It was a peaceful conclusion to a turbulent career. Despite the fact that she had attempted suicide numerous times, Scotland Yard said there was no evidence she had committed suicide.
Mickey Deans, her fifth husband, discovered her body. Illness had plagued her constantly, but the cause of her death was not immediately determined. An autopsy was requested to determine the cause of her death.
She had hepatitis, exhaustion, kidney problems, nervous breakdowns, near-fatal drug reactions, was overweight, underweight, and had been injured in falls.
Unhappy Love Relationships
Her previous four marriages had all ended in divorce, and her life had devolved into a whirlwind of unhappy love affairs.
Her career was a roller coaster of highs and lows. She was a top box office movie star in the 1940s, set all-time personal appearance records in the 1950s, and was nominated for an Academy Award twice.
She had abysmal slumps in between the high points. She was sued several times for canceling performances, fired for breach of contract, and booed offstage when she forgot the lines to her songs. In January, an audience in London threw bread, rolls, and glasses at her after she kept them waiting for an hour.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a blizzard,” she admitted once. “A total blizzard.”
Despite her turbulent career, she refused to give up the fight. She was Hollywood’s comeback queen. When her career — and, more often than not, her personal life — hit rock bottom, she would stage a spectacular comeback and re-enter the spotlight.
“Judy has been returning since she was invented,” a London critic once said. “She doesn’t perform a concert; she leads a seance.”
“She elicits pity and sorrow like no other celebrity.”
At 17, she played Dorothy in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz,” in which she sang the song that became her trademark: “Over the Rainbow.”
She rose to prominence as a wistful adolescent with a turned-up nose, brown eyes, brown hair, and a rich, full voice during Metro-Goldwyn-golden Mayer’s age.
She Lost Her Youth
“Judy was a child who never had any childhood,” Ray Bolger, a co-star in “Oz,” said on Sunday.
She made 12 films as a teen and was in psychiatric treatment by the age of 18. She had three nervous breakdowns by the age of 23.
She slashed her throat in a suicide attempt when she was 28 years old. Sid Luft, her third husband, claimed she attempted suicide 20 times during their 13-year marriage.
Despite recurring personal and professional disasters, she refused to give up.
Frustrated With Self
Her films were estimated to have grossed more than $100 million. Most of her films were big-budget musicals from the 1940s, though she gained critical acclaim for her acting abilities in later films.
“Broadway Melody of 1938,” “Babes in Arms,” “Strike Up the Band,” “Ziegfeld Girl,” “Girl Crazy,” “Meet Me in St. Louis,” the Andy Hardy films in which she starred with Mickey Rooney, “The Harvey Girls,” “Easter Parade,” and, since 1954, “A Star is Born” and “Judgment at Nuremberg,” for which she received Oscar nominations, were among her starring roles
Her film career and life were on the verge of ending in 1950. MGM fired her after she failed to show up for work and replaced her with Betty Hutton in “Annie Get Your Gun.” She slashed her throat with a broken water glass, was rescued, and then stuffed herself to death.
“I went to pieces,” she later recalled. “I just wanted to eat and hide.” For ten years, I lost all of my self-esteem. I was in agony from stage fright. People literally had to push me onto the stage.”
However, she made a spectacular comeback in public appearances. She set all-time vaudeville records at New York’s Palace in 1951, 1956, and 1957. At Carnegie Hall, she sang a sadder-but-wiser “Rainbow,” which became part of what some called one of the best live recordings ever made.
Later in life, what had been a rich, creamy, wistful voice began to crack and tremble. However, the emotion she put into songs like her perennial “Over the Rainbow” compensated for what one critic described as “a tremolo which at times can suggest a fly-wheel about to tear loose.”
She would enter the stage almost tentatively, nervous, fidgety, and seemingly fighting for control, only to burst forth into the old Garland style that had made her a star after a few songs.
However, when she couldn’t put on a show — or herself — she was booed off the stage. Her intermissions could last up to 90 minutes. A promised role in “Valley of the Dolls” went to Susan Hayward because she couldn’t make it in time for the shoot.
“I’ve heard how ‘difficult’ it is to be with Judy Garland,” she said sadly rather than defensively a few years ago, “but do you know how difficult it is to BE Judy Garland?” And you want to live with me? I’ve had to do it — and can you imagine a more cruel life than the one I’ve lived?”
Mickey Rooney, her 1940s costar, learned of her death while performing in summer stock in Downingtown, Pa. Rooney stated:
“She was both a great artist and a great human being.”
“I’m sure she was at peace and had found that rainbow.” At the very least, I hope she has.”
She had five marriages.
She married composer-conductor David Rose in 1941. In 1944, they divorced.
She married director Vincente Minnelli in 1945. They divorced in 1951, shortly after the birth of their daughter, Liza, who is now 23 and a singing sensation.
In 1952, she married Sid Luft, an eight-year-old former test pilot who became her business manager and father of two children, Joseph, now 13, and Lorna, now 16. In 1964, she and Luft divorced. The children are in Los Angeles with Luft.
She married actor Mark Herron, who was 18 years her junior, in 1965. After she testified that he had beaten her, they divorced in 1968. “I hit her,” he admitted later, “but only in self-defense.”
Thomas E. Green, 30, a publicist who had announced marriage plans that Miss Garland later denied, was accused by the singer of stealing two rings worth $110,000 in 1968. She later declined to press charges, and the rings were recovered as part of a government tax action.
Miss Garland married Deans, 12 years her junior, earlier this year, in January and again in March, after the validity of the first ceremony was called into question. She told reporters:
“At long last, I am loved.”
She had decided to relocate to England permanently.
Deans, a former discotheque owner, discovered Miss Garland dead in their Belgravia townhouse at 11 a.m. Sunday. He dialed the Scotland Yard number. Grieving, he was taken away and later placed in seclusion by friends.
Friends reported that she had been in good spirits the night before. They added that there was no indication that she was in poor health.
Miss Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She liked to say she was born backstage in a trunk. Frank and Ethel Gumm, her parents, were vaudeville performers.
She went onstage at 30 months to sing “Jingle Bells” as part of a Christmas program — and, according to legend, was forcibly removed by her father after repeating her song seven times.
Her family relocated to California and settled in Lancaster. She and her sisters performed in Hollywood as the singing Gumm Sisters. George Jessel, a fellow trouper, suggested she change her name, and she became Judy Garland, “The Little Girl with the Big Voice.” Jessel recalls:
“She was only 11 years old, but she sang with the broken heart of a woman three times her age.”
After an MGM scout noticed her, she was signed up and made her first film, a two-reel short, in 1935.
She was on her way to a Hollywood career — and a distinctive way of life. She became one of MGM’s juvenile players, studying lessons from a tutor as well as lines for her current role in a dressing room. Frances Ethel Gumm was on the verge of stardom. And her childhood had abruptly ended.
“She never had a chance to be a normal child — or a normal adult,” dancer Bolger, 65, recalled Sunday in New York. “There was always someone watching over her.
“There should come a time in your life when you can go home at night and forget about show business,” Judy Garland said.
- Bayard, Louis (April 16, 2000). “Supernova”. Washington Post. p. X9. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
- Bertram, Colin (September 30, 2020). “Judy Garland’s Life Was in a Downward Spiral Before Her 1969 Death”. Biography. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
- Judy’s Life – ~1920S~”. judygarlandmuseum.com. Archived from the original on July 8, 2020. Retrieved February 16, 2021.