What all went wrong in Judy Garland's life

I don’t know much about Judy Garland, but on another forum people were discussing the saddest songs and music videos, and Judy Garland singing this version of somewhere over the rainbow came up.

Apparently she did that song after a suicide attempt, and I can't stop watching it because of the level of wistfulness in this song.

What all went wrong in her life and what caused her to be so miserable?

Drugs and alcohol.

It started with diet pills. Liza wrote in her book about her mom’s weight and how the PTB in Hollywood told her she couldn’t gain weight and still be employable.


I heard she had a domineering mother and was sexually abused in Hollywood. I’m sure that plays a big role too other than her abuse of stimulants, barbituates and alcohol.

Drugs and alcohol was probably more a side effect of her trauma than a cause of it. Many addicts are self medicating psychological pain.

I’m pretty sure she was f0orced (or heavily encouraged) to take amphetamines by directors on set for long hours and many many high energy takes. Too lazy to cite or do research tho.

And her father was a pedophile, although IIRC he was more interested in boys.

In the early 1990s during a school vacation, I read a biography of Ms. Garland, and throughout the book, I kept thinking, “Is this Judy Garland, or Axl Rose?” I swear, half the book could have been about him too. :eek:

Yea she had a difficult childhood.

actually since she lived here as a child theres all sorts of stories about her around town … but she had a very mercenary (stone cold bit-- as one old timer put it) stage mother that swore her kids going to be famous by "hook or crook "

But once she was with mgm as one of her co stars said “louis b mayer would be doing life for child abuse today for what they did to her”

She had a horrible childhood. Her mother was the Mommie Dearest of stage mothers, a frustrated vaudevillian who put Judy (Frances in those days) on stage at age two and threatened her with beatings. (Garland called her, “The real Wicked Witch of the West.”) Garland’s father was a decent guy, but his homosexual affairs didn’t sit well with his wife, and they divorced when Judy was young. She lost her only advocate when her father died when she was 13.

Between her mother and Louis B. Mayer, Garland had an incredibly poor self-image. Mayer called her, “my little hunchback,” made her wear rubber disks in her nostrils to reshape her nose and temporary caps on her teeth, and put her on a strictly enforced diet of cottage cheese, broth, coffee, and amphetamines to keep her slim and childlike. (He also had her breasts bound.)

The studio got her hooked on speed; Garland needed sleeping pills to counteract them, and her drug habit was born. She was just too screwed-up to cope. Married 5 times, depressed, anxious, and with almost no self-esteem, Garland had at least one nervous breakdown and several suicide attempts.

She never really had a chance.

Article with loads of detail on the trauma and exploitation she went through in Hollywood:

So Hollywood’s harassment and abuse of children goes way back. Was Mickey Rooney also a victim? I’ve heard horrible things about the Our Gang children too.

I wish I could recall who the actress was, but I recall seeing an interview with another lesser-known child actress who was also in the MGM school with Judy, and she told this really sad story about how Louis B Mayer had this big Christmas party for the studio children with Santa Claus, and all the trimmings. She said there was cake and piles of goodies and treats, and there sat Judy, with just a glass of water because she wasn’t allowed to have anything else. She said it was one of the saddest things she ever witnessed in her life.

Reading this makes me wonder about Shirley Temple? How did she avoid some of these things, was it just because she had a better mother? Or was head of Fox studio a better person than L.B. Mayer.

Did she avoid them?

My understanding is that her parents were better. They tried to keep her childhood normal by keeping her away from her fan mail until she was older and asking neighbors to keep their children from seeing Temple’s movies. Darry Zanuck may have been a better person than Mayer or other Hollywood moguls. The Temples had a lawyer to negotiate better contracts and tried to limit the number of films she did. The mother was a frustrated ballerina and had Shirley in dance classes when young although she proved to beca quick study.

I have seen different things about her parents and the money. Some say the father (a banker or bank employee) mismanaged it; others say he did a good job. Her second husband was pretty well off in any case and she left movies in her early 20s.

Maybe around minors. Zanuck was famous for his own casting couch, but maybe limited it to grown women. Mayer’s gropings of teenager Garland are thought to have been a factor in her later struggles.

If you think about it, even now young actors don’t fair so well in the giant factory of Hollywood. Chrissakes, women of adult age don’t do so well with Weinstein types.
I have read that there is a secret pedophile circle in Hollywood right now.

From the article linked in post #11, I thought this was the saddest part–that her big break was actually the beginning of her decline.

*When songwriter Arthur Freed approached Mayer with The Wizard Of Oz, the mogul immediately saw the potential of the book as a major musical. Although Garland was Freed’s first choice for the role, Mayer preferred Shirley Temple, under contract to rival studio 20th Century Fox. When Fox refused to loan Temple to MGM, Garland won the part. While it was the break she (and her mother Ethel) were waiting for, it was also to initiate the long slow decline that ended with Garland’s death at the age of 47 in 1969.
*The child was forced to lose weight and was put on a special diet. Mayer’s spies followed her day and night to make sure she kept to it. Whenever she was caught in a soda fountain eating one of her favorite sundaes she would be severely reprimanded. Even so, her breasts were bound with tape and she was made to wear a special corset to flatten out her curves and make her appear younger.
*Worse still, much of the rest of the adult cast of The Wizard Of Oz resented the attention given to the teenager and were afraid she would upstage them in the movie. Instead of giving the insecure girl the support she desperately needed, she was shunned by the four male leads Bert Lahr (The Cowardly Lion), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man) and Frank Morgan (Wizard of Oz). Ironically her one lifeline and adult friend on the set was Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West. *

Her Wikipedia entry says that she was raped at age 14 by Spencer Tracy; the article & webpage cited by Wikipedia say that she was “seduced” or “bedded” but considering her age it was certainly statutory rape.

So who had the most miserable life: Garland, Edith Piaf, or Billie Holiday?