Garland, Judy (1922–1969)

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Garland, Judy (1922–1969)

American singer, dancer, actress, and show-business icon in films and on stage for three decades, who had a devoted worldwide following. Born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota; died in London, England, on June 22, 1969, the official coroner's report listing an overdose of sleeping pills as the cause of death; the youngest of three daughters of Frank and Ethel (Milne) Gumm (both vaudeville performers); married David Rose (a musician), in 1941 (divorced 1945); married Vincente Minnelli (a director), in 1946 (divorced 1951); married Sid Luft (a producer), in 1952 (divorced 1957); married Mark Herron (an actor), in 1965 (divorced 1967); married Mickey Deans (a nightclub owner), in 1968; children: (second marriage) Liza Minnelli (b. 1946); (third marriage) Lorna Luft (b. 1952); Joseph Luft (b. 1955).

Made her stage debut with her sisters at the age of three (1925); signed a movie contract with MGM at age 13 (1935); secured position as a Hollywood star at age 17 with her portrayal of Dorothy in MGM's musical The Wizard of Oz (1939); appeared in a string of lavish MGM musicals to great acclaim; driven by professional and family pressures, began to suffer from depression and anxiety, struggling with addictions to various medications for the rest of her life.


various shorts from 1929 to 1936; Pigskin Parade (1936); Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937); Thoroughbreds Don't Cry (1937); Everybody Sing (1938); Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938); Listen Darling (1938); The Wizard of Oz (1939); Babes in Arms (1939); Andy Hardy Meets a Debutante (1940); Strike Up the Band (1940); Little Nellie Kelley (1940); Meet the Stars #4 (short, 1941); Cavalcade of the Academy Awards (short, 1941); Ziegfeld Girl (1941); Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941); Babes on Broadway (1942); We Must Have Music (short, 1942); For Me and My Gal (1942); Presenting Lily Mars (1943); As Thousands Cheer (1943); Girl Crazy (1943); Meet Me in St. Louis (1944); The Clock (1945); The Harvey Girls (1946); Ziegfeld Follies (1946); Till the Clouds Roll By (1946); The Pirate (1948); Easter Parade (1948); Words and Music (1948); In the Good Old Summertime (1949); Summer Stock (1950); A Star Is Born (1954); Pepe (cameo, 1960); Judgment at Nuremberg (1961); Gay Purr-ee (voice only, 1962); A Child Is Waiting (1963); I Could Go on Singing (1963).

Everyone on director Stanley Kramer's set waited in quiet anticipation one March morning in 1960 for the arrival of the actress whose few short scenes in Kramer's film Judgment at Nuremberg would be shot over the next few days. Heads turned when a thin, petite woman entered the studio; as she made her way toward Kramer, a spontaneous round of applause brought a deep blush to her cheeks. With a mock curtsey and a theatrical nod of her head to Kramer, Judy Garland reported for work on her first film in nearly seven years after a tortured career that had been nearly swamped by personal anguish and professional insecurity. But no one ever doubted her talent for exuberant song and dance and intensely focused acting when she was at her best. "There's nobody in the entertainment world today," Kramer said after completing his film, "who can run the complete range of emotions the way she can."

It was Judy's father, a vaudeville song-and-dance man named Frank Gumm, who had taught her to give an audience everything she had. Frank and Ethel Gumm had begun in the business by managing movie theaters which, in those early days, were really vaudeville houses that combined live entertainment with short, one or two-reel silent films. Frank had left a broken home and a college education in the Midwest to settle in Superior, Wisconsin, where he had turned a talent for singing into a job at the Savoy Theater. He was accompanied on the piano by Ethel Milne. The two were married in January of 1914 and soon moved to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where friends told them a new movie palace had just opened.

Grand Rapids, on the banks of the Mississippi River in the southeast corner of Minnesota, had been settled by Irish and German immigrants who flocked to the New Grand Theater for their entertainment on weekends and holidays, where, along with "the flickers," they could enjoy Frank Gumm's rousing musical numbers, arranged by Ethel. Soon, the couple had bought the theater outright and had added amateur nights and fashion shows to the schedule. They also appeared together in a new act, billing themselves as "Jack and Virginia Lee, Sweet Southern Singers." The business ran smoothly enough that by 1918 the Gumms were able to buy a small house on a corner lot in which their two daughters were born—Mary Jane in 1915, Virginia in 1917. In later years, Judy would often claim that her mother never wanted a third child, that she was bent on having an abortion before a medical-student friend persuaded her otherwise. She even tried to induce a miscarriage. "She must have rolled down nineteen thousand flights of stairs and jumped off tables" Judy would say, adding that Ethel Gumm would delight in detailing her strategies to neighborhood ladies after Frances Ethel Gumm, soon to be Judy Garland, was born on June 10, 1922.

Judy's lifelong animosity toward her mother also included claims that she was forced into show business. Although it is true that Frances "Baby" Gumm made her public debut at the tender age of two-and-a-half in a fashion show Ethel had organized at a local dry goods store, she was already a willing participant, with her two sisters, in singing and dancing for neighborhood friends in garages and on street corners. Virginia Gumm once recalled her little sister's reaction to seeing a professional sister act, The Blue Sisters, perform at the New Grand. "Baby … was all but uncontrollable," she said. "She sat there bouncing up and down and humming along," turning to her father at the show's end to ask, "Daddy, can I do that?" Soon, the three girls were appearing at the New Grand between movies, performing "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street" as their debut number. "The work of Frances, the two-year-old baby, was a genuine surprise," the Grand Rapids Herald-Review said of their first appearance. "The little girl spoke and sang so as to be heard by everyone in the house," a talent concisely summarized in another reviewer's description of her as "the little girl with the leather lungs."

"If I had any talent in those days," Garland once said, "it was inherited. Nobody ever taught me what to do on stage." She neglected to mention that it was Ethel who taught her basic dance steps and, later, saw to it that she and her sisters had professional training in dance; or that it was Frank who gave her an early repertoire of songs and coached her to sing them with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. That was the way, he explained, to put over even a mediocre song and win the audience's approval. By March of 1925, barely three years old, Frances was often appearing on the stage at the New Grand by herself, as well as with her sisters. The girls were famous enough by the following year to begin traveling to other towns to perform, and had polished their act to such an extent that they were added to their parents' act when the family departed on a two-month vacation to Los Angeles at the invitation of friends who had settled there. The rail tickets and hotel rooms were paid for by appearances in vaudeville houses and movie palaces in railroad towns from Grand Rapids to Seattle. Frank and Ethel were excited by the job opportunities in a movie industry just then turning a sleepy suburb of Los Angeles called Hollywood into an entertainment industry mecca. Although they returned to Grand Rapids in July of 1926, they relocated permanently the following October when Frank bought a movie house in tiny Lancaster, California, at the edge of the Mojave Desert some 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles. There were no picture palaces for sale in Hollywood and the real estate, in any case, was too expensive for the Gumms' limited resources.

Seventy bumpy miles over undeveloped roads were no obstacle for Ethel Gumm, who was intent on finding a spot in show business for her girls. Her determination may have been spurred by her increasingly troubled marriage to Frank, and it is likely that both she and her husband had begun by this time finding solace with other partners. The three-hour drive to Los Angeles finally paid off when the Gumm Sisters made their radio debut in Santa Monica on "The Kiddies Hour" and were invited to become a weekly feature. Even better, Ethel enrolled the girls at the Meglin Dance Studio, which she had learned was a favorite talent pool for Hollywood agents. The Los Angeles Record was already noting in its review of the 1928 Meglin Kiddie Revue at Loew's State Theater that "one small miss shook these well known rafters with her songs," and apologized to its readers for being unable to attach a name to the little girl who sang "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" dressed as Cupid. By 1929, Ethel had left Frank and moved permanently to Los Angeles with her daughters. The local Lancaster newspaper noted that the Gumm Sisters would be pursuing "special studies" in the city and added hopefully that the family would be reunited soon. Neighbors would not have agreed with Garland's later assessment of her mother as "the real Wicked Witch of the West"; the local gossip criticized Ethel less for being a stage mother than for neglecting her husband.

The Gumm Sisters soon became such a feature of "The Kiddies Hour" on radio that impresario Gus Edwards found them work in a series of short musical films made possible by the advent of sound, and put them in his "Hollywood Starlets Revue" in 1930. By 1933, they were touring the vaudeville circuit throughout the Midwest, where comedian George Jessel introduced them at Chicago's Oriental Theater for the first time as The Garland Sisters, perhaps taking the name from On the Twentieth Century, the film playing the theater along with the live entertainment, in which Carole Lombard 's character changes her name from Lily Plotka to Lily Garland. It was Jessel, too, who got them signed with his own agency, William Morris, and who suggested that it was the youngest Garland's voice that would sell the act. She sang, he said, "like a woman with a heart that had been hurt." After another year of touring, the Garland Sisters arrived back in Los Angeles for a spot on the bill at Graumann's Chinese Theater, their most prestigious venue yet. Garland was barely 12 years old but, Variety told its readers, "With the youngest, Frances, featured, the act hops into class entertainment. Possessing a voice that without a P.A. system is audible throughout a house as large as the Chinese, she handles ballads like a veteran and gets every one over with a personality that hits the audience." Virginia and Mary Jane, the review noted, "merely form a background."

The praise for little Frances Garland came at an opportune moment, for in 1934 Hollywood was fascinated with the success of six year-old Shirley Temple (Black) , another alumnus of the Meglin Dance Studio, who had stolen Fox's musical Stand Up and Cheer from its adult stars. Equally riveted by the money the film raked in, rival studios were scurrying to find their own Shirley Temples, and it seemed inevitable that Garland would be in the running. Joe Mankiewicz, then a young writer at MGM and later to be a major figure in Garland's life, remembered the first time he saw the Garland Sisters' act. "[Judy's] voice was something incredible," he later wrote, "and you knew as you sat there that you were in the presence of something that wasn't going to come around again in a long time." Through Mankiewicz's influence, Garland was auditioned no less than three times at MGM, but Louis Mayer thought she wasn't pretty enough and especially heeded Hedda Hopper 's description of "a roly-poly girl with eyes like saucers" in telling his assistants that Garland was too chubby for the screen. In the meantime, she took a new stage name drawn from one of her favorite Hoagy Carmichael songs, with the line, "If you think she's a saint and you find that she ain't, that's Judy."

Finally, after her cause was embraced by Mayer's executive assistant Ida Koverman and a new studio composer and pianist named Roger Edens, Judy Garland was signed to a seven-year contract, at $150 a week, in September of 1935. Ethel counted her youngest daughter extremely lucky, for at the time MGM was Hollywood's most respected studio, with "more stars than there are in the heavens," as the studio's slogan went. Under Louis Mayer's paternal conservatism, MGM's talent was carefully nurtured and developed; actors' lives were strictly controlled to prevent scandal of any kind from tarnishing the studio's pristine reputation for quality family entertainment. Garland was assigned two hours of work a day with Roger Edens, who refined the skills her father had taught her and began to build her repertoire. Judy's ties to the studio were further tightened when Frank Gumm died unexpectedly of spinal meningitis. Garland suffered acute remorse at what she felt had been her abandonment of him and sobbed for hours in a locked bathroom—a habit she would repeat in years to come under more threatening pressures. With Frank gone, MGM's importance in her life increased. "It's hard to explain what it's like to have a film corporation for a parent," she said, "but when my father died Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer more or less adopted me."

Further anxieties developed when MGM insisted on delaying her debut before its cameras. The studio repeatedly withdrew offers of small parts in its musicals before finally, after a year, loaning her out to Fox for one of that studio's thinly plotted musical revues, Pigskin Parade, in 1936. Judy had by now learned from studio pros that a loan-out was a sure sign of impending dismissal, but she did her best in the Fox picture as one of a high-stepping chorus of collegiate beauties (a young Betty Grable among them), each of whom were given chances at solo numbers, of which Judy was given three. Although The New York Times thought she was merely "cute, not too pretty," it noted her "fetching personality" and her ability to put a song over. But this slight encouragement could hardly compensate for Garland's shock when she saw herself on screen for the first time at the picture's preview. She had expected that the magic of lighting and makeup would compensate for MGM's litany of physical defects and was shocked at what she saw. "It was the most awful moment of my life," she recalled years later. "My freckles stood out. I was fat, and my acting was terrible." To make matters worse, Deanna Durbin , who had entered the MGM stable at the same time as Garland but who had been aggressively promoted, had become an overnight sensation in her first film, Three Smart Girls. Ethel again found herself pounding on a locked bathroom door while Judy sobbed inside.

She just plain wore out.

—Ray Bolger

It was Clark Gable's birthday that saved Judy Garland's contract. The studio had arranged a gala birthday party for its biggest star's 36th birthday, at which Ida Koverman had convinced Mayer to let Judy sing. Koverman, Edens, and Garland worked up an act that came to be called "Dear Mr. Gable," in which Judy, doe-eyed and yearning, sang "You Made Me Love You" to a photograph of the star. Gable, along with everyone else, was enchanted and even strode on stage after Judy repeated her performance at a theater exhibitor's convention to give her a theatrically passionate embrace. By the time production began on MGM's Broadway Melody of 1938 (shot during 1937), the number had been inserted into the film's score. "The sensational work of young Judy Garland causes wonder as to why she has been kept under wraps these many months," complained The Hollywood Reporter in its review of the picture. "Hers is a distinctive personality well worth careful promotion."

MGM took the hint, to the extent that Garland found herself working on two pictures at once—a racetrack comedy called Thoroughbreds Don't Cry, her first picture with Mickey Rooney in which she was required to do little more than sing; and Everybody Sing, another comedy about a wealthy family besotted with show business. MGM's publicists took Garland's image seriously in hand, promoting her on radio and arranging for a six-week concert tour starting in Miami and ending in Columbus, Ohio. Returning to the studio, Judy appeared in the first of three "Andy Hardy" pictures with Rooney. She was cast as the love interest that Rooney ignores for the more attractive Lana Turner , to whom Garland's acting abilities were unfavorably compared. "Look at Lana!" Judy wailed. "I'm so ugly!"

To make sure they got a good return on their investment, studio executives put Garland on a strict diet and hired a physician to supervise a regimen of Benzedrine to control her appetite and Seconal to counteract its stimulant effects so that she might sleep at night. "My primary function was to work," Garland said later. "As long as I worked, the studio's investment in the property known as Judy Garland paid off. If I got fat, I couldn't work. So, I mustn't get fat." Even so, the studio's wardrobe department insisted that she wear a "figure flattener" when Garland was awarded the role which secured her reputation for generations of Americans, that of the plucky Dorothy in MGM's The Wizard of Oz. Running through two directors, 23 weeks of shooting (from October 1938 to March of 1939, the longest shoot in MGM's history at the time), and a budget three times that of most pictures in those days, The Wizard of Oz permanently implanted Judy's image as the virginal hometown American girl in the national consciousness. Her plaintive rendition of Harold Arlen and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg's "Over the Rainbow" especially won audiences' hearts. "She sang not only to your ears, but to your tear ducts," said Harburg. Hollywood was so moved by her emotional performance that Garland was awarded a special Oscar in 1940 for Best Juvenile Performance.

"Judy Garland's Dorothy is a pert and fresh-faced Miss with the wonder-lit eyes of a believer in fairy tales," gushed The New York Times, typical of the reviews that poured in with the film's release, just as Garland was beginning work on another MGM musical, Babes in Arms, directed by Busby Berkeley and teaming her once again with Rooney. The Times' depiction, unfortunately, belied the frictions and tumult that now surrounded the studio's most rapidly rising young star, already under pressure to compete and chafing at being an eternal adolescent. Her crushes on actor Jackie Cooper and band leader Artie Shaw were in danger of advancing to something much more serious (Garland's bitter outburst at Shaw when his marriage to Lana Turner was announced being hastily concealed by the studio). Her relationship with her mother, assiduously portrayed by the studio as loving and benevolent, was in reality near collapse due to Ethel's remarriage to one of Frank's former rivals on the very anniversary of his death; and the 18-year-old Garland's demands for more adult roles were becoming increasingly strident. She was given a dual role—as a mother and, in a flash forward, as the daughter—in Little Nellie Kelley, despite Louis Mayer's serious reservations. ("You can't let that child have a baby!" he objected.) Critics hated her acting in the picture, but audiences turned out in force to see the film and earned MGM some $2 million on its $600,000 investment.

By now, Garland's drug addiction was causing serious problems on the sets of her pictures. She was often hours late for her calls and seemed to fly into fits of tearful anger at the slightest provocation. She disappeared completely from the set of Babes on Broadway in 1941, sending a telegram from Las Vegas to announce she had eloped with musician David Rose. "Please give me a little time and I will be back and finish the picture with one take each scene, love, Judy," she wired. An abortion in 1942 at Ethel's insistence and her subsequent divorce from Rose, finalized in 1945, sent Garland into a depression serious enough that medical help had to be sought. In 1943, after completing work on her second dramatic, adult role in Presenting Lily Mars, an affair with Tyrone Power ended badly when Power's wife Annabella left him with much public accusation; Garland's succeeding lover, who happened to be Joe Mankiewicz, arranged a stay at the Menninger Clinic in Kansas for what was termed "nervous instability." Mankiewicz was familiar with psychological illness; his wife suffered from severe depression and paranoia and he, himself, had been in analysis for some time. "[Judy] was full of unconscious hostility toward the parent, represented by the studio, which she manifested by not showing up on time," he claimed. "She was treated by most people, including her mother, as a thing, not as a human being. The girl reacted to the slightest bit of kindness as if it were a drug." Mankiewicz was repaid for his concern by being hauled before Garland's mother and Louis Mayer, seething at what they saw as his interference. "All Judy needs is a mother's love," Mayer claimed. Mankiewicz promptly quit MGM, went over to Fox, and eventually became an Oscar-winning director with such pictures as All About Eve and A Letter to Three Wives.

Mayer immediately put Garland back to work in 1944's Meet Me in St. Louis, directed by a former art director, Vincente Minnelli, who handled Judy's aberrations on the set with great understanding and managed to produce an exuberant turn-of-the-century musical that included such numbers as "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Their deepening relationship culminated in marriage in June of 1945, after Minnelli had directed her in their second film together, the melodrama The Clock. (Minnelli had taken the picture over from Fred Zinnemann when Garland's arguments with Zinnemann had shut down production.) By the time she began work with Minnelli on Till the Clouds Roll By, a sentimentalized biography of composer Jerome Kern, Garland was four months pregnant. By then, she had curtailed her reliance on drugs successfully enough to give birth to a healthy daughter, named Liza Minnelli , in March of 1946 before returning to work in another film directed by her husband, The Pirate, co-starring dancer Gene Kelly. But her fears that Kelly's dancing would overpower her own, and her jealousy over the time the two men spent together in rehearsals, brought back her drug habit to such an extent that by the time shooting began, the studio had budgeted for a session with a psychiatrist at the end of each day. Minnelli at last began to lose patience with her. Garland was absent or late to the set on 99 out of its scheduled 135 days, telling Hedda Hopper that everyone had turned against her. The crisis came to a head with Garland's first suicide attempt, barely prevented by Ethel, who broke down the bathroom door at Judy's home and grabbed away the shard of glass with which her daughter had already inflicted superficial wounds. Garland was confined to a sanitorium in northern California for several weeks while the studio delayed The Pirate's release until she could return to reshoot several scenes. The picture fared badly in theaters and was quickly withdrawn.

Easter Parade was her next scheduled film, again with her husband, but by now the damage was irreparable. Garland refused to do the picture unless it was taken away from Minnelli. The studio was forced to concede, although it was not prepared for Judy's anger at co-star Fred Astaire when it was announced Astaire would be teamed with Ginger Rogers on his next film, even though Garland claimed Astaire had chosen her as his permanent partner. After the usual outbursts, delays, and crises, Easter Parade finished production in July of 1947. Garland was promptly put under temporary suspension from her contract, the studio blaming her "temperament" for the decision while Garland blamed Minnelli. The truth was that Louis Mayer's power was being eroded by Dore Schary, whom Mayer himself had hired some years earlier as an assistant and who would eventually replace Mayer as general manager of the studio in 1951. Judy was, in effect, losing the father who had grudgingly overlooked his rebellious daughter's behavior. In 1949, the studio's newly forming hierarchy took the drastic step of firing Garland from Annie Get Your Gun, noting it had only six minutes of usable footage after a month of shooting, and replacing her with Betty Hutton .

Garland entered Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston shortly after her termination, the press being told she was exhausted from over work, although everyone knew the hospital's reputation for curing drug addiction. Judy revealed she had no money to pay for her treatment, blaming Ethel for investing her salary unwisely and borrowing money from the studio.

By the beginning of 1950, Garland felt well enough to make up with MGM and return to work in Royal Wedding; but after repeated arguments with director Stanley Donen and mounting tensions on the set, Judy was again replaced, this time by Jane Powell , and at last permanently fired from MGM after 15 years of stormy employment. "Wish her well," Joe Pasternak, who had directed her in Presenting Lily Mars, said at a farewell ceremony on the studio lot. "Return her love, all you who cherish talent and genius and a great heart." Two days later, Garland again attempted suicide, again by locking herself in the bathroom, and again saved at the last minute; this time by Minnelli. She entered another hospital as she and Minnelli's divorce became final in 1951. Garland was granted custody of Liza.

As her career at MGM was waning, Garland had met a theatrical manager named Sid Luft. It was Luft who now proposed that Judy resuscitate her career by returning to the stage, and who found her an offer from London's Palladium. Garland's films, with their optimism and gay dance numbers, had always performed well in an economically depressed postwar England, and Luft was convinced her reception would be a warm one. He was proved right, even when Garland tripped on her gown and fell during opening night. "She melts even the flinthearts who came to gloat over a star who once fell to earth all screaming nerves and hysteria," The Daily Express enthused, while The Evening Standard told its readers "We saw a brave woman … but more than that, we saw a woman who has emerged from the shadows and finds that the public likes her as she is, even more than what she was." Luft followed this London success by booking Garland into New York's Winter Palace, where the reviews were no less positive.

In June of 1952, Judy and Sid Luft married. Judy was pregnant by then, giving birth to another daughter, Lorna, in November. Luft managed to keep a third suicide attempt, which Garland later blamed on postpartum depression, from public knowledge and arranged a six-picture contract for his wife at Warner Bros., with himself acting as producer on the first picture. Judy reported to work on A Star Is Born, her most famous film after The Wizard of Oz, in the fall of 1953. But by Thanksgiving, director George Cukor reported the picture was seriously behind schedule after six weeks of shooting. "This is the behavior of someone unhinged," he complained, although he admitted that Garland was "a very original and resourceful actress" and complimented her one day on the fact that she had given him six different screams on six different takes. "Oh, that's nothing," Garland replied. "Come over to my house anytime. I do it every afternoon."

Shooting stretched into the summer of 1954, but it was clear when A Star Is Born was released that Garland's career was reborn with her performance opposite James Mason as half of a show-business couple whose star is rising while that of her alcoholic, matinee-idol husband is in decline. Audiences were especially touched by her rendition of "The Man Who Got Away," and her delivery of "Born in a Trunk" was so convincing that such an odd manner of birth became part of the Garland legend. Judy won the Golden Globe award as Best Actress for 1955, and was nominated for the same Oscar category, but lost to Grace Kelly , for The Country Girl. By the time the award nominations were announced, Garland was again pregnant, giving birth prematurely to a healthy son, named Joseph, in March.

Despite the uplift to what had been a failing career and the six-picture contract Luft had negotiated, Garland never fulfilled her commitment to Warner Bros. and was absent from the screen for the next six years. There were reports that her health was deteriorating and that her marriage was again in trouble, the latter confirmed when she and Sid Luft divorced in 1957, and the former verified when Garland was diagnosed with severe liver malfunction. Doctors told her during a bout with acute hepatitis that her liver was swollen to four times its normal size and that she would have to terminate the excessive alcohol consumption that they felt was the culprit. Her recovery was so complete, however, that it seemed she was starting a new life in 1960 when she embarked on another concert tour and appeared that day on Stanley Kramer's set for the shooting of Judgment at Nuremberg. In 1961, she played a sold-out Carnegie Hall in what is still described as "the greatest night in show business history." She sang 24 numbers for two-and-a-half hours to a star-studded audience, with so many encores that Garland was finally obliged to tell her admirers that she had nothing else prepared. "Then just stand there!" a fan yelled. Everyone agreed that Judy had never looked or sounded better.

Now in the midst of a second renaissance, Garland was given her own television show, a weekly variety program on CBS. But the strain of turning out a new hour of entertainment once a week took its toll. By the time the show was canceled in 1963, Judy was again relying on pills to keep her going during the day and to put her to sleep at night. Friends advised her not to accept a concert tour in Australia, but in the company of a 30-year-old actor she had met at a party named Mark Herron, she left for Sydney. Herron got her through the tour as best he could, though Judy was often late for her calls and, at one point, inexplicably walked off the stage and disappeared into her dressing room for 25 minutes. One night near the end of the tour, Herron found her unconscious and perilously near death in her hotel room from an overdose of Seconal. She was revived at a hospital and later credited Herron with saving her life. The two married on board ship as they were returning to California in 1965, but she and Herron subsequently saw little of each other and went their separate ways after two years.

Her sixth marriage was announced in London, in March of 1969, to nightclub owner Mickey Deans, whom Judy had met some years earlier and whom, it was said, had once supplied her with drugs. Deans, an American who had permanently relocated to England, ran London's Talk of the Town club, and booked Garland there once they had settled into an apartment nearby. On the night of Saturday, June 21, 1969, Garland was seen by neighbors running into the street outside the apartment, some of them later claiming she had been screaming. A few minutes later, Deans left the apartment to search for her, telling friends that he and Judy had been quarreling. He remained away from home for several hours, not returning until early in the morning of the next day. Noting the closed and locked door of Garland's bedroom, he surmised she had gone to sleep until a phone call for her failed to elicit any response. Unable to break down the door, Deans was forced to run outside and crawl

through the window of Garland's bathroom, where she had obviously been lying dead for some time. The official coroner's report listed an overdose of barbiturates as the cause of death, but police refused to speculate if the overdose had been accidental. "The greatest shock about her death," wrote theater critic Vincent Canby, "was that there was no shock. One simply wondered how she survived so long."

While it is difficult for any account of Judy Garland's life to avoid the contrast between her screen image and the private torments she endured, the genuine affection and respect accorded to her by her industry peers is often ignored. Despite her travails, many remembered her indefatigable sense of humor and the loud, boisterous laugh Judy said she had inherited from Frank Gumm. "She was as lighthearted a person as ever I met in my life," Jack Haley, who played The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, said of her; and Joe Mankiewicz described her as "just the most remarkably bright, gay, happy, helpless, and engaging girl I've ever met."

Even daughter Lorna Luft, who had observed firsthand the vicissitudes of her mother's life, called Garland "one of the happiest people I knew," even when her mother's fortunes seemed at their lowest ebb. "She'd just look at me and say, 'Well, honey, things can't get any worse,'" Lorna remembers, "and then she'd have a darn good laugh."


Geist, Kenneth. Pictures Will Talk: The Life and Films of Joseph Mankiewicz. NY: Scribner, 1978.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. NY: Harper Perennial, 1994.

Shipman, Frank. Judy Garland. London: Fourth Estate, 1992.

suggested reading:

Shipman, David. Judy Garland: The Secret Life of an American Legend. Hyperion, 1993.

Norman Powers , writer-producer, Chelsea Lane Productions, New York

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Garland, Judy (1922–1969)

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