Jenny Bowman (Judy Garland) is a singer from America who is visiting London to play a few concerts for her adoring fans, but she has something else on her mind other than that, which leads her to the house and offices of her old flame, a doctor, David Donne (Dirk Bogarde). She goes there on the pretense of wanting him to look at her throat, which he does and sees there's nothing wrong with it that some rest and a linctus won't help, but soon she has changed the subject to their son, Matt (Gregory Phillips), who doesn't know Jenny is his real mother...
I Could Go On Singing was the last film Judy Garland ever released, and she apparently had such a miserable time making it that she never returned to the screen, dying around six or seven years after it had been made (her penultimate effort was actually shot after this). Then again, she was having a miserable time in general no matter what she would have been doing; she was only turning forty when this was shot, but such was the toll her lifestyle had taken on her that she looked about twenty years older, which would have had her more convincing as grandmother to Matt than his parent. Funnily enough, this made her character's personality ring truer.
Well, it wasn't funny, it was a real shame, but the notion that we were somehow seeing the "real" Judy here more than we did in her sunnier musicals of yesteryear has proven much of the attraction for this movie since it appeared to mixed reactions back in the mid-sixties. The most common complaint was that the storyline was barely there, and when it was it aimed solely for the most obvious targets in an attempt to get the audience feeling emotional about Jenny's custody battle, a situation which never gets off the ground dramatically when much of it was designed to show off tourist spots of the British capital.
David agrees to let Jenny visit her son at his private school to see a very flamboyant staging of Gilbert and Sullivan, and so enchanted is he with being in the presence of a showbiz star (the only other celeb these boys seem to have heard of is Chubby Checker, who needless to say does not appear) that he wishes to spend as much time with her as possible. Naturally, this feeling is mutual, but David is dead set against it which leads to an argument and, er, that's about it. What the attraction of the day was set up to be was the musical numbers, where aside from one Jenny/Judy takes the stage to belt out some would be showstoppers which fail to move, and no wonder with title tune lyrics (written by the Over the Rainbow guys, too) like "I could go on singing until the cows come home".
Which sounds like a cue for a Groucho Marx quip instead of an inspirational, trilling through the tears call to her fellow sufferers through life. The script was oddly coy about the reasons why Jenny was an unfit mother, with only a late on twisting of her ankle while drunk after drowning her sorrows before going on stage the main hint that she has the substance abuse history that the star playing her was labouring under. Although she wasn't enjoying herself much, Garland did manage to keep some energy in her portrayal, so no matter how she was treating those behind the camera she was still on form for her audience, but there was such a glum mood to the film otherwise that eventually if you were sticking with it that could be down to morbid curiosity more than actually appreciating as intended a musical melodrama. Even her voice wasn't in great shape, with power but not much melody, though the mediocre tunes she was given did not lend themselves to the most impressive renditions. Seeing Judy on a cinema screen for the last time did have a poignancy, however. Music by Mort Lindsey.