Judy is a new film about the last year of Judy Garland’s life. In the Winter of 1968, she began appearing in London for nightclub acts and by 1969 she was dead, shortly after her 47th birthday. This film is very sobering about the effects of addiction to alcohol and pills. We see how her film studio treated her like a performing monkey doing tricks in order to cash in on her talent. Her five husbands pretty much did the same thing, it would appear. It is ok for a white person to call Judy a monkey, since Judy is white, correct? I wouldn’t like to start a riot.
The story begins with a young Judy Garland being controlled day and night by MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer. He wouldn’t let her eat, he gave her diet pills, he controlled her image. He exploited her singing talent to rake in the cash. In many ways, he was her pimp. Of course, this began while she was a teenager, but at some point she became an adult and all the drug abuse became her choice. We see in the film a little bit about her fifth husband Mickey Deans. The film says they met at a party. No, she met him to party – he was her drug dealer. We also learn about one of her other husbands, Sid Luft, who grew tired of her behavioral issues. Luft did accuse Deans of foul play causing her death, but this is not in the film.
The film briefly reveals that Judy Garland had attempted suicide. There were at least two suicide attempts – the first one in the late 40s while filming The Pirate. In 1950, Garland slit her own throat. Garland was notoriously late for performances or even refused to show up from time to time. In one scene the audience is so irked at her, they threw garbage and trash while booing her off the stage. That really happened in January 1969 after she was an hour and twenty minutes late for her performance.
The last year of her life she was broke and homeless; although she had earned millions in today’s money she was inept at managing her money, or her life in general.
We see a scene when she goes home with a couple of gay men and supposedly the gays worship her. Maybe some gays do. I’m gay, and I’m expected to worship her. I do admire her voice, and I have a poster of her right next to my front door, so I guess I have a little bit of diva-worship in me. But don’t ever mention those wicked witches Bette Davis and Joan Crawford – I can’t stand either one of them. Explaining further, Frances Gumm (the real person who went by the stage name Judy Garland) is my relative on her father’s side. We are both descended from English and French royalty.
Francis Avent Gumm, her father, was gay and she liked gay men. There is an old saying that women marry “their fathers.” Judy’s family was run out of town when she was a child because her father had an eye for very young men. She often fell in love with gay men, including two husbands, Vincente Minnelli and Mark Herron. At one point, her husband Mark Herron was having an affair with Liza Minnelli’s husband Peter Allen. That’s twisted.
Her life was very sad. Her mother really didn’t want another child and was going to have an abortion. We don’t know what stopped the abortion, other than it was super illegal at the time. Once her mother realized she could make money off Judy, Mrs. Gumm started trading sex for favors from studio executives to promote Judy’s career. Her mother meddled in other ways – she forced Judy to have an abortion when Judy got pregnant from her first husband.
I realize Judy is supposed a gay icon, but many of us consider her an embarrassment. I believe she made a lot of bad choices, and the film depicts this. Renée Zellweger did an amazing job portraying the train wreck diva. I expect at least an Oscar nomination for her role as Judy. The costumes, lighting, choreography and sets are eye candy. As a cultural anthropologist, I feel this film gives tremendous insight into Hollywood culture, and is a story everyone should know.