The life of Judy Garland is one of the most harrowing parables on celebrity and the road to fame in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Forced on to the stage in her infancy by a relentlessly ambitious mother, Judy Garland became a child star who suffered of abuse. The international adoration that she secured with her appearance in the The Wizard of Oz would remain with her forever, but few could have known the unbearably high price she would pay for attaining such iconic status.
Paul Donnelly movingly describes how the studio system exploited Judy Garland’s talents more exhaustingly than any other star of the period. She was left with a lifetime of eating disorders and drug dependency in order to fulfil the role Louis B. Mayer’s filming schedules, before being dumped once her years of profitability to Metro Goldwyn Meyer appeared to be over. Judy Garland would see none of the millions of dollars she earned for the studio over the many years of her contract to Mayer and MGM.
As if to complete a sad cliché, her triumphs on stage and screen were not repeated in her personal life. Her children brought her happiness but her marriages would all end in bitterness and tears, whilst the mismanagement of her financial affairs forced her into years of hard work. The touring, concerts and comeback performances were ecstatically applauded across the world but they soon took their toll. Judy Garland was unaware of the increasingly tragic dimensions of her own life and the alcohol and drug-fuelled spiral that would take her to a sad and lonely death in London at the age of forty-seven.
PAUL DONNELLEY is a journalist, TV writer and author who has written extensively on show business and cinema subjects. His books include TV Babylon, Julia Roberts Confidential: The Unauthorised Biography, a biography of Marilyn Monroe, and the best-selling Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries, now in its third edition.