Leave to to a seasoned pro like Oscars historian Robert Osborne to encourage us to re-evaluate Liza Minnelli.
The daughter of Hollywood legends Judy Garland and acclaimed director Vincente Minnelli is the subject of Osborne’s latest edition of his “Private Screenings” interview sessions tonight on Turner Classic Movies at 8 p.m.
Best known these days for cancelling concerts (she restarted the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra multiple times just to get through an opening number at Chastain a few years back) or providing a punchline on the cult Fox sitcom “Arrested Development.”
In a frank, fascinating conversation between the two old friends tonight, a bright, witty woman emerges, full of great insider stories from growing up on-set at MGM Studios where her parents worked.
Who but Osborne could coax a great story from Minnelli about her film debut as an infant in the finale of 1949’s “The Good Old Summertime” where costumers took great pains to dress her in lavish lace but forgot her undergarments.
“If you look closely at that final shot,” Minnelli advises in the interview, “I look vaguely uncomfortable. That’s because Van Johnson‘s hand was on my butt!”
Osborne’s lengthy off-screen friendship with Minnelli provided the tipping point for TCM to snare the star.
Explains Osborne to Intel: “That was one of the main reasons I had wanted to do the interview for so long. I wanted others to see the Liza Minnelli I saw, away from the headlines. Here was a funny, very intelligent, warm individual but that’s not how she’s often portrayed publicly.”
In the interview’s most emotional moment, Osborne asks Minnelli what she misses most about her father. Holding back tears, Minnelli pauses for a moment and replies: “His support. He helped me a lot on [her Oscar winning role in] ‘Cabaret.’ I miss my parents. I’m like anyone else who’s lost their parents.”
Recalls Osborne: “I asked her that question not knowing what her response might be. But before we started, I told her if I asked something she didn’t want to talk about, we would take it out. Many of her answers surprised me.”
For example, Minnelli’s initial reaction to seeing her mother’s kiddie classic “The Wizard of Oz” is worth tuning in for in and of itself.
Even Minnelli’s most devoted fans may forgotten that her father directed her in his final film, 1976’s “A Matter of Time.” In the “Private Screenings” special, Minnelli discloses that the shoot was a challenge since her father was suffering from a form of dementia.
Following the Minnelli-Osborne “Private Screenings” tonight, TCM will air “Cabaret,” along with the TCM premiere of “A Matter of Time” and Minnelli’s 1991 drama “Stepping Out” as well as Vincente Minnelli’s “Madame Bovary,” “The Bad and the Beautiful,” and “Home From the Hill.”