriar (or any website)? Web-based nostalgia is after all limited to those who can (or are willing to) ambulate there --- age and passing have taken a lot of older memories with them. A Date With Judy had sufficient legs to manage a daytime television berth beginning in 1951 (the cast shown above). This played live and lasted a couple of years, eventually moving into primetime. There weren’t enough episodes to strip in syndication, not a factor anyway since A Date With Judy wasn’t shot on film and would survive (if at all) on kinescope only. Fans may well have read comic books while listening (or watching), so why not spin the character off into these? Covers here represent a DC run that lasted from 1947 to 1960. They’re not collected with anything like the gusto Superman and Batman inspire, and for all the world they look just like Archie comics I used to get in the early sixties. Those were easy for me to dump later, with nary a regret since, demonstrating perhaps just how disposable A Date With Judy and its kind became once listeners (and readers) grew out of them.
Judy might have been the next Andy Hardy, had attitudes and audiences not been so changed by the war. As it was, MGM ran a decade at least behind the curve when it brought Andy back from service in 1946. He’d not changed at all, and neither would they. A Date With Judy maintained time warpage reflecting a studio’s determination to get back to pre-war business as usual. Household sets are art-directed into otherworldly perfection, and teen patrons facing parental discouragement over wearing excess make-up are confronted with youthful actresses larded with pancake and rouge. Sometimes design and outcome go in opposing directions, or maybe they intended Elizabeth Taylor to represent definitive forties jail-bait, as she certainly does here (speaking of Archie comics, Powell and Taylor are filmic dead ringers, by look and temperament, for Betty and Veronica). High school dances in A Date With Judy are sufficiently divorced from reality as to allow for Xavier Cugat’s casual attendance, as if musical headliners might drop in on your prom, or mine (the closest we came was Willam "Oliver" Swofford of Jean and Good Morning, Starshine fame at our YMCA, but he was raised up the street from me, so that appearance seemed somewhat more plausible). Beyond title and character names based on the radio plays, Judy and her friends are the same sort of let’s-put-on-show Carvel dwellers Mickey and Judy (Garland) had been. Metro teens behaved well and respected their elders. So had kids on radio, but more was at stake in movies. A status quo of family film going must be maintained after all. It was this industry’s very foundation. To undermine that with anything less than idealized depictions of home and hearth was plain suicidal. Let trash merchants handle the likes of Teenage --- Mad Moments Of Youth (shown here), for its disreputable hosts neither needed nor wanted Code Seals for exploitation product they ran, yet theirs was the direction an entire industry would be headed within a short decade. Jane Powell was reassurance itself for parents beginning to worry just prior to release of films that would speak directly to their fears. Columbia’s Knock On Any Door and Universal’s City Across the River within the following year warned, via "A" trappings and top casts, that all was not well among America’s youth. Trouble was confined to slums in these, but there was always the threat it would break out. Misunderstandings with parents in A Date With Judy are resolved promptly and always short of the law’s intervention. Note Elizabeth Taylor’s contretemps with dad Leon Ames over Wall Street distractions that make him inattentive at home, then fast forward to Natalie Wood’s sexually charged Daddy rejection in Rebel Without A Cause. That must surely have been the last picture daughters would have wanted to go with their fathers to see (and vice versa!). By 1955, moviegoers were bifurcating into opposing camps. What one chose for entertainment (and role modeling), the other deplored. Louis Mayer and his producers understood the madness in such a course, but there was little they could do to forestall its forward (or backward?) march.