For many, Judy Garland will forever be the bright-eyed teen who brilliantly embodies Dorothy’s kindness and determination in The Wizard of Oz, a performance immortalized in her song Over the Rainbow.
This role propelled Frances Ethel Gumm of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, to international stardom. After appearing as a child actress in several MGM-produced films, Garland earned her big break and widespread recognition within the industry, receiving her first and only Oscar for the role of Dorothy. But the beloved musical was also the start of a downward spiral as the young actress forged a complex relationship with show business and its disruptive mechanics.
Although she “hated” being referred to as a tragic figure — according to her youngest daughter Lorna Luft, at least — it’s undeniable that Garland has gotten into bad hands amid the dizzying heights of her career. And her fifth and final marriage to Mickey Deans, which remains one of Garland’s last photos before her death, is evidence of her rocky personal life and career.
Judy Garland struggled with material from her teenage years
While making The Wizard of Oz alongside one of his most frequent co-stars, child actor Mickey Rooney, Garland developed a drug addiction. The actress claimed that she, Ronnie, and other young artists were regularly taking pills to keep up with their hectic schedules.
“They used to give me and Mickey Rooney pills to keep us on our feet long after we were tired,” Garland once told biographer Paul Donnelly.
“Then they take us to the studio hospital and kick us off the sleeping pills…then four hours later they wake us up and give us the pills again so we can work 72 hours straight. Half the time we were hanging from the ceiling, but it was a way of life for us.”
However, Rooney denied MGM’s involvement in Garland’s addiction. The actress and singer will struggle with substance abuse her whole life, with an accidental overdose being the cause of her premature death at age 47.
Judy Garland wasn’t confident in her looks
While it remains unclear whether the studio system played a role in Garland’s drug use directly, it certainly did have an impact on her self-esteem and confidence.
Best known for her girl-next-doors, Garland stands at only 151 cm. She was cast in younger roles and was shamed for her appearance, as the studio allegedly Control your weight through diet pills and restricted meals.
Made for youthful, ruffled wear, Garland was so cognizant of her looks that she often wore removable hats for her teeth and rubber discs to reshape her nose.
“Judy was the big money guy at the time, and she was a huge hit, but she was the ugly duckling…I think it had a very detrimental effect on her emotionally for a long time. I think it lasted forever, really,” said Charles Waters, who directed it in a number from the movies.
Judy Garland’s rocky marriages and her latest husband, Mickey Deans
Plagued with financial problems in her later years while still battling addiction, Garland was in and out of hospitals due to her mental health and other conditions. This reflected on her career, as the actress was notorious for delaying filming and was often fired from films.
Garland has been married five times and has three children, including actress Lisa Minnelli from her second marriage to Vincente Minnelli and Lorna and Joy from her third marriage to Sidney Luft.
However, her love life has not been smooth either, the actress has claimed that she was subjected to violence by Luft as well as her fourth husband Mark Heron.
By 1969, with her health deteriorating, she was forced to perform in clubs to pay off her debts. When her divorce from Heron was finalized in February 1969, she married nightclub manager Mickey Deans. Reportedly, he entered her life in an unusual way when a friend sent him to deliver a packet of steroids to Garland – which he did while wearing a doctor’s uniform.
Although her family and friends apparently disapproved of the union (only 50 people attended their wedding), Garland appeared happy in photos with the Deans and gushed about their romance in public.
“I didn’t have a rich life until I met Mickey…I am happily married to a man who is about to give me the protection and help I need, and I can only do a concert now and then, when I feel ‘at night,'” she told Radio Denmark in her last interview. When I’m doing a concert, I don’t have to be alone in a hotel room. Now I can go home with my husband and that’s much nicer.”
Judy Garland’s daughter says Mickey Dean signed a book deal on the day of her mother’s funeral
Garland died of accidental overuse of substances in London on June 22, 1969. According to Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft, Deans insisted on a stop at a Manhattan office on the day of her mother’s funeral, on June 27. Lorna, who was 17 at the time, said he was making his book deal right after the service.
“In a breathless move to this very day when I think about it, Mickey had scheduled a meeting and wanted me to go with him,” Lorna wrote.
Months later someone told me that the other guy was a publisher, and that Mickey had arranged to stop on the way back from my mother’s funeral to make a deal on a Judy Garland autobiography. I don’t know if that was true, but his book came out two years later under the title, Don’t Cry Yet Now, madam. Needless to say, I didn’t buy a copy. Mickey Danes. What a butz.”
In 1999, Luft also dismissed the erotic and pathetic memories of her mother’s life, revealing Garland didn’t like being called a tragic character.
“We all have tragedies in our lives, but that doesn’t make us tragic,” Lorna told the Guardian.
“She was funny, she was warm and she was amazingly talented. She had great moments and great moments in her career. She also had great moments in her personal life. Yes, we lost her when she was 47. It was tragic. But. It was not personal. tragic.”