Frequently Asked Questions
Oscar and Grammy winner, Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10th, 1922 to Frank and Ethel Gumm of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. When they had discovered they were to have another child, the Gumm’s weren’t too happy, they had already had two children (Mary Jane and Dorothy) and couldn’t afford another one. According to Dr. Marcus Rabwin’s widow Frank had come to their door asking Marcus if he would arrange for Ethel to have an abortion. As Mrs. Rabwin recalled, her husband’s response was “Don’t be silly. You go back to your wife and tell her I said she must have this baby!” Though he probably didn’t know it at the time, but Dr. Rabwin had saved Judy Garland’s life.
During the pregnancy Frank and Ethel hoped for a boy, so they could name the baby after Frank. When the baby was born a girl they decided to name her after both Frank and Ethel, making her name Frances Ethel Gumm. When she was recalling her early years for her auto-biography (that was never finished) she remembered Grand Rapids and her early years as one of the happiest times of her life. She remembered snow fights with other kids, stealing cherries off the cherry trees with her sisters and getting her sisters in trouble.
At the age of two, Frances or Baby as she was now nicknamed made her debut in the Rialto Theatre which was owned by her father, every week or so they had a show featuring live acts including the eldest Gumm girls. Baby wanted to be onstage too, so Ethel told her that they would rehearse a number and she could sing it during the next show. Baby only knew one song, Jingle Bells, so that’s what she would sing.
Baby sang Jingle Bells while Ethel played the piano. Baby rang a little hand bell while she sang, and when the audience began to applaud, Baby sang louder and kept singing, and wouldn’t get off. She sang and sang until Frank finally had to run onstage and carry her off, while she was still singing and ringing the little bell.
When Baby was about three years old, the Gumm’s moved from Grand Rapids to Lancaster, California where Frank had bought the local theatre. By this time, Frank and Ethel’s marriage had begun to crumble. Judy had recalled times when her mother came into her room in the middle of the night and woke her up saying “Get up, we’re leaving Daddy”, then she would put Frances in the backseat of the car and just drive and drive and drive. Sometimes they would be gone for a few days, sometimes they would be gone for two months.
It was also around this time that Ethel put the three girls into a vaudeville act called the Gumm Sisters. She would take the girls anywhere she could. Even early on, it was very clear that Baby was the star of the group, but, Ethel wanted to get all her children in show business if possible. She dragged the children to every Hollywood studio or anywhere she thought someone would hear the girls and sign them to a film contract.
During these times Baby and her sisters did appear in some short films as part of Ethel Meglin’s Kiddies, the first short was the Big Revue followed by A Holiday in Story Land (film lost), The Wedding of Jack and Jill (film lost), and Bubbles (Technicolor footage lost). The by no means were big films like the ones made by the large film studios, but they were a step closer to the bright lights of the Hollywood soundstages.
Around this time while The Gumm Sisters were performing at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago when George Jessel (who was the head line act) introduced the girls to the audience, he noticed the crowd laughed at the girl’s name. Later that night, he suggested they change their name to the Garland Sisters. A while later, Frances decided she was too old to be called Baby, and changed her name to Judy after the popular Hoagy Charmichael song of the same name and Judy Garland was born.
The girls went on touring as the Garland Sisters, until 1935 when Mary Jane (Susie) married breaking up the group. Dorothy Virginia (Jimmie) no longer had interest in show business, so Ethel put Judy to work as a solo act. This time, she tried harder to get Judy signed to a Hollywood studio. Everyday Ethel drove Judy around to every studio including MGM, Universal, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox. None of the studios wanted her. Though, one day while at home with her father Judy got a call to come into MGM for another audition. Frank drove Judy to MGM as fast as he could.
For the audition Judy sang Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart accompanied by Roger Edens on the piano. When she finished Edens and other MGM producers at the audition were so amazed at her voice, they called down the boss, Louis B. Mayer. He came down and listened to Judy sing, then he looked at the producers and said “I want every producer on the lot to hear this kid!” And with that, she was signed to MGM.
A few weeks after Judy signed with MGM she appeared on the Shell Chateau Hour, earlier that same day Frank had been taken to the hospital. At the hospital Frank listened to his little Baby Frances singing the same song she had at the audition, “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart”. Later that night, Frank Gumm passed away, never to see his daughter achieve her legendary success later in life. Judy never got over her father’s death; he was always on her side, now she had no one on her side.
After her first appearance on the Shell Chateau Hour Judy appeared in various radio shows and on June 12th, 1936 she was released her first record, “Stompin’ at the Savoy”/ “Swing Mr. Charlie” through Decca records. But, MGM never really did much with her film wise. They actually didn’t know what to do with her, she was a fourteen year old girl that sang like a 30 year old Broadway veteran. They had another singer, about the same age as Judy who they were having the same problem with, Deanna Durbin. They could only keep one of them, so they decided to put the two together in a short and whoever proved better than the other they would keep.
Every Sunday, was Judy’s first short film made while under contract to MGM. She had been in La Fiesta de Santa Barbara with her sisters just a short time before her audition with the studio. Every Sunday was a showcase to show the jazz style singing of Judy, and the operatic style singing of Deanna, MGM would see how the audiences reacted to each singing child, and base their choice on that.
Finally, MGM decided to keep both girls, but by the time they had finally made up their minds Deanna’s contract had run out and she was signed to Universal Studios and put in Three Smart Girls. The film made her a great success, while over at MGM Judy had nothing to do but radio shows. The studio wanted to put her in pictures, but never knew exactly how to utilise her talents. Then, one day 20th Century Fox asked MGM if they could use Judy in a new picture they were making called “Pigskin Parade”.
MGM jumped at the chance to loan out Judy, they could see how well she did on screen and if the audiences liked her without the studio losing money. Judy was sent over to Fox to begin “Pigskin Parade”. It was to be a large musical about a college football team. Judy played the belting young sister of Stuart Erwin, who begs throughout nearly the entire picture to sing for the people. In the film, Judy didn’t wear any makeup (and sometimes not even shoes), she never felt like a movie star, she felt like the ugly duckling. The audience disagreed with her, they loved her. They left the theatre saying how wonderful that Judy Garland was! After this, MGM immediately placed her in a picture at the studio.
Broadway Melody of 1938 had already begun pre-production, but Judy was quickly written into the picture. A few weeks earlier she had appeared at Clark Gable’s birthday party, where she sang a song written by her now dear friend and vocal coach Roger Edens. The song was “Dear Mr. Gable”, soon to be the first of many Garland standards thanks to Broadway Melody of 1938. After hearing Judy sing the song at Gable’s birthday party Mr. Mayer said to immediately write the song into Broadway Melody of 1938.
Once again, Judy was a hit (as well as her Dear Mr. Gable song), and she proved to MGM that she could be a great star one day and that she could handle bigger movie roles. MGM wasn’t ready to put Judy in a leading role by herself, but they did put her in a larger role alongside fellow MGM child star, Mickey Rooney in Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry. Freddie Bartholomew was scheduled to appear alongside Judy and Mickey, but his Aunt Cissy took him out of the picture due to a contract dispute with the studio (though Judy has said that it was because Freddie’s voice was changing) so he was replaced with Robert Sinclair.
Judy and Mickey made sparks on the screen, for the first time of many times to come. Audiences loved the two together, and MGM knew they had to pair the two together again. While filming Thoroughbreds, Judy was also filming the musical comedy Everybody Sing at the same time. Once again, Judy was paired with proven box office draws such as former Ziegfeld funny girl Fanny Brice, Allan Jones, Reginald Owen, and Billie Burke. The film also did very well at the box office.
A year after their first pairing, MGM decided to write Judy into the Andy Hardy series starring Mickey Rooney. The sparks onscreen were evident in Thoroughbreds, and the Hardy series was already successful so they put merged two successes and came out with a bigger success. Judy played visiting neighbour Betsy Booth from New York, who Andy Hardy always thought of as a child in Love Finds Andy Hardy (the first of three appearances in the series). Soon, when Andy’s love life becomes a big mess Betsy comes into help fix things. The film was the most successful of all the Hardy movies so far and Judy joined the cast of the Andy Hardy films.
After her success in Love Finds Andy Hardy, Judy was paired with Freddie Bartholomew in Listen Darling for the first and only time. The film was one of Freddie’s since the contract dispute that left him out of Thoroughbreds a year earlier. In the film Judy sang “Zing went the Strings of My Heart”, which was by that time already one of her standards thanks to her many radio performances. By the time the film had been released MGM realized that Judy could handle a big budget film without much help from Mickey Rooney, or other MGM stars so they to a gamble with her.
In 1938 MGM announced that Judy would be starring in their new musical, the Wizard of Oz based on the beloved children’s novel by L. Frank Baum. At first, for about a day the studio considered Shirley Temple for the role but, they decided she didn’t have the vocal range, nor would 20th Century Fox loan her to MGM for the long period of time it would take to film Oz. Arthur Freed (uncredited co-producer), had been a fan of Judy’s since she came on the lot and suggested her for the role. At first MGM wanted a bigger star, but after some persuasion Arthur got them to cast Judy.
Cast beside Judy was Ray Bolger, Buddy Ebsen (later replaced by Jack Haley after a hospitalization), Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton. The production was long, and went through many bumps. Three directors came in to try and tackle the film, none of them finished. First Richard Thorpe was assigned to direct, but after watching the rough cuts during a break in shooting to recast the Tin Man (due to Buddy Ebsen’s hospitalization) Mervin LeRoy (producer of the film) was not happy with the directing and took Thorpe off the picture. Just before leaving to direct Gone With the Wind over at the David O. Selznick Studio, George Cukor came into the film to make some much needed changes to Oz.
Cukor altered the scripts and changed the costumes/makeup of the cast. Judy’s costume, though need the biggest change. Originally she wore a curly blonde wig and looked more like Alice in Wonderland than Dorothy Gale from Kansas. Cukor removed most of the makeup Judy wore, and gave her a brown wig with pigtails and he told her to just be herself. After Cukor came in and did the major changes Victor Fleming came in to direct the film. Judy recalled working with him a few times, once when Bolger, Lahr and Haley shut her out of the line while dancing down the yellow brick road Judy said Victor Fleming hollered, “You three dirty hams, let that little girl in there!”
Fleming finished directed all the scenes set in Oz, before he was called over to the Selznick Studio to finish Gone With the Wind. Clark Gable refused to work for Cukor and told David O. Selznick he wouldn’t work unless Victor Fleming (a good friend of Gable’s) came in to direct. So, Fleming left Oz and went over to Tara leaving the rest of the filming to King Vidor, who directed all the Kansas scenes, including Over the Rainbow.
When the Wizard of Oz premiered in New York, Judy was on tour with Mickey promoting Oz, and their new picture Babes in Arms. Babes in Arms was the first film produced by Arthur Freed. He knew exactly what he wanted to do, a musical starring Judy and Mickey. It was the first of four Mick and Joots (as Mickey referred to himself and Judy) backyard musicals. The film received rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. At the premiere of the picture Judy joined the other stars before her by placing her hand and foot prints in wet cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California permanently and officially reserving herself a place among the greatest stars of all time.
Judy should have been the happiest girl in the world, but she wasn’t. By the time of the 1940 Academy Awards Ceremony she was seventeen, but to the public she was still a little girl, thanks to MGM. They refused to cast her in older roles because she was a proven success as a little girl, but the studio wasn’t sure if audiences would accept her in adult roles. This was the problem with many child stars such as Shirley Temple, who over at Fox was becoming less popular as she grew up and was put into older roles.
Though both actresses were in similar situations, it was harder for MGM to hide Judy in little girl clothes and pigtails because she was maturing. During the filming of the Wizard of Oz the studio bound Judy’s breast in a corset, but they couldn’t do that forever. Judy fought the studio, she wanted to make her own choices. The studio said she was too “fat”, so they fed her only chicken soup. She was tired and couldn’t work as long as the studio wanted her, so they put her on “pep pills”, and sleeping pills. She wanted to go out, but the studio only allowed her out on dates with men of their choosing. Judy was not in control of her life, and Ethel never seemed to care as long as the paycheck was coming.
Judy decided she would rebel. The first of many rebelions from Judy was dating Artie Shaw, the bad boy band leader. Often Judy would say she was going out with friends Mickey Rooney or Jackie Cooper, but they would take her to Shaw, then come back to get her and take her home so it appeared as though she had a date with them. Judy dated Shaw for weeks, and considered herself Artie’s girl, so she was crushed when Shaw married Lana Turner after only one date. Judy was crushed, but soon after met composer David Rose.
MGM never approved of Judy and Rose’s love, and refused to allow Judy to marry him as he had already been divorced and it would ruin Judy’s girl next door look that MGM had built up. During the time she was filming Strike Up the Band which was to be released later that year. Judy was missed one day of filming, she had called in sick. But, what the studio didn’t know was that Ethel, Judy and David had flown to Las Vegas so that Judy and David could marry. When she returned to work the next day, the studio was furious. They had four pictures lined up for her, Little Nellie Kelly (which was to begin right after Strike Up the Band), Ziegfeld Girl, Life Begins for Andy Hardy, then Babes on Broadway. Plus she had radio shows to do, and she was to be sent out to support the troops of the war along with other MGM celebrities.
The only honeymoon Judy and David received was a tour performing for the troops. This was what Judy spent a lot of her time doing during the years of the war. She was sent out along with other stars such as Lucille Ball, Mickey Rooney, Carole Lumbard and many more. When she wasn’t on tours promoting war bonds, she was at the studio starring in film after film including For Me and My Gal, Presenting Lily Mars, and Girl Crazy.
Judy’s life was busy, David Rose was away at war, and she at work, so they never really spent time being married. Judy was ecstatic when she found out she was pregnant, but the studio, David and Ethel were not. Years later Judy co-star June Allyson about the pregnancy, “A baby would have interferred with the shooting schedule of some film I was doing . I finally got an abortion to keep from making the studio angry, but the marriage was never the same. Something was gone. It broke my heart.” (Excerpt from June Allyson’s auto-biography).
On another occasion, when Judy was writing her auto-biography, she talked about the aborted pregnancy, “My mother told me, ‘You cannot have this baby,’” recalled Judy, “I was stunned. I said, ‘It’s mine, I have to have it. ‘No you don’t. This is not the right time, David agrees with me.’ The next morning they took me to a shabby little office outside Los Angeles and that was that. The marriage was never the same.” Judy and David seperated after the abortion, then divorced in 1944.
At the time of the divorce MGM assigned Judy the role of Esther Smith in Arthur Freed’s new musical Meet Me In St. Louis directed by Vincente Minnelli. Judy didn’t want to do the film, she felt the role was much too juvenile. She had spent years to get adult roles, and she didn’t want to go back to playing children. “I’ll probably qualify for social security and play my first love scene in the same week!” she joked. After some persuading from Freed she agreed to play the part. At first Judy and Minnelli didn’t get along very well. She would become very angry with him for scheduling rehearsals whenever possible and making her reshoot scenes over and over again. “He made me do the first scene twenty five times!” Judy recalled, “When I went to my dressing room for lunch I told my maid something dreadful had happened, I had lost all my talent!”
Judy began to change her attitude toward the picture after the first day, that is until they shot the dinner scene. “I felt it needed a lot of preparation so I scheduled rehearsals whenever we had a short shooting day,” said Minnelli, “Judy hated them.” Judy remembered the situation, “I was known as the one take girl! No one really directed me much, I just went out there and did what came naturally. I hadn’t reconed on Vincente Minnelli.”
It took some time, but Judy finally got the motivation. She stopped making fun of the script, and began to trust Vincente Minnelli more and soon they became very close friends. When Meet Me In St. Louis was released it was a big hit, much thanks to Vincente’s direction and Judy’s acting. The two made movie magic. So, when Judy’s next film the Clock began production she suggested the director be changed to Vincente Minnelli. The studio was quite shocked at her suggestion, “Are you crazy?! He’s the one you were always getting so mad at!” they said. Judy felt that Vincente had made her beautiful for the first time and had gotten the best work she’d ever done out of her. “He’ll understand this story.” Judy said.
Minnelli took over direction of the Clock, which was Judy’s first and only non-musical production at MGM. It was a dramatic love story about a soldier and a girl who lose each other, then marry each other in forty eight hours. During production Judy and Vincente fell in love and by the end of the production they were engaged. The two married a short time after the Clock was released. This time, the marriage wasn’t objected to by the studio or Ethel and Judy actually got a honeymoon. She and Vincente went to New York where during a walk in the park she threw a bottle of the pills she was by now addicted to into the river and vowed never to take them again.
When they returned to California Judy began work on the Harvey Girls while Vincente began work on Yolanda and the Theif. After the two finished their separate work projects they began filming a scene together for the all star musical extravaganza Ziegfeld Follies in which Judy did a musical number where she played a great dramatic actress modeled after Greer Garson. She got great reviews for her part.
By the time the Follies was released Judy was pregnant. This time, the studio nor Ethel forced her to abort the pregnancy, they allowed her to have her baby. In Till the Clouds Roll By Judy played Marilyn Miller and sang and danced in a lavish musical number, a soft ballad. While filming the number Who? In which Judy sings “Who stole my heart away…” she joked “What a song to sing in my present condition!” referring to her pregnancy.
Judy gave birth to Liza May Minnelli on March 12th, 1946. By now her studio contracted was near it’s end, and Judy was thinking of taking time away from the studio. To reel her back in MGM offered her a new contract that made her one of the highest paid actresses of the time and they allowed her to work with her husband on her movies. She agreed and returned to work.
The first project was the Pirate which would be directed by Vincente and produced by Arthur Freed. The filming was long and strenuous. Judy knew that when the picture wasn’t going to be very good, so to hide her fears she began using her pills again, but this time she started taking more. On the night they were shooting the Voodoo number they had fires lit all around the set. Judy saw the flames and had a nervous breakdown. She began screaming, thinking they were going to burn her. She ran around to the dancers asking them for barbiturates (some of the pills she had been taking). Soon after this incident the FBI began investigating, fearing she was taking too many pills. They came to find out she had many studio doctors providing her with all the pills she “needed”, and after further investigation they discovered one of the doctors was an addict himself.
The FBI told L. B. Mayer that Judy needed help and had to have a year off. “That’s impossible,” Mayer responded, “We have forteen million dollars tied up in this girl.” When Judy had finished the Pirate, she began work on Easter Parade with Vincente and Gene Kelly. After the failure of the Pirate Judy and Vincente’s marriage began failing. Arthur Freed thought it was best if Minnelli was taken off the picture. Gene Kelly left the picture as well after he broke his ankle while playing football. Fred Astaire came out of retirement to dance with Judy and replace Gene Kelly. The production went along rather smoothly which was surprising after all that had happened on the Pirate.
Easter Parade was a giant box office success when it was released and is considered one of Judy’s greatest films. Judy was back, everyone had forgotten about the failure of the Pirate when they saw Easter Parade. After Easter Parade was finished Judy was scheduled to make what was to be her last film with Mickey Rooney Words and Music. She had only a guest apperance in the film but it was one of the most remembered parts. She filmed the number “I Wish I Were In Love Again” with Mickey Rooney. When the film was previewed by audiences they applauded Mickey and Judy’s number, so the studio decided to add another Garland number. She returned to the set and recorded and filmed “Johnny One Note”. She was one of the most praised stars in the film.
Feeling confident in the success of Judy MGM bought the rights to Annie Get Your Gun from Irving Berlin. She was beginning to realize her dependancy to pills, and knew she wouldn’t be able to finish the picture unless she got help. “I was so sick,” recalled Judy, “I begged them to postpone the starting date, but they wouldn’t. I had my heart set on doing that part and I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I hadn’t slept one night in fourteen. I knew that if I didn’t finish this one, it was the finish of me.”
No matter how much Judy tried, she couldn’t do it. She was late, and just plain ill. The studio didn’t care. Joseph L. Mankiewicz once said on Judy and MGM, “Judy was a moneymaker. And to have a humanbeing looked at through money making eyes only, that’s like running a whore house. As long as she could stand up, they’d photograph her.” MGM didn’t care if she was ill, they wanted to get a picture out and begin a new one.
“I was in my dressing room wearing war paint, mockasins and a lot of Indian beads and feathers. They sent me a note, ‘Your services are no longer required’. I was so mad the only thing I could say was ‘You can’t do this to me! With this make up on I don’t even know what tribe I belong to!’” She knew it was coming, and it was no surprise to her, but what was surprising was what came along with being taken off the picture. Judy was under suspention which meant she got no paycheck and was in no movies until MGM said so.
While she was off Judy decided to enter herself into a Boston hospital in hopes of getting well again. She had already gone through shock therapy and various other ways to try and get better, and since she had no salary she also had no money. Mr. Mayer agreed to loan Judy money for her treatment, so she went off to Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston.
“The doctors told me I needed to learn how to eat and sleep without the pills. So they put me on a diet of three meals a day and lights out at nine o’clock.” Judy recalled. While in the hospital Judy would go visit the mentally retarded children who stayed in the children’s hospital next door. “They were so marvelous,” Judy once said, “They were so terrific, that they really got me well.”
When Judy returned to Hollywood and MGM she remembers “As soon as I got back all I heard was how much I owed the studio. Everyday it was ‘Get the weight off Judy, you’re still too fat!’ At a hundred and five?! I went back to the crash diet and the pills. It was like a bad dream.” Judy began Summer Stock after coming back from Peter Bent Brigham, and everyone was rather shocked at how much weight she had gained. She was still having a hard time getting back to work and so the studio put Gene Kelly in the picture to help comfort her and support her. Half way through production Judy requested to be taken off the picture, but Mayer pushed her to finish the project. It seemed as though Summer Stock would never be completed. But, it did finally get finished.
After realizing that they never really had a finale for Judy, they called her back to film one last number Get Happy. This would become yet another Garland standard. By the time they called her back Judy had lost much of the weight she had put on at Peter Bent Brigham and was back to being thin. When audiences saw the number they were surprised, and some even thought it was a number that had been unused in another picture.
Summer Stock was a large success and MGM agreed to give Judy three weeks vacation after she finished it. Judy was away enjoying her vacation when she got a call from MGM. June Allyson had to leave Royal Wedding because she was pregnant. They needed Judy to return to the studio and replace June. Judy years later recalled on her television show,“I got a vacation, I finally got a vacation from Metro I had done about 182 pictures” said Judy, “and they said ‘You can have three weeks off’so I went to Carmel and played some golf, and I was there for three weeks. You [Allyson] just went into Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire and they called me up and said ‘Get back here she’s pregnant and you gotta take her place!’ So I went back and learned all the songs and dances. I was thrown out, then who was it? Jane Powell!”
That was it, once again Judy was off yet another picture and suspended. “All I could see ahead was more confusion,” Judy explained, “And I wanted to black out the future as well as the past. I wanted to hurt the people who had hurt me. I just, didn’t want to live anymore.” The day she was thrown off the picture Judy cut here throat in an attempted suicide. She locked herself in the bathroom and broke a glass, then with a shard of the glass slit her throat, then she remembered going and laying down. Vincente Minnelli broke down the door to find Judy lying with her throat cut. They rushed her to the hospital where they cleaned the wound and bandaged her up. It was more like a cry for help than a suicide attempt. “Judy was so fragile,” said June Allyson, “People really thought she was a tough lady. She wasn’t.We were almost afraid she’d break, because she broke so many times.”
Judy knew she wouldn’t live much longer if she continued to work herself as much as she had been, take all the pills the studio were giving her, and starving herself for the studio. She went to Mr. Mayer and asked for a release from her contract. Mr. Mayer agreed, and Judy finally left the studio that had made her what she was. Along with the end of her contract came the end of her marriage and some said the end of her career. Judy was twenty eight years old, broke and unemployed. The cameras had stopped rolling on Judy Garland, she didn’t know what she was going to do next, but it was far from over.
Within a few months Judy had met a new mate, Sid Luft who would help her climb back up the entertainment ladder once again. He scheduled her to make a comeback to the stage at the London Paladium within a few months. The audiences loved her, Judy Garland was back, this time as the greatest live performer of all time.
Luft scheduled concerts for Judy in various places, and in 1952 the two were quietly married. Ethel didn’t approve of the marriage, but Judy didn’t care, she was through with her mother. There was too much bad blood between them. Five months after the marriage Judy gave birth to Lorna Luft. It was only a short time after Lorna’s birth that Judy learned Ethel had died of a heart attack in the parking lot on her way to work at the Douglas Aircraft Factory.
Judy continued to perform concerts around the world to large audiences. Then, she and Sid approached Jack Warner at Warner Bros. to discuss Judy’s comeback to film in a remake of A Star is Born. Judy had always wanted to do the picture since she played Esther Blodget in the Lux Radio Theatre production. She even had suggested it to MGM as a film for her, but they didn’t want Judy in such a depressing drama.
Jack Warner jumped at the chance to have his studio make Judy’s film comeback. But, the only way Judy would do it is if she and Sid did everything they wanted, and how they wanted to. Judy and Sid decided on George Cukor for director and the picture began to get underway. Each day Judy never came to the set until 9 o’clock, because Sid didn’t want her to feel the pressures that MGM had put on her before. Though in some cases, thanks to the direction of George Cukor she did. They filmed the Man that Got Away number three different times, each with a different costume and in forty complete and partial takes. Another scene they did multiple times was Judy’s breakdown scene in which her Esther Blodget vented to Oliver Niles about her husband, Norman Maine’s drinking problems.
A Star is Born cost $5, 019, 770 to make, but when it premiered on September 29th, 1959 everyone hailed it as a masterpiece. The premiere was filmed live at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood California, and was the first film premiere to be shown on television. The theatres began showing A Star is Born to rave audiences, but they complained to Warner Bros. that the film was too long and they couldn’t show it as many times as other films, which also meant it was losing money. Harry Warner responded to their compaints by ordering cuts to be made to the film. They ended up not cutting, but butchering. 27 minutes in all were taken out including the Lose That Long Face number and it’s reprise, and the proposel scene. Neither Cukor, Judy nor Sid were told about the cuts until it was too late, Harry Warner had already shipped out all the edited films to theatres. Luckily some scenes have been found and returned to the film, but others are lost. Judy and Cukor decided they couldn’t watch the butchered masterpiece, and vowed that they never would.
Even though the film was butchered, it was still nominated for seven Academy Awards: Best Actress (Judy), Best Actor (James Mason), Art Direction, Set Direction, Costume Design, Musical Score, and Song (for the Man That Got Away). The night before the Academy Awards Judy was taken to hospital where she gave birth to her third and final child, Joeseph Wiley Luft. The next night Judy recalled a bunch of men came into her hospital room carrying cameras, wires, and microphones. She recalls them running a microphone beneath her and up her night dress. Then they told her that the minute Bob Hope annouced her name she was to give a speech thanking him for her Oscar for Best Actress.
It was very evident that everyone thought Judy was going to win the Oscar, but, to she and everyones surprise she didn’t. When Bob Hope opened the envelope and annouced Grace Kelly had won the Oscar (for Country Girl) the men pulled the microphone out from under Judy, took their cameras and wires and left without even saying goodbye. In a telegram Groucho Marx called Judy’s loss “the biggest robbery since Brinks”. People have said that the MGM executives in the Academy didn’t vote for Judy because they were angry she didn’t chose MGM to film A Star is Born, and others have said that Grace Kelly just slept with the right people. But, for whatever reason, Judy didn’t receive the Oscar, but she often referred to Joey as her special “Oscar”.
With A Star is Born over Judy’s days of being mainly a movie star were over, now she moved on to become a concert performer. Sid kept booking her in concerts, where all her shows were sold out and she she sang all her hits from her MGM days, and some new ones. Judy had returned to her Vaudeville roots and remembered her love for an audience. She never needed an opening act, the audience just wanted Judy Garland. When she came out onstage the applause sounded like thunder booming. Weither she was fat, or skinny they didn’t care, they loved her.
In the few years after A Star is Born Judy would play the tramp in her concerts. She would do the “A Couple of Swells” number from Easter Parade, “Be a Clown” from the Pirate and sometimes “Over the Rainbow” in a dirty old coat, pants, top hat and long shoes. She looked, well, trampy but it became a signature of hers to dress up in her tramp outfit for parts of the concert. For the most part her concerts were a beautiful and magical experience for both Judy and her audiences. But, on more than one occasion problems occurred.
During A Star is Born, Judy had been back on the pep pills, and was once again hooked. In one case that has been told many times (often told as another reason to prove Judy’s “tragic” life) was when she was in Melbourne. She didn’t have her pills, and was very groggy and also very late getting onstage. When she finally did get onstage she was heckled and accused of being drunk by an unhappy audience. That didn’t stop her she continued on her Australian tour with great success.
A year after A Star is Born Judy appeared on her first TV special “the Ford Star Jubilee”. The special was a big success for CBS, Ford Motor Company, and especially Judy. She went on to do various other TV specials during the fifties and into the sixties such as Judy, Frank and Dean: Once in a Lifetime (with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin), and a special with Phil Silvers and Robert Goulet.
All her specials were a great success, and so every TV studio wanted to make a show for her. CBS was lucky enough to get the chance. The Judy Garland Show started out as a variety show where Judy would sing and talk with famous friends of hers such as Mickey Rooney, June Allyson and Tony Bennett (just to name a few). Then half way through, it became a telecast of a Judy Garland concert. All in one season! Needless to say, they didn’t know how to perfectly display all of the talents of Judy Garland in one show, so they cut it. Judy was so upset, she loved doing the show and thought it was something she could handle.
With yet another aspect of her career over Judy went on singing. She filmed her final five films, Pepe, Judgment at Nuremburg, Gay Purr-ee, A Child is Waiting and I Could Go On Singing. She also was recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 1961, the album went on to win Best Album of the Year (it was the first time a woman had won this award), Best Female Vocales and three other awards. The album went gold, and has never been out of print. The Carnegie Hall album was a great accomplishment at the time, considering at the time Rock and Roll was considered the ruling music. Judy proved that she still had it, and people took notice.
By 1965 Judy had divorced Sid Luft and married Mark Herron. The marriage was short, and the couple seperated within six months after Judy found Mark Herron was homosexual and had been having an affair with their pool boy. She was basically broke at this point, though still doing concerts. She would go from city to city literally singing for her supper. Her children Liza, Lorna and Joe remember leaving hotels wearing all their cloths they had because they couldn’t pay for the room. She seemed to be getting frailer and poorer.
By 1969 she met and married composer Mickey Deans, who would be her final husband. Deans was much younger than Judy, but she didn’t seem to care. She didn’t do many concerts, and her final one was in Copenhagen in May of ’69. It was very evident that Judy was ill, she was basically all skin and bones.
On June 22nd, in the early morning hours Judy went to the bathroom to take some sleeping tablets to help her sleep. When they didn’t seem to work Judy took more, until she overdosed on them. The next morning Deans was awoken by a telephone call for Judy. When he went to get her, she didn’t unlock the door nor did she respond. Fearing the worst Deans crawled in through the window outside. He found Judy with her head resting on her chest. He had been too late, she was already gone.
Judy had finally found herself over the rainbow that she had been singing about almost her whole life. Her funeral was held in New York where crowds flooded the streets to see her one last time. She had was buried in the dress she had been recently married in. The world held it’s head low at the loss of it’s greatest entertainer. All over people listened and played Over the Rainbow and mourned Judy’s death. She was buried in Ferncliff Cemetary in Hartsdale, New York.