Becoming an actor is the dream for many people. The lights of Hollywood have an allure that is hard to ignore. Fame can be deceptive, however.
Judy Garland, best known for her role as Dorothy on The Wizard of Oz, seemingly had the perfect life. Or it looked that way when the cameras were rolling, anyway. Behind the scenes, Garland struggled to find love, and was married several times.
Judy Garland didn’t have a happy childhood
There was no Aunty Em waiting for Garland when she came home from school as a child. Her mother didn’t want a baby, and her parents were frequently splitting up only to get back together.
Life was so bad, in fact, that Garland once made the comment that her mother was ‘the real Wicked Witch of the West.’ Her mother did at least support Garland’s desire to become an actor and helped her find small roles.
Not all the places she performed were appropriate for a young child, such as a club that was raided for illegal gambling, and Garland got no positive encouragement growing up. It was her own mother who first introduced Garland to pills that were designed to give her energy, as well as help her sleep.
Getting her first big break should have seemed like the beginning of her happily ever after, but that wasn’t the case for Garland.
Hollywood wanted to change Garland
In 1935, Garland made it big when she was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Things seemed to be on the up and up as Garland was finally recognized for her obvious talent. Tragically, this was not the job she had dreamed of, however.
According to Biography, “Studio head Louis B. Mayer allegedly called Garland “my little hunchback” (Garland was less than five feet tall and had curvature of the spine). Because she was overweight, the commissary was ordered to serve her nothing but chicken broth and cottage cheese, and Mayer even had a network of informants who kept an eye on what Garland was eating. She was also prescribed amphetamine-based diet pills (a common practice at the time).”
Garland still went to school, but it was only for three hours a day. The rest of the time she was working. This led to her popping more pills, this time of her own volition. As Garland grew older, things didn’t get any easier, especially when it came to finding love.
Love is the hardest role of all
Garland’s first marriage was at the tender age of 19. David Rose, a man 12 years her senior, managed to sweep Garland off her feet, and they were wed in 1941. Her mother protested the wedding, but could do little to stop it as Garland was now of age. This didn’t stop Rose and Garland’s mother from forcing her to have an abortion, however, and in 1944, Garland divorced him.
Less than a year later, Garland married again. This time, it was to Vincent Minnelli who she met on the set of Meet Me in St. Louis. She gave birth to her first child Liza Minnelli in 1946, and things seemed to be looking up for her finally. She was fired from MGM, however, and tried to commit suicide twice.
Garland then began an affair with Sid Luft. She fell in love with him, and divorced Minnelli in 1951. Once again, Garland didn’t wait long to tie the knot. She wed Luft in 1952, and the two seemed very happy together. She gave birth to two more children, and her career was looking up. Garland’s substance abuse was only getting worse, however, and the couple divorced in 1965.
Shortly after her third divorce, Garland married Mark Herron. This union was to last a brief five months before it resulted in her fourth failed marriage. Garland reported that Herron beat her, but he denied this happened.
Her fifth and final marriage was to American musician Mickey Deans. The couple met when he brought Garland a package of stimulant pills to her hotel room. The couple would wed in 1969, and it would prove to be Garland’s shortest marriage. Deans came home to find Garland dead on her bathroom floor. She had died of an overdose, but her death was not ruled a suicide. It was a tragic ending to a woman who was just looking for love.
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