Meet Me in St.
- Impressed with his talent for mounting shows
on Broadway, Arthur Freed invited Vincente Minnelli to
Metro without any specific assignment. When first choice
George Cukor was conscripted into the army, Freed
appointed Minnelli as director of Meet Me in St. Louis.
- Judy was not too keen to play in the
film since she would be playing an adolescent again.
Mankiewicz also felt she should be playing sophisticated
comedy because of her wit, and Vincente Minnelli only
convinced Judy to take the part after she was promised a
dramatic role in her next film.
- Though the film would be in
Technicolor, Minnelli decided that there would be no
gleaming sets for dancers, not even a theatre, but the
film would emphasise naturalism in reproducing the
atmosphere of Midwestern bourgeois comfort around the
turn of the century. An entire new street was built with
sloping lawns, a gothic villa with porches, gables, bays
and gingerbread trimmings.
- Used to flippant, wisecracking
dialogue, Judy was uncomfortable with the script. Unsure
whether she could carry the film, Garland complained
about her role. Looking at Minnelli as if he was
planning an armed robbery against the public, she
asked questions like: This is awful, isnt
it? and This isnt very good, is
it? When Mary Astor advised her to just go along
with it, Judy retired to her dressing-room with a
Mary Astor: Judy, whats
happened to you? You were a trouper - once.
always have to be my best in front of the camera. You
expect it of me too. Well, sometimes I dont feel my
best. Its a struggle to get through the day . . . I
use these pills. They carry me through.
- Late more often than not for
production - some days she failed to show at all - the
film became a contest between M-G-M and her psyche. The atmosphere on set only
improved as shooting progressed and Garland began to
understand Minnellis approach. The ice gradually
melted between the couple and they began to get on
extremely well. They even began to meet socially. Arthur
Freed insisted on a song about a trolley and inspiration
only came to songwriters Blane and Martin when they saw a
picture of an old St. Louis trolley with the caption
underneath: Clang, Clang, Went the Trolley.
- They had no trouble with the The Boy Next Door and Have Yourself a Merry Little
Christmas which later
made the charts. Minnelli had made a new kind of musical
and Garland had never looked better on film.
- Meet Me in St. Louis broke box-office records - M-G-Ms top money-maker after Gone With the Wind.
- Variety: Miss
Garland achieves true stature with her deeply
Kay Thompson: Do you want a
run it through once.
It was a perfect take . . . when she worked, she
With the films shooting completed,
Garland filed for divorce from David Rose on the grounds of
incompatibility and clash of careers. She began to
live with Vincente Minnelli but the affair only lasted a few
weeks - she really wanted to marry Joe Mankiewicz but he
wouldnt leave his wife. Judy appeared with Bing Crosby and
Jimmy Durante in a radio sketch for the troops entitled: The Groaner, the Canary and the Nose; and she also appeared several times with
Frank Sinatra on his radio show.
Judy: Joe was the greatest love of
my life. I almost had his child, except that I wasnt
pregnant by him.
For the film Ziegfield Follies, Kay
Thompson and Roger Edens had written a satirical number for Greer
Garson called Madame
Crematon, the inventor of the
safety pin. The idea was to show that Greer Garson, who had
played Madame Curie, was not as starchy as was generally
perceived. When Garson turned it down, Garland jumped at it and
Minnelli filmed it over three days in July 1944.
- Fred Zinnemann was
brought in to direct The Clock
featuring Garland in her promised dramatic role.
Unfortunately, they didnt get along. Once again
Garland was worried about her part and Zinnemann
couldnt convince her that she could play an
ordinary New York working girl.
- After everybodys life on the set
had been made a misery for twenty-four days, production
was shut down. Despite walking out on their relationship,
Garland asked Minnelli to take over production of The Clock and he agreed only after he had extracted a
promise that she would do as exactly as he told her. Judy
told an interviewer: You take your life in your
hands, but its fun to see what you can do. I like
taking a crack at something different.
her a great talent and looked forward to working with
her, but she just didnt like me.
Fred Astaire: Vincentes
so good - if I just knew what he was saying.
- Filming was not easy. Minnelli had to
accompany Garland to make-up every morning to reassure
her that she could play the part, and all his tact and
patience were needed when she was nervous on set.
- If Minnelli was helping Garland, so
Garland was helping her co-star Robert Walker who was in
a far worse state. His marriage to Jennifer Jones had
fallen apart and he was drinking heavily. Garland did
everything she could to nurse him through the filming,
even rescuing him from a bar when he was on a bender and
getting him into shape for the next days shooting.
- The Clock received excellent reviews and
surprisingly, despite Garlands honest performance,
didnt receive a single Academy Award.
New York Daily
To say she is superb is an understatement in two
syllables. She need never sing or dance again.
The Clock completed, Garland gave up her rented house
in Beverley Hills and moved in with Minnelli. Vincente
explained: We both know that a marriage can be the
most wonderful thing on earth, or it can gum up your life
and spoil everything. Were thinking it over.
Immediately the studio sent them both to New York for the
premiere of Meet
Me in St. Louis where Judy
showed Vincente off to the Press, and he escorted her to
Opera House, to the musical Oklahoma!, and introduced her to his artistic friends
including Richard and Dorothy Rodgers.
- Judy found New York an exhilarating
place, full of important people in the arts and society
but back in Los Angeles her interest in the arts soon
waned. Not working she didnt know how to channel
her energies. Unable to cope on some days, she would
resort to pills and Minnelli would return home to
find her speech and gestures going double time.
Minnelli: I was ecstatic when
Judy told me she wanted to marry me as soon as her
divorce was final. I let go of my emotions, feeling
needed for the first time in my life. We would face all
Oklahoma! revolutionised the musical. Liberated from
its theatre settings, the shows songs were sung by
players other than the star performers and Arthur Freed
Harvey Girls, a vehicle for
Judy Garland with music and lyrics by Harry Warren and
Johnny Mercer, in this new mould.
- During shooting, Garland was missing
for eleven days and was late on forty other occasions.
With the years her insecurities had grown, not lessened.
Continually keeping people waiting on the set, she would
then turn up as if nothing untoward had happened,
laughing and joking, being the adorable Judy Garland most
of them had long known.
- Her costume designer, Helen Rose,
remarked: She was slim and talented but strung like
a violin string - quite different from the little
roly-poly who sang her heart out at Graumans Chinese
What an education to work with Judy; I loved her. I
was like a sponge in those days and picked up a lot of
wonderful stuff from her. She was a total pro and her
talent was the one thing that saw her through.
Judy: I was a nervous wreck, jumpy and irritable
from sleeping too little. I couldnt take the
tension of the studio. Everything at M-G-M was
competition. Every day I went to work with tears in my
eyes. Work gave me no pleasure.
- Problems with filming abounded.
Virginia OBrien was pregnant and her scenes had to
be rushed through; Ray Bolger was burned by steam from a
train; John Hodiak and Preston Foster were hurt in a
fight scene; and eight writers toiled on the script
causing Judy to joke: They couldnt come up
with one plot; we had seven plots - one plot per
person. Garlands performance gives no hint of
the trouble behind the scenes. The entertaining movie
scored a success at the box-office and Judys
recording of On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe hit the charts.
- Liberty: Move over, Broadway,
and make room for a great, wide, wonderful musical
comedy. Its a certainty that if Judy gets any more
talented, shell probably explode. .
- On 15 June 1945, Judy Garland married
Vincente Minnelli at her mothers home. Ira Gershwin
was best man, Louis Mayer gave away the bride, and the
newly-weds left the same day for a New York honeymoon.
- Judy told her many fans in New York:
This is my husband. His name is Vincente Minnelli
and hes a very fine film director.
- At 23 years of age, Judy Garland had
already starred, or co-starred, in 12 films, made 75
radio appearances, cut 35 record sides for Decca, and
performed in hundreds of benefit shows for the Armed
Forces. Yet her increasing absences and lateness,
fluctuating weight, and dependence on pills were a cause
for concern. Some believed that the gentle, gifted
Minnelli would assuage some of her insecurities.
- By the time the couple returned to Los
Angeles in September, Judy was pregnant and
Minnellis house in Beverley Hills was extended to
include a nursery. If it was a boy, they decided, he
would be called Vincente Jr.; if a girl, Liza, after the
name of the song written by the Gershwins and sung by Al
- Before her pregnancy became obvious,
Judy began work on Till the Clouds Roll By, a fictionalised biography of Jerome Kern
with an all-star cast and Kern played by Robert Walker.
Minnelli had agreed to direct Judys sequences and
wrapped up four musical numbers and three brief scenes
within five weeks. Playing legendary Broadway dancer
Marilyn Miller, Judy was much amused by her third number
entitled Who?. She laughed as she said: What
a song to sing in my present condition? Dancing up
to most of the men, she sang: Who - stole my heart
- One of M-G-Ms big
successes of 1946, the film established box-office
- Hollywood Review: Its the
greatest work Garland has ever done. she is radiantly
beautiful, winsomely appealing and for twenty minutes,
the picture is all hers.
- Garland took on her new role of domesticity
not too successfully. The house staffs patience was
sorely tried as they watched their new mistresss
attempts to clean the floor, or when her attempts to make
a cake left the kitchen looking like a battlefield.
Liza May Minnelli (pictured right),
born on 12 March 1946, had Judys petite, upturned
nose and Minnellis large eyes and generous lips.
Judy adored Liza, as did Vincente, and she applied
herself to being a mother with some resolution.
- Determined to avoid overwork and
dependency on medication, she decided to work
independently, planning to do one picture a year and
perhaps a radio series. Not wanting to lose their
valuable asset, M-G-M went into action, offering Judy financial
rewards, artistic control, continuing work with her
husband, and films created especially for her.
- The studios persuaded her to accept
their offer guaranteeing $300,00 annually for ten
pictures over the next five years.
She began work in December on The Pirate, a pet project of her husbands and
directed by him. Immediately she regretted her decision
and her feelings of insecurity increased. Wracked with
post-natal depression, she was unable to eat and lost
weight. She dropped out of the Academy Awards ceremony where she was programmed to sing
Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe which won an Oscar for the best song.
Vincente: Judys desire for
constant approval was pathological.
The Pirate was a sort of fanciful, costume burlesque
set in Martinique in the 1830s. Co-star Gene Kelly
did most of the choreography and Cole Porter wrote the
songs. Despite being supported by some of the finest
talent in show business, Garland feared that the film
would not appeal to her grass-roots public. The frilly
costumes could not hide the fact that she was woefully
thin but her worst fear was that Gene Kelly, working like
a demon on his dancing, would take the film away from
her. Minnelli tried to assure her that he could bring her
through if she would just trust him, but she grew
paranoid about his close working relationship with Kelly.
Gene Kelly: Judy had periods when
she didnt show up. This was my first indication
that something was wrong.
- It wasnt long before Garland
resorted to pills, and as often as not, she was absent
from the studio. No amount of warnings or surveillance
could prevent her from getting pills and Minnelli found
he had no control over her at all.
- Railing against Ethel and others, she
repudiated those trying to help her and demoralised the
whole crew. A psychoanalyst was called in by the studio
to advise her and her colleagues. I lied
again, she would confess after a therapy session.
I lied so much today I dont know any longer
what is true and untrue.
- At home and at the studio,
Minnellis patience was stretched beyond endurance,
though the quarrels were kept from Liza who had her own
room with a nurse.
- Judy even had a go at Cole
Porter whom she adored. Going way over budget, the film
took 135 days to shoot, and for 99 of them Garland was
Judy: I wont be good
enough today, I know it in my bones.
Just dress and make up and come down and see how
Judy pointed out that there were hardly any laughs
where I had attempted an infinite number. It was very
embarrassing to have it pointed out.
She was shaking like an aspen leaf and went into a
frenzy of hysteria, shouting that everyone who had once
loved her had turned against her.
Gene Kelly: Judy
only worked when she thought she was going to be good. If
she wasnt up to giving her best, she didnt
appear on the set.
Kelly later explained his enthusiasm for
the film: Vincente and I honestly believed we were being
dazzlingly brilliant and clever, that everybody would fall at our
feet and swoon clear away in delight and ecstasy. The
public did not. Too rarefied for the average taste, it was the
only M-G-M Garland picture to lose money.
Cole Porter: A $5 million picture that was
unspeakably wretched, the worst that money could buy.
There was no question of Garland starting
another film. Her erratic behaviour - paranoia, irrational fears
and moments of remorse, were those of a classic drug addict. She
herself declined to give up her vast assortment of pills and take
a cure so the studio took advice from doctors and sent her to a
sanatorium at Las Campanas in California.
M-G-M Studios: We have 14 million dollars tied up in
Judy: It was dark
when I arrived and these two burly attendants helped me across
the grounds. I kept tripping over; I couldnt control my
feet; I kept stumbling and they kept picking me up. This
had to be the end of me, I thought. Next morning I saw that
I had been tripping over croquet wickets in the lawn!
After two weeks and desperately wanting to
see her daughter Liza, she was released from what she described
later as the first of my nuthouses. She spent another
two weeks at a sanatorium in Massachusetts before checking
herself out and returning home. She easily and quickly completed
re-shoots for The
Vincente: Between the two of us, we
shielded the unhappy truth from Liza until she was old enough to
cope with it.
- Undaunted with the failure of The Pirate, M-G-M contracted Irving Berlin to write a musical
Parade with the same team of
Freed, Minnelli, Garland and Kelly.
- Minnelli, unable to help his wife in
what he described as the reality of our often
sweet, occasionally bitter, life, was on the point
of casting the supporting roles when Freed informed him
that Garlands psychiatrist, Dr. Kupper, thought it
better all round if he did not direct the film. He
feels Judy doesnt want you as director, he
explained. Judy hadnt said a word to Vincente.
Minnelli was replaced by Charles Walters, who had been
friends with Judy since they worked together on Presenting Lily Mars. Walters knew Judy loved to growl and
pretend and true to form she greeted him on set:
Look sweetie, Im no June Allyson, you know.
Dont get cute with me. None of that
batting-the-eyelids bit, or the fluffing of the hair
routine for me, buddy! Im Judy Garland and you just
- One time in rehearsal, Irving Berlin
offered Garland some advice on singing a song, so she
backed him against a wall and waved a forefinger at him:
Listen, buster, you write em. I sing
em. Berlin howled with laughter.
were under way when Kelly fell playing touch football at
home and broke his ankle. Fred Astaire was asked to
replace him, Kelly didnt object, and Astaire came
out of retirement. Straightaway, Astaire and Garland hit
it off together, sharing jokes and reminiscences of their
childhood. Fred even managed to quell Judys fears
about the enterprise.
- The movie was peppered with Irving
Berlin songs, including A Fella with an Umbrella and A Couple of Swells which later became a high spot of
Judys stage act. Easter Parade took record takings
at the box-office.
- Hollywood Reporter: Easter Parade
firmly establishes Judy as the screens first lady
of tempo and tunes. Its her picture, and its
to Astaires everlasting credit that he let it be
Fred Astaire: An amazing girl, Judy
could do things - anything - without rehearsing and come
off perfectly. She could learn faster, do everything
better than most people. It was one of the greatest
thrills to work with her. (Famous tramp scene pictured
- Before Easter Parade was
released, Astaire and Garland went into rehearsals for The Barkleys of Broadway. Garland hadnt been given the long
rest she had been promised and it was not long before she
was taking pills, at first to increase her weight, and
then to reduce it. She often sought refuge at the home of
agent Carleton Alsop who was married to actress Sylvia
- When Judy failed to show up at the
studios four days running, Freed consulted her doctor who
advised: It would be a risk for her to start
- Freed replaced Judy with Ginger
Rogers, restoring a partnership broken with Astaire in
- Suspended by the studio, Judy was at
home and miserable on a steady diet of amphetamines and
in a state where she could hardly make a decision to move
from one room to another without bursting into tears, or
throwing a tantrum.
- Believing she was being punished by
the studio, she lashed out at whoever was nearest,
usually Vincente, though never Liza. She told everyone
that her marriage was over, and too kind to desert her,
Vincente was at a loss as to what to do.
- She told her mother Ethel in no
uncertain terms to keep away.
Judy: Hollywood is a
strange place when youre in trouble. Everyone is
afraid its contagious.
Lee Gershwin: If
you hadnt married Vincente, you wouldnt have
- There were plenty of people wanting to
help her - close supportive friends such as Humphrey
Bogart and Laureen Bacall; studio allies such as Kay
Thompson and Roger Edens; and old family friends like
- Closest to her were Sylvia Sydney and
her husband Carleton Alsop who managed Judys moods
better than most. Alsop acted as a go-between in the
frequent disputes between Judy and her husband, and her
disputes with the studio.
- Under doctors care, Garland was
again gradually weaned away from medication.
M-G-M had withheld $50,000 of Garlands salary
because of the difficulties incurred during The Pirate,
and Mayer, looking for a way of easing her back to work, agreed
to pay her $50,000 if she appeared in Words and Music, a film biography of songwriters Rodgers and Hart.
She sang I Wish I
Were In Love Again in a duet with
Mickey Rooney to such good effect that she was asked to return
for an encore, Johnny
One-Note. In between shooting the
two numbers, she had gained over thirty pounds in an eating
- Some of Garlands confidence was
restored after she appeared on two radio broadcasts with
Al Jolson and Bing Crosby, and in September 1948 she
informed M-G-M that she was ready for work.
- June Allyson, set to star with Van
Johnson in the film In The Good Old Summertime, became pregnant and Garland replaced her.
Despite being absent sixteen days with illness, Garland
breezed through the shooting and the film was finished
five days ahead of schedule.
- When asked by Mayer how this miracle
had been wrought, Johnson answered: We made her
feel wanted and needed. We joked with her and kept her
happy. There was never a word uttered in recrimination
when she was late, didnt show up or couldnt
go on. Those of us who worked with her knew her magical
genius and respected it.
The young child seen in the final scene of In The Good Old Summertime was the first screen appearance of Liza
Joe Pasternak: A great artist is
entitled to a lot more latitude.
When in full flow, Garland had a wonderful
ability to learn quickly. By simply just glancing at a script,
she could say the lines without fluffing; and after watching a
stand-in go through a number once or twice, she could get up and
do it herself. A second take was seldom necessary.
Saul Chaplin: To work with her was
indescribable - like a Xerox machine. You played something to
her, and she sang it right back the way you did. She ate up music
like a vacuum cleaner.
- Irving Berlins Annie Get Your Gun had completed a run of over a thousand
performances on Broadway and plans were made for its
filming with an unprecedented budget of $3 million.
Garland would play Annie Oakley and Howard Keel,
virtually unknown to American audiences, would play Frank
Butler. Most people at the studio thought Arthur Freed
was crazy appointing Busby Berkeley as director and
Garland was furious. She had difficulty working with
people she liked, let alone Berkeley with his brusque way
of giving orders. She knew it would mean utter exhaustion
and dependence on medication just to keep going.
Judy: I had seen the show on
Broadway and had my heart set on doing it. Rehearsals
started and I knew I wasnt good. I was so very,
very sick. Id begged them to postpone the starting
date but they wouldnt. I knew I wasnt going
to make it. I hadnt slept one night in
Judys attendance on set soon became erratic, as did
her performance. Hopeless one day, she would deliver the
next. Personal problems didnt help. After fours
years of marriage, Judy and Vincente had separated. The
love between the two couldnt overcome the
shortcomings on both sides.
- Freed decided that Berkeley, who was
shooting the film like a stage play, had no
conception of what the picture was about and called
in Chuck Walters as replacement. But Garland admitted to
Walters: Its too late; I havent got the
energy or the nerve anymore.
- Things had gone too far. Suffering
from insomnia and taking pills to control her fluctuating
weight, she had difficulty in performing at all and the
studio suspended her. Production was closed down and
re-opened four months later with Betty Hutton as Annie
Charles Walters: None of
Berkeleys footage was usable. The rushes were awful
and Judy had never been worse. She couldnt decide
whether she was Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Martha Raye or
herself . . . Her nerves were shot, there was the weight
thing, everything. We never knew what time she would come
in - or whether she was prepared for anything when she
The studio should have waited for Garland. Letting
her go was the only tacky thing I knew M-G-M do.
dont believe it. After the money I made for the
sons of bitches.