Playing the Palace
- Garland had to be cured of her addiction but
she did not have the money to pay for treatment. She had
never understood the value of money and her finances were
in a mess. Taxes, doctors bills and maintenance
- A hospital in Boston closely
associated with Harvard Medical School was recommended
and the studios agreed to pay her hospital bill.
Im learning to sleep all over again without
medication, she told the Press but weaning her off
drugs was not easy and withdrawal symptoms were painful.
Minnelli, Mayer and Freed visited her. Frank Sinatra
telephoned her every day.
- As she improved, she sent for Liza and
for a while they took a cabin on the coast where they
swam and sunbathed. Overwhelmed by her greeting when she
visited a nearby Childrens Hospital, she said:
I loved feeling I could help somebody else for a
- Over the next few years her garden was
often thrown open in the cause of deprived or sick
Louis Mayer: I love you like a
Dr. Augustus Rose: If you need pills, this hospital is
full of them. But if you can get over it, fine. If you
cant, Im going out to buy Christmas carols.
Wed better start rehearsing now.
After leaving hospital, she lived once
again with Minnelli, largely for the sake of Liza. Her friends
had told her: Call us anytime, and she did at all
times of the night. Quickly learning who would listen and who
would not - Marc Rabwin was always available to her and often
drove over to see if she was all right - she picked up the phone
and called, whatever time of day or night, sometimes to laugh and
joke, and sometimes to whine and bask in self-pity. Her calls
became a lifetime habit.
Minnelli: Id obviously failed
Judy. Those periods in her life when shed been least able
to cope with the world coincided with the years of our marriage.
It was an indictment I couldnt ignore.
Freed found Judy so much like her old self that he
offered her the co-starring part with Gene Kelly in Summer Stock. Kelly agreed to do the picture as a
personal favour to Judy, and anxious to see Judy on her
feet, other old friends were on hand - Joe Pasternak as
producer, Chuck Walters as director, and included in the
cast was Phil Silvers with Saul Chaplin in charge of the
- Billy Rose: I found your
portrayal of a farm girl in Summer Stock as
convincing as a twenty-dollar piece, and when you leveled
on Harold Arlens old song, Get Happy -
well, it was Al Jolson in lace panties.
- Joe Pasternak: I had to handle her
differently than anybody else. Delay with Judy is
something that is within her - something you know she
cant help. Everybody at the studio said to me:
How can you stand these delays? I replied:
When I look at the rushes, I pray shell come
back any day.
- Heartily eating again, Garland was
overweight and ordered to reduce - a prelude to disaster
since she began taking pills again. Feeling the picture
was below her talents, she became depressed and began to
come in late or not at all. Shooting dragged on till no
one on the lot believed the film would ever be finished.
Pasternak wanted to abandon it but Mayer told him:
Stay with it, no matter what it costs.
- The cast and crew were very patient.
Gene Kelly and Chuck Walters helped Garland through the
filming. Though she rehearsed the difficult finale,
Get Happy, just once, and recorded it in under
four takes, the film took six months to complete.
Gene Kelly: Judy only worked when
she thought she was going to be good. If she felt she
wasnt up to giving her best, she didnt appear
on the set. It was as simple as that.
encouraged me to forget what people might be saying,
laughed with me, helped keep down the friction.
- Doctors recommended she take eight
months off after completing Summer Stock but
three weeks later Garland was called back to work. Freed
needed a replacement for June Allyson, who was again
pregnant, to co-star with Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding.
- Judy later explained: That was
when I made one of the really classic mistakes of my
life. I reasoned that I had been so humiliated by the
studio and the Press that if I returned, maybe everything
would be all right.
- Within a few days she had started to
come in late complaining of the usual nausea and
migraines. Even when on set there was no guarantee she
would perform. Once again she was warned, threatened and
cajoled to no effect. Awaking one morning with a
migraine, she telephoned that they would have to manage
without her. The studio decided to do just that and fired
- Judy Garland was severed from the M-G-M payroll on 7 June 1950, a week after her
- She believed things could be sorted
out but the studio had decided she was a pain in the neck
and no longer an asset. It was the end of an era.
This is to notify you that for good and sufficient
cause and in accordance with rights granted to us . . .
we shall refuse to pay you any compensation . . .
Harry Warren: She was just too much
trouble and too costly, so Metro let her go. But she was
treated better at M-G-M than she would have been at any
Wish her well, return her love, all who cherish
talent and genius and a great heart. For myself, I am
lucky to have had the privilege of working with
- Though Judy was no longer a star at M-G-M, other options were open to her such as a
Broadway show, so it was not the end of the world. Judy
thought it was and only three days after being fired by M-G-M she gashed her neck with a broken glass in
- Minnelli broke down the bathroom door
to find that her wound was not life-threatening but the
suicide attempt made front-page headlines.
- Friends rallied round. Ethel flew from
Dallas; and her private turmoil generated sympathy and
passion with the press and the public.
New York Daily
News: Judy Garland Fails In Suicide Attempt
Dr. Ballard: Several
minor scratches on Judys neck . . . required no
Just as many people at M-G-M studios
felt responsible as believed she had brought it all on herself.
Louis Mayer was baffled and asked Katherine Hepburn if she could
help. Hepburn spent several hours talking with Judy, mentioning
her own problems with Spencer Tracys drinking. Now
listen, Katherine told her. Youre one of three
greatest talents in the world. and your ass has hit the gutter.
Theres no place to go but up. Now, goddamit. Do it!
Fred Finklehoff: Dear Judy: So glad you cut
your throat. All the other girl singers needed this sort of
- The newspapers also discovered that
after a dozen years of stardom Judy was virtually broke.
Taxes and medical expenses had eaten into her capital and
she was without a salary from M-G-M. She confided her financial problems to
Louis Mayer but even the old movie mogul himself
couldnt persuade the studio to make her a loan
since he was being eased out himself. He offered to pay
her hospital expenses personally.
- Much public sympathy was generated and
Garland was soon seen out and about in public with
Vincente and Liza.
Judy is an appealingly wonderful person when she is
not harassed by worry and fear.
Hers is the greatest talent ever developed in this
town, and Ive known them all. So much talent, so
much pressure, so much bad advice.
- On a visit to New York in September
1950, she sneaked into the Capital Theatre on
Broadway where Summer
Stock was showing. Recognised
when the lights went up, she found herself surrounded by
people calling out messages of support. A crowd followed
her through the lobby to her car shouting, Judy! We
love you, Judy! Keep making pictures!
- She shouted back: I love
- Exciting and frightening at the same
time, Judy found it: So astonishing and so
wonderful, so encouraging. It wasnt like a mob, it
was like a lot of friends.
- Garland was no longer little Dorothy
the Rainbow - that little
scratch on her throat had transformed her into a cult.
- Im suspended so often, my
feet are practically never on the ground, Garland
quipped to the Press in New York. On her return to Los
Angeles she was released from her contract with M-G-M by mutual consent. There was speculation
that she would replace Mary Martin in the Broadway
production of South
Pacific but she returned to
radio - Bing Crosby had faith in her. He called me
up one morning. Bless him - he was cute: Judy, I
know how busy you are (Me busy? That was a laugh!) but I
was wondering if I could get you on three shows? He
could get me for thirty shows, or three hundred!
- She appeared on Bings radio show
with Bob Hope and the three of them did comedy skits.
When Al Jolson died she did a tribute on the show by
singing Rockabye Your Baby with a Dixie
all love you and would make things enjoyable for
Bing Crosby: She
laughed infectiously, you know. The weeks we did together
on radio were the best I ever had.
A radio reviewer: If radio is to be saved, such shows
as this will do the trick.
- Her private life was as complicated as
ever. Judy had already had taken up with Sid Luft, a man
who was significantly different to Vincente Minnelli.
Blunt, uncomplicated, Sid was aggressively charming. He
had been a test pilot, produced a couple of films, and
was interested in breeding thoroughbred racehorses.
Though he was married to actress Lynn Bari, they were
heading for divorce when he met Judy.
- Confident that he could lift
Judys career to new heights, Luft became her
manager and encouraged her to work on her stage act.
- Garland and Minnelli were divorced
March 1951 and Judy was granted legal custody of Liza,
though Liza could spend six months a year with her
father. Vincente agreed to pay child support and Judy and
Vincente remained friends.
- Though Variety in Britain
was dying, the London
Palladium kept it alive by
featuring American film stars. Danny Kaye and Betty
Hutton had successful seasons and early in 1951 Judy
Garland was offered a four week engagement.
- Roger Edens and Oscar Levant helped
her assemble her act, and after some self-doubts, she
sailed to England on the Ile de France.
When the ship docked at Plymouth, sirens from nearby
ships Morse coded J-U-D-Y to her in salutation.
- They told me people had a warm
feeling for me in England, but I never thought it would
be anything like this, she told the waiting Press.
- Newspaper accounts referred to her as
tubby, plump and jovial and she commented:
I feel like the fat lady from Barnum & Baileys
. . .
Val Parnell: We love you as much
as ever. Come and appear for me as soon as you are
Fanny Brice: Youre
going over there and, with the voice and the talent God
gave you, youre going to make everybody proud of
Hoagy Carmichael: Ladies and gentlemen, as you all know,
a great little star from America who entertained you with
her marvellous pictures is opening on Monday, and she
hasnt been feeling too well - so be good to her:
Miss Judy Garland!
There were to be two shows nightly and on
the eve of opening Judys nerves were bad: I
kept rushing to the bathroom to vomit. I couldnt
eat, I couldnt sleep, I couldnt even sit
- A young comedian, Max Bygraves,
concluded the first half of the bill and after two more
turns in the second, a great roar greeted the
orchestras Over the Rainbow.
- Garland later recalled: My knees
locked - like Frankensteins wife - and they
wouldnt bend. So I walked on with two stiff legs .
. . and just stood there in terror.
- She looked older and stouter than the
audience expected but they didnt mind - they just
cheered. She was frozen to the microphone through her
first medley of songs and then, as she explained
afterwards: Well, I began one little curtsy, and
one nerve undid, and I just kept going! I wound up
sitting on the floor - for no reason . . . I was blushing
like a baby and feeling a fool. I wanted to cry, but I
laughed instead - and the audience laughed with me.
- Her accompanist, Buddy Pepper, hoisted
her to her feet and she quipped: Thats one of
the most ungraceful exits ever made.
- The audience laughed again and then
applauded. They were in the palm of her hand and she sang
a second medley of songs, leading off with a tribute to
Al Jolson, Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody, and concluding with Over the Rainbow.
- Reborn was Hollywoods Singing
Noel Coward: Youre a very
great artist, my darling.
- Daily Telegraph: She gave a more
vital performance than anyone I have heard since Sophie
Tucker, making me aware that what I imagined to be a
fortissimo was merely a forte. It was not only with her
voice but with her whole personality that she filled the
- The four weeks of her run were sold
out within three days and she was the toast of the town,
receiving celebrities in her dressing room. Winston
Churchill came, and so did Laurence Olivier and Vivien
Leigh who invited her to their home.
- After a fortnights rest she did
a short tour of the provinces organised by Sid Luft.
- Five-year-old Liza, whom she
hadnt seen for three months, joined her at the
Hippodrome, Birmingham, and watched her from the wings as
the audience stood up and sang to her Auld Lang Syne. Judy just howled into her
- Interrupting her tour, she again
appeared at the Palladium in a special midnight benefit performance
for the family of late comic, Sid Field. Appearing with
fifty other stars, including Vivien Leigh, Laurence
Olivier, Danny Kaye, Orson Welles and Richard
Attenborough, she was the evenings highlight when
her Rockabye was greeted by a great roar from the
Daily Telegraph: Miss Garlands
charm is a complete absence of affectation.
Richard Attenborough: It wasnt just the song,
or the way she sang it; it had nothing to do with pathos
or memories: it was just magic.
- The Palace, New York, once the goal of every
vaudevillian, had seen better days. Years before it had
starred the great names of vaudeville but by 1951 was
unkempt, looking the worse for wear and showing dime
movies. Owned by RKO, it was at the heart of New
Yorks theatre land and Sid Luft telephoned RKO vice
president, Sol Schwartz, and asked him to take a look at
- They both saw the potential and
Schwartz immediately made plans to refurbish the theatre
and re-open with Judy Garland headlining an all-star
two-a-day, reserved-seat bill, for four weeks
in October. Judy Garland would bring vaudeville back to
Variety: If anyone can do it,
this bundle of talent can.
A columnist: Judy Garlands idea for a flash
return to Broadway has wiser heads wagging
- Garland would more than sing, she
would show her skills as a dancer with a chorus of Judys Eight Boy
Friends, and with one of her Boy Friends perform A Couple of Swells.
- Many were doubtful that Judy Garland
could breathe life back into vaudeville - Time-Life did not even bother to send a photographer
- but advance bookings were good and the first night
could have sold out five times over. Police barricades
had to hold back an estimated 5,000 people in Times Square and Garland, escorted by Chuck Walters, had
to walk the last block.
- Among the star celebrities waiting
inside were Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson, Irving
Berlin and General MacArthur.
Chuck Walters: Whats this? Why
cant we get through?
Cab driver: Well, Judy Garlands opening tonight,
and thems the fans out there waitin
- Policeman in Times
Ive been on this beat twenty years and
Ive never seen anything like this.
- After the first half of five variety acts,
the curtain went up on a chorus line of dancers in
tuxedos known as Judys Boy Friends. Suddenly, like her original
Baby Gumm act, Judy slipped out from behind
them to thunderous applause from the audience that rolled
on and on till she finally had to cup her hands and
- Sailing into Roger Edens Call the Papers, she then sang the title song from M-G-Ms On the Town. The
audience rose to her after every number, and after
performing A Couple of Swells,
she plopped down on the edge of the stage in her tramp
costume with a dirty face, dishevelled wig, microphone
forsaken and just a white spotlight on her face to sing
Rainbow in what was a
moment of unforgettable theatre. Applause rolled on for
ten minutes, and as ushers brought bouquets up the
aisles, Garland could only quaver: Bless you
- This opening night was the biggest
smash seen on Broadway in years. Critics stretched back
into vaudeville history to find something to compare it
with and the only name they came up with was Al Jolson.
Life: Almost everyone in
the theatre was crying and for days afterwards people
around Broadway talked of it as if they had beheld a
A. E. Hotcher: That
night on the Palace stage Judy Garland took her place
among the immortals of the theatre.
- New York went wild in its acclamation
of Judy Garland but in spite of her excellent notices she
began dieting again. Two shows a day, thirteen shows a
week became a strain and she began seeing a new doctor.
- During the fourth week, just before
the Sunday matinee, she collapsed backstage. Her doctor
gave her a sedative and told her not to go on. On hearing
the slow hand clapping Judy said: That does it.
Ive got to go on. Appearing to be drunk, she
managed to get through the opening number - Halfway
between the sky and the floor, she later recalled -
before her voice tailed off completely and she stumbled
into the wings.
- Vivianne Blaine, currently playing in Guys and Dolls, valiantly stepped out of the audience to
take over, as did comedian Jan Miller who completed the
- The Palace closed for
four days and she returned to an ovation little short of
the one she received on opening night.
Max Bygraves: Anybody who was
anybody wanted Judy at their party. All and sundry told
her how great she was; youve got to start believing
it if its said as often as it was said to
Judys doctor: Nervous exhaustion, similar to combat
- The Palace willingly
cut back to ten shows a week and the show ran for an
unprecedented nineteen weeks, grossing $750,000 - a
record for vaudeville.
- At the end of the last Sunday night,
Lauritz Melchior, the famous opera singer, who was
succeeding her on the bill the following week, joined her
on stage for the finale. Still the audience frantically
asked for one more with some shouting for
Syne. Judy folded her
arms and said: Okay . . . lets see you do
it. The orchestra started up and Melchior led the
audience into singing Auld Lang Syne to
Garland. The entire house rose for the final bars and
Judy left the stage in tears.
Life: The girl with the
voice meant equally for lullabies, love songs and plain
whooping and hollering deserved the most overworked word
in her profession - great.
Betty Hutton: The audience is in tears before she
opens her mouth, and when she sits down without a
microphone and starts Over the Rainbow, you
can hear people all over the audience saying: God
bless you, Judy. Who can follow that?
- Luft and Garland took a holiday in
Palm Beach before opening the show at the Los Angeles Philharmonic on 21 April 1952 and the entire four-week
run was sold out in advance.
- All Hollywood was on hand for another
opening night triumph. At the close of the show she said:
I think you know how much it means to me to be
singing for you. Ive missed you.
- On 27 May, the show moved to San
Francisco where a doctor confirmed that Garland was
pregnant and in a secret ceremony on 8 June, Judy Garland
married Sid Luft.
- The world learned of it two days later
in a newspaper headline: Judy Garlands Secret
Six-year-old Liza learned of it from a TV news bulletin.
- Other headlines followed about her
personal life - she and Luft had been in and out of court
over his child-support payments to his ex-wife Lynn Bari
for their son; and it was also revealed the Judys
mother Ethel was working as a clerk at Douglas Aircraft
in Santa Monica for a little over a dollar an
Ethel: Hes a bad guy.
Ive been hoping it wouldnt happen.
- The Friars Club,
involved in show-business charities, honoured Garland at
a formal testimonial dinner at the Biltmore Bowl in Los
right with George Burns). The
only other woman to receive this accolade was Sophie
Tucker, and dubbed Miss Show Business,
Judy sat tearful-eyed as Frank Sinatra sang, Dear Miss Garland, You Made
Us Love You.
- Judy put a full-page ad in the trade
papers: Can you possibly know, each and every of
you, the good you have done my heart. I am very honoured,
I am very grateful, and I am very proud.
- Judy repaid Bing Crosbys earlier
kindness by replacing him in his radio programme when his
wife Dixie Lee was dying of cancer.
Homer Dickens: The list of
celebrities who honoured Judy that night is long enough
to fill the Beverley Hills phone book.
George Burns to Sid Luft: I married a girl with talent, too.
- Lorna Luft (pictured right)
was born 21 November 1952 and joined Liza and John,
six-year-old son of Sid from his previous marriage, in
the Luft household.
- Once again Judy suffered from
post-natal depression and began taking pills other than
those prescribed by her doctor. Well-meaning people
supplied her. When Judy wanted something badly enough she
could be both charming and intimidating.
The Garland-Luft marriage was a stormy one. Their large
home in Holmby Hills, south of Bel Air, could not hide
their battles which were loud and inventive.
- The couple gave and went to a lot of
parties. Always gay, witty and exuberant, Judy took joy
in her singing for no other reason than to please her
friends. Drinking into the small hours, she would then
bend anybodys ear about the son-of-a-bitch
Sid. More than one divorce suit was brought and
- The Holmby Hills neighbourhood was
also the home of the Rat Pack - the
Bogarts, Sinatra, David Niven, Peter Lawford and the
rest. The name came into being after a chance remark by
Laureen Bacall when she entered Romanoffs
restaurant one evening, looked around, and said: I
see the Rat Pack is all here.
- The Lufts spent a great deal of their
leisure time with the Rat Pack who
described themselves as being against everything and
everyone, including themselves. At their centre, Bogart
loved to argue, banter and above all drink, and as much
as he liked Sid and Judy, he often became fed up
listening to their family problems. Youve got
no class, Sid, thats your problem, he once
told Sid when he bought a Rolls Royce. You
cant buy it and you cant acquire it like a
- In general however, Garlands
friends liked Luft who had charm and intelligence.
- Ethel spent Christmas with her
daughter Virginia and her husband in Texas before
returning to Los Angeles. On 4 January 1953 she was found
dead in the Douglas Aircraft parking lot, victim of a
heart attack. The Press made great play of the contrast
between the life of a highly paid actress and her humble
mother who was a clerk in a factory. It was rarely
mentioned that Ethel had received a portion of
Judys salary during her fifteen years at M-G-M.
- Theirs had been a volatile
relationship. Ethel had been extremely ambitious for her
daughter and Judy always had, from the age three, that
craving for an appreciative audience. Judy never found it
easy to blame herself for the things that went wrong in
her life and she blamed those nearest to her. Ethel
became a convenient scapegoat.
Ethel Gumm: Judy has been selfish
all her life. Thats my fault. I made it easy for
her. She never said I want to be kind or
loved, only I want to be famous. She
worked - thats all she ever wanted - to be an
actress. Judy and I never had a quarrel, she just brushed