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nohojim

Judy Garland's life

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Judy Garland became a movie star, as she deserved to be.  But what a price she paid.  Her childhood was consumed by Show Biz.  Chronic addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol.  Five disastrous marriages.  Breakdowns starting as early as 1947 which required hospitalization.  Her death at 47.

Was it worth it?  What does it say about the studio system that created these musicals that it destroyed one of its biggest stars?

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I chose not to ask that question because Judy gave so much to the world. We can't play the second guessing game. She should have had a better deal from life, but I can only say the woman was an artist. She was a performer. The studio system could have and should have been better.  It wasn't. We can only keep her legacy at the forefront as one of the greatest. 

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On 6/12/2018 at 4:12 PM, nohojim said:

Judy Garland became a movie star, as she deserved to be.  But what a price she paid.  Her childhood was consumed by Show Biz.  Chronic addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol.  Five disastrous marriages.  Breakdowns starting as early as 1947 which required hospitalization.  Her death at 47.

Was it worth it?  What does it say about the studio system that created these musicals that it destroyed one of its biggest stars?

I decided to revisit this forum topic because I love Judy's art so very much. I've been thinking about the studios' culpability. There is some. Think back, though, and assess what horrific parenting she experienced. I mean horrible. It never got better for her. Art was all she had in the end.

Now a little personal context I can share. My grandfather served in WWII, and one of the unfortunate aspects of his service was the military supplying him with benzadrine although he was not in extreme combat.  As a civilian, he was a musician, and the bennies continued outside of WWII moving onto different uppers and downers  and booze similar to what Judy experienced.  My granny really had a horrendously difficult time with his moods and dealing with an addict.  He was exceptionally talented.  He was also, like Judy, probably manic. He was really tough on my mom although she lived for his brilliance. Eventually, my grandparents divorced. He had a heart attack from the effects on his heart. He only rebounded by becoming a marathon runner. He channeled his energy into running -- and then he'd just be down when he was down. He was very like Judy except he didn't leave a monumental amount of genius as a gift to the world. 

I say all this because systemic addiction occurred in more than the studio system. Our government hooked tons of GIs on pills and cigarettes. Had my grandfather found success like Judy Garland, he probably never would have escaped her fate either. Too many people to please, no self worth, and no foundation from parents when it's all boiled down.  

The studio system took from her, but it also did give her a venue to share her gift. it was a vicious cycle, but the art is art. My grandfather left a few pieces for our family's collection, but what he had inside artistically and intellectually was never shared more broadly.  This in no way answers your question but it puts Judy Garland's exceptionally horrible life in the context of what many people like her suffered as well. I can't imagine the world without her art. 

 

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On 6/12/2018 at 4:12 PM, nohojim said:

What does it say about the studio system that created these musicals that it destroyed one of its biggest stars?

 

On 6/12/2018 at 5:01 PM, MotherofZeus said:

The studio system could have and should have been better.  It wasn't. We can only keep her legacy at the forefront as one of the greatest. 

 

1 hour ago, MotherofZeus said:

The studio system took from her, but it also did give her a venue to share her gift. it was a vicious cycle, but the art is art.

Great responses. I think about this often. Not necessarily about Judy but what the studio system was truly like to work in and under it. The period is largely called the Golden Age in reality it wasn't. When people go on a nostalgia trip, I remind them of stories like Judy's. People go got exploited and abused by the system. I don't dwell on it but when I watch her films-particularly the MGM era ones-I think about what was likely going on behind the scenes. I also think of how she was often stereotyped in her movies-someone who was constantly compared to/looked over other girls in terms of attractiveness, but her singing talent makes up for what she lacked in the 'allure' dept. Or as in the Mickey Rooney movies the best friend but not good enough as his girlfriend. I know this had to have weighed on her personal self image and self esteem and I have read that it did. At the same time, I've read how the studio forced her into carrying a good, girl next door persona for a long time which also bothered her too (she referred to is as "Dorothy Adorable").

The thing is, I feel conflicted because I know about the truth of things in how she was treated by MGM and how Mr Mayer sexually assaulted her. How, why and when her problems with drugs started and the general negative things she experienced then. But I really do enjoy her movies and that period of her career. I even really like her good girl image. And the fact MGM gave her a platform for her gifts and opportunity for her to become a star.

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Probably many of those young girls were sexually assaulted by powerful men in that system. Natalie Wood, for instance, by a big name actor still revered.

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I don't think there is a simple answer.  Judy the Movie Star that we still have on film is to me like The Great and Powerful Oz, and Judy the person is like the man behind the curtain frantically trying to keep up, if the levers and machinery are driving the man as much as the man is controlling them.  They are all necessary parts of the same thing.

I think the "child star" part is important.  Some child stars like Ron Howard or Jodie Foster go on to have interesting careers but it seems like a high percentage are badly damaged (the "two Coreys" for example).

I think sexual harassment and assault were common in the studio system (another MGM star, Esther Williams, says so in her autobiography, "Million Dollar Mermaid," at least the harassment part), and have continued straight through.  I don't think Harvey Weinstein is the only one.

I did get a copy of "Get Happy" on NeverGonnaDance's recommendation and have started reading it.  Thanks.

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Here's the thing about Judy's looks...when she is on the screen, you can't take your eyes off her no matter how generous she is on screen in highlighting her costars. You simply can't. She was gorgeous although not classically beautiful. but more importantly she was magnetic in the sense of a "star" like Garbo, Dietrich, Dean, Monroe, Bergman, or Bando.   Look at how they fabricated my beloved Rita Hayworth through plucking, snipping, dyeing, starving, and painting! I believe Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner and Ingrid Bergman are the exceptions to the Hollywood makeover. In fact, Garbo and Bergman are exceptions who refused the makeover by and large. The beauty ideal imposed on women lingers with us today as women still hear what celebrities deal with regarding roles for "aging women" and having to drop weight to be considered attractive (many vulgar terms have been reported by the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Kathleen Turner, Anjelica Houston, Sandra Bullock and so many more). Judy Garland is the worst case scenario of the most talented, most magnetic, most charismatic star who had the least ability to deal with exploitation. 

Why do we still want to watch her despite her horrific story? In everything I read and observed, Judy's ability to bring the audience into the idea that she understands them through self-deprecation always maintains a dignified quality. During this class, I've spent a great deal of time on why she is so fantastic even in her years of diminished physical and mental strength. People connect to her because she deflates herself while retaining dignity.  Isn't that what most people feel about themselves? We have the right to love, respect, and happiness even as we shoot ourselves in the foot. That's what she brings to the screen along with a voice that wallops anyone who listens. 

Watching the clips for June 21, I was struck by how Judy should be in these if the studios didn't insist on younger women while allowing older men to keep going until they just couldn't tap anymore. Bing and Fred were no spring chickens. Bing wasn't skinny! Fred was too skinny for the ideal male and never the handsome romantic type.  In the musicals of Sinatra, they riff on his paltry frame rather than dump him as unattractive. The double standard was in full effect in what we are seeing move through the musical decades. Even Rita was starting to be considered long in the tooth while Fred, Frank, Gene, and Bing kept rolling along. Phooey, my Granny used to say, and I say phooey today.

 

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Did you know they mad a biopic of Judy Garland with Rene Zelwegger? Judy had a cute face and later as she matured she was pretty. But her problems with alcohol or bad plastic surgery distorted her looks. 

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3 hours ago, MotherofZeus said:

Here's the thing about Judy's looks...when she is on the screen, you can't take your eyes off her no matter how generous she is on screen in highlighting her costars. You simply can't. She was gorgeous although not classically beautiful. but more importantly she was magnetic in the sense of a "star" like Garbo, Dietrich, Dean, Monroe, Bergman, or Bando.   Look at how they fabricated my beloved Rita Hayworth through plucking, snipping, dyeing, starving, and painting! I believe Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner and Ingrid Bergman are the exceptions to the Hollywood makeover. In fact, Garbo and Bergman are exceptions who refused the makeover by and large. The beauty ideal imposed on women lingers with us today as women still hear what celebrities deal with regarding roles for "aging women" and having to drop weight to be considered attractive (many vulgar terms have been reported by the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Kathleen Turner, Anjelica Houston, Sandra Bullock and so many more). Judy Garland is the worst case scenario of the most talented, most magnetic, most charismatic star who had the least ability to deal with exploitation. 

Why do we still want to watch her despite her horrific story? In everything I read and observed, Judy's ability to bring the audience into the idea that she understands them through self-deprecation always maintains a dignified quality. During this class, I've spent a great deal of time on why she is so fantastic even in her years of diminished physical and mental strength. People connect to her because she deflates herself while retaining dignity.  Isn't that what most people feel about themselves? We have the right to love, respect, and happiness even as we shoot ourselves in the foot. That's what she brings to the screen along with a voice that wallops anyone who listens. 

Watching the clips for June 21, I was struck by how Judy should be in these if the studios didn't insist on younger women while allowing older men to keep going until they just couldn't tap anymore. Bing and Fred were no spring chickens. Bing wasn't skinny! Fred was too skinny for the ideal male and never the handsome romantic type.  In the musicals of Sinatra, they riff on his paltry frame rather than dump him as unattractive. The double standard was in full effect in what we are seeing move through the musical decades. Even Rita was starting to be considered long in the tooth while Fred, Frank, Gene, and Bing kept rolling along. Phooey, my Granny used to say, and I say phooey today.

 

Regarding Judy's looks, I agree with you. It really comes down to general sexist policing and expectations of women's bodies and attractiveness. It wasn't fair then and its not fair now. That said,I don't really see her listed in countdown types of lists of most beautiful women of the golden age of Hollywood or something because I she was...I always thought she was pretty.But you'r right she just had a magnetism and charm that just pulls you to her irregardless of what she looked like. I still don't understand why Mayer called her his  little hunchback. That's so mean! She was a little chubby then but she was like 12-14..its just baby fat. NBD. Anyway, I hate to steer into superficial waters but her beauty was and is in some quarters underrated or under-appreciated :(   

 What you said about her self depreciation really hit it. Its true and I was trying to figure it out. She can feel a song like nobody else and its makes you feel it too since there are emotions and experiences anyone can relate to. But the fact she was able to do this as a child is really incredible. I was thinking of the song "In Between" from Love Finds Andy Hardy.

And you "June 21st" point is important...I hadn't thought of it before. But I agree. It was totally a double standard. Fred Astaire. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby still could perform and certainly didn't lose their talent. But they were allowed to age, have their weight fluctuate and as you said, had body types that weren't the romantic masculine ideal. Yet this wasn't an issue and their practicalities did not negatively affect their appeal or star image. For women it did and stiff does matter fact.  Very wrong and unfair!

It must change but it won't.

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