‘Judy’ and the Curse of Child Stars

 

I just watched Judy, the biopic of Judy Garland played by Renee Zellweger. Judy Garland died when I was between 6th and 7th grade. I don’t remember hearing about it or where I was when it was announced. Basically, her career was before my time, and I only associated her with the film The Wizard of Oz, which played on television once a year when I was growing up.

I’ve since seen a few of her films made in the 1930s and ’40s on TCM, which really aren’t my cup of tea.  They are mostly, what we would refer to today as, “chick flicks.” One reason that Garland’s name continued to receive attention in the years after her death is her daughter, Liza Minnelli, became famous in her own right and was associated with Garland despite the differences in last names. She was asked about her mother in many interviews when she made it big.

After watching Judy, I watched her various appearances on YouTube, including a young Barbara Walters interviewing her (Barbara Walters was a knockout in those days).

The film has some coverage of Garland’s relationship with Louis B Mayer. The film only hints at allegations he molested Garland and, going through his Wikipedia page, there are both detractors and promoters of Mayer and how he handled the stars, including the children, contracted to MGM. Every reference I’ve seen regarding any such hints or accusations, has been described as “an allegation.” It’s agreed that MGM staff did provide stars, including Garland, with amphetamines. But we can’t blame MGM alone for providing those drugs to her. Her mother drove all her three child daughters and did provide them pills to keep them going.

I have a high level of suspicion that if Mayer did not molest child stars (I am hardly dismissive of the allegations), he most likely averted his gaze from incidents he should have stopped.

There are only a few child stars that have made it through their childhood unscathed. It looks like Shirley Temple (mentioned in the movie) was one, and I can think of one other female star, Annette Funicello, being the other. (It looks like Walt Disney ran a tight ship when it came to the child stars under his care — Funicello never said a bad word about him, nor have their been revelations from other Mouseketeers.) It looks like Mickey Rooney, who co-starred with Garland in the Andy Hardy movies was another, and he had nothing bad to say about Mayer (while Rooney was covered in the movie, there was no reference to the differences in treatment between the two). I can only think of one other, Ron Howard, who had a good experience.

I don’t know about Rooney but in the other three cases, they all had strong protective parents on the sets they worked who also did not overwork their kids. This seems to be a rare phenomenon.

Judy Garland had three children. Liza Minnelli is the most famous, but the two she had with Sidney Luft are also portrayed, and in my YouTube and other surfing I found that her daughter Lorna is also a performer with some movie credits, while Joey has stayed out of the spotlight but worked behind the scenes in the movie industry.

I did not find anything substantial about Garland’s two older sisters, who she performed with as the Gumm Sisters, before they became the Garland sisters.

Watching Judy, obviously, I see a tragic life. In the end, however, the child became an adult. She knew she was screwing up, there were people around her who tried to help her, and she is responsible for her end at age 47.

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  1. Sweezle Member
    Sweezle
    @Sweezle

    It is amazing to me that any child stars grew up to be normal, well-adjusted adults. Often the children of adult stars don’t make it. And sadly in rich, powerful families like the Kennedy family addictions run rampant and early deaths are common. 

    This is another reason I find Trump and his children amazing. Addiction runs in the family but thanks to his older brother Trump stayed away from drinking, smoking, etc.. And as DJT’s children tell us, their dad is the major reason they never tried anything addicting while growing up.

    A wonderful gift to pass on to children is staying away from nicotine, alcohol and other drugs.

    • #1
  2. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Although she was already a teenager when she went into the movies I think I have read that Debbie Reynolds’ parents kept a pretty tight rein on her. Not that I know anything about movies, actors or actresses!

    • #2
  3. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    Although she was already a teenager when she went into the movies I think I have read that Debbie Reynolds’ parents kept a pretty tight rein on her. Not that I know anything about movies, actors or actresses!

    Debbie Reynolds had a strict conventional small town upbringing, though her parents were financially strapped during the Great Depression.  Looking at her life, she was pretty tough.

    Yet, she probably was plucked from that life a little too soon.  The men she chose to marry treated her badly.  Her daughter, Carrie Fisher, also had a bad childhood.

    • #3
  4. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Garland, as many no doubt are aware, is/was very big in gay culture.  In fact, I’ve heard the term Friend of Dorothy (FOD) around the DC area, in reference to the Wizard of Oz.  I’m not really qualified to speak to this but have always assumed that there was some identification with Garland’s various travails throughout her life.

    Zellweger is pretty much my favorite actress in an era of rather bland leading ladies (IMO) and I’ll probably see the movie for her alone.

    • #4
  5. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Showtime released a fascinating documentary called “Sid and Judy” about the last third of Judy’s career. It’s fascinating because it’s mostly told in their own words. Judy had started to make recordings that she hoped to turn into an autobiography. Sid Luft, her manager and husband was paranoid and began recording all of his own phone calls.

    It’s much better than any fictional account.

    • #5
  6. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    My top five non-Wizard of Oz Garland films:

    1. Meet Me in St. Louis (not just for Christmas time)
    2. The Pirate (with Gene Kelly)
    3. Babes in Arms (one of the several Mickey Rooney “Let’s put a show” films)
    4. The Harvey Girls (which I enjoyed, even more, having visited the Harvey House in Barstow)
    5. Easter Parade (with Fred Astaire)

     

    Ane A Star Is Born is one of her more critically acclaimed films. All of these are worth seeking out to see the talent of Garland.

     

    • #6
  7. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    Eustace C. Scrubb (View Comment):

    My top five non-Wizard of Oz Garland films:

    1. Meet Me in St. Louis (not just for Christmas time)
    2. The Pirate (with Gene Kelly)
    3. Babes in Arms (one of the several Mickey Rooney “Let’s put a show” films)
    4. The Harvey Girls (which I enjoyed, even more, having visited the Harvey House in Barstow)
    5. Easter Parade (with Fred Astaire)

     

    Ane A Star Is Born is one of her more critically acclaimed films. All of these are worth seeking out to see the talent of Garland.

     

    She also had a role as a witness in the movie “Judgement at Nuremberg “.  The movie is great and so is Garland’s performance.

    • #7
  8. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    I would definitely recommend the film. Zelwegger is phenomenal and should easily get the Oscar ( and I haven’t even seen the other films!) 

    I inherited a box set of Judy Garland recordings on CD and she was a spectacular singer (everybody knows this but they don’t really know it).

    She was also a great actress. She was freakin’ 16 during the filming of Wizard of Oz, another film that can’t be seen or appreciated enough.

    I have sympathy for Judy and other super talented famous people and judge them much less harshly than those such as the author here. 

    By the way. Andy Rooney was the curmudgeon on 60 Minutes, you mean Mickey Rooney.

    • #8
  9. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Franco (View Comment):
    Zelwegger is phenomenal

    My wife and I are fans.  She appears in my Saturday Night Chick Flicks: the Bridget Jones Diary series and New In Town.

    • #9
  10. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Stad (View Comment):

    Franco (View Comment):
    Zelwegger is phenomenal

    My wife and I are fans. She appears in my Saturday Night Chick Flicks: the Bridget Jones Diary series and New In Town.

    And she sings in the film. No doubt a lot of it is live and definitely her voice. I was blown away. 
    It’s not really a bio-pic but focuses on her brief stint at the end of her life appearing in a club in London with a few flash backs. To play a tipsy-but-talented Garland is remarkable. I still have no idea what kind of an actress you would have to be to portray that….

    You actually see she’s impaired, but her talent shines through. How Renee does that I can’t fathom. 

    • #10
  11. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Franco (View Comment):
    By the way. Andy Rooney was the curmudgeon on 60 Minutes, you mean Mickey Rooney.

    I stand corrected.  But Mickey Rooney turned into a curmudgeon later in life.  Another person who was not my cup of tea.

    • #11
  12. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Al Sparks (View Comment):

    Franco (View Comment):
    By the way. Andy Rooney was the curmudgeon on 60 Minutes, you mean Mickey Rooney.

    I stand corrected. But Mickey Rooney turned into a curmudgeon later in life. Another person who was not my cup of tea.

    I used to get Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons mixed up.  There aren’t many opportunities for that anymore.

    • #12
  13. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Garland, as many no doubt are aware, is/was very big in gay culture. In fact, I’ve heard the term Friend of Dorothy (FOD) around the DC area, in reference to the Wizard of Oz. I’m not really qualified to speak to this but have always assumed that there was some identification with Garland’s various travails throughout her life.

    Zellweger is pretty much my favorite actress in an era of rather bland leading ladies (IMO) and I’ll probably see the movie for her alone.

    The movie included a homage towards the gay community’s reverence towards her, including two gay fans (probably fictional) who she interacts with.  The movie only focuses on two of her husbands, Sid Luft and Mickey Deans.

    Vincente Minnelli, who is not mentioned in the movie at all, and who was the father of Liza, also directed Judy Garland in three of her films.  He had a significant effect on her career.  He is also rumored to have been gay.  One allegation I heard was that Judy Garland caught her then husband in bed with a male lover, and then attempted suicide.

    In my YouTube surfing, I saw one of the episodes of the Judy Garland Show (television) had Barbra Streisand as a guest.  She also is a gay icon.  I also thought of her as the “anti-Judy”, in the sense that she led a more disciplined life, did not mess up her career, and is still alive today at age seventy-seven.

    • #13
  14. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    Garland, as many no doubt are aware, is/was very big in gay culture.

    I remember seeing a biopic  ( can’t remember it’s name) about her which alleged that her father was gay. Perhaps thats why she married gay men. 

    • #14
  15. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Unsk (View Comment):

    Garland, as many no doubt are aware, is/was very big in gay culture.

    I remember seeing a biopic ( can’t remember it’s name) about her which alleged that her father was gay. Perhaps thats why she married gay men.

    The movie also hints at her father’s homosexuality.  He died of meningitis when Garland was thirteen.

    • #15
  16. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Irrelevant personal anecdote: a friend from England was staying with us last November, and Wife asked if she wanted to relax and maybe watch the Judy movie? She said sure, she’d tried to watch it back home but her husband wouldn’t stand for it, because he’d worked those last London performances as a musician and it was a bloody nightmare and there was no way he wanted to go through that again.

    Best husband rationale for turning down a chick flick EVER

    • #16
  17. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Irrelevant personal anecdote: a friend from England was staying with us last November, and Wife asked if she wanted to relax and maybe watch the Judy movie? She said sure, she’d tried to watch it back home but her husband wouldn’t stand for it, because he’d worked those last London performances as a musician and it was a bloody nightmare and there was no way he wanted to go through that again.

    Best husband rationale for turning down a chick flick EVER

    Great story!
    And I certainly don’t blame the guy, but it definitely wasn’t a chick flick. I do not attend or watch chick flicks and I don’t need a rationale for my position. The three females in my family don’t even want me walking through the living room when one is on because my offhand comments are just too brutal. 
    Judy is a serious film about a real person done very well. I will bash Hollywood for their excesses and their pathetic in-artful commercialism any time, but I will praise it when they make substance and art. For anyone interested in a really well-done interesting film this is highly recommended. Plus you will see truly great acting.

    • #17
  18. Ralphie Inactive
    Ralphie
    @Ralphie

    Al Sparks: I don’t know about Rooney but in the other three cases, they all had strong protective parents on the sets they worked who also did not overwork their kids. This seems to be a rare phenomenon.

    I listened to Ron Howard advise parents not to push their children into show business because he thought he and his brother were the exception. He said his dad never used their money, and they lived a normal life. I think it is correct that the parents that looked out for their child’s well being first did the best.

    I watched the recent “Judy” movie also, and it was kind of depressing. I enjoy some of her early movies like the Harvey girls.

    • #18
  19. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    One person who is out there doing the heavy lifting is Paul Petersen. If you’re old enough to remember The Donna Reed Show, Petersen played her oldest son and he had parlayed that role into some pop singing success. In the early 1990s he was alarmed by the suicides of some his contemporaries: Tim Hovey, Trent Lehman (Nanny and the Professor) and Rusty Hamer (Make Room for Daddy). This prompted him to found A Minor Consideration, an organization that both helps children transition out of show business and serves as a watchdog for current child actors.

    Under Petersen, AMC was able to wrestle control of the Young Performers Committee at the Screen Actors Guild away from the agents and stage parents that controlled it. Now over half the committee members are former child actors. As the case of the “Two Coreys” (Feldman and Haim) and the allegations against other prominent producers and directors resurface from time-to-time this is something that will never go away.

    • #19
  20. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    Franco (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Irrelevant personal anecdote: a friend from England was staying with us last November, and Wife asked if she wanted to relax and maybe watch the Judy movie? She said sure, she’d tried to watch it back home but her husband wouldn’t stand for it, because he’d worked those last London performances as a musician and it was a bloody nightmare and there was no way he wanted to go through that again.

    Best husband rationale for turning down a chick flick EVER

    Great story!
    And I certainly don’t blame the guy, but it definitely wasn’t a chick flick. I do not attend or watch chick flicks and I don’t need a rationale for my position. The three females in my family don’t even want me walking through the living room when one is on because my offhand comments are just too brutal.
    Judy is a serious film about a real person done very well. I will bash Hollywood for their excesses and their pathetic in-artful commercialism any time, but I will praise it when they make substance and art. For anyone interested in a really well-done interesting film this is highly recommended. Plus you will see truly great acting.

    This chick hates chick flicks.

    • #20
  21. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    I don’t know if there really is a connection between parental oversight and whether or nor a celebrity kid goes wild.  Look at Miley Cyrus.  I remember seeing her dad – Billy Ray Cyrus – on TV when she was becoming famous and he said that she has a whole wing of the house that the parents are not allowed to enter.  And look what a fine, upstanding lady she turned into!

    • #21

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