Monday, July 02, 2018

Judy Garland (the biographies)


Judy Garland (the biographies)

Judy Garland.  She was an incredible actress, yes.  Nominated twice for an Academy Award.  Should have been nominated many times more.  But she was also a singer.

And she's one of the great singers.  A list of the top 20 singers of the 20th century would have to include her -- as surely as Frank Sinatra would have to be included and Billie Holiday would have to be included, Judy would have to be included.

In terms of women of the 20th century, there are countless books on Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.  Judy Garland also has been the subject of many books.  For years, decades even, the best book about Judy Garland was Christopher Finch's RAINBOW: THE STORMY LIFE OF JUDY GARLAND.

In the last years, three strong Judy books have come on the scene.  Gerold Frank's JUDY, Gerald Clarke's GET HAPPY: THE LIFE OF JUDY GARLAND and David Shipman's JUDY GARLAND: THE SECRET LIFE OF AN AMERICAN LEGEND.

I'd rank them in this order -- Shipman (best), Clarke and then Frank.

Shipman's book is really something, zooming through her life but never overlooking key moments.  He keeps your interest and also introduces new details and new analysis that puts him miles ahead of many Judy biographers.

Judy's a legend but Shipman keeps her real.  If any book has truly replaced Christopher Finch's RAINBOW as THE book on Judy Garland, it's David Shipman's JUDY GARLAND: THE SECRET LIFE OF AN AMERICAN LEGEND.

The book's weakest section?  Detailing THE PIRATE.

I really think this is a key film to Judy, as an adult, at MGM and all that followed.

Shipman doesn't.  He writes, "Her paranoia was such that she began to worry that her co-star was having an affair with her husband, even though Kelly was married."

Oh, okay.

So that's just not possible, right?

Minelli, her husband, was gay.  Even though he was married.

And Gene Kelly's long been rumored to have had affairs with several men.

Why does Judy have to be paranoid?

I don't think she was.

I think she saw both her marriage crumble in that moment and her adult career.  Minelli had directed her in the classic MEET ME IN ST. LOUISE and in her dramatic breakthrough THE CLOCK.  Now, on THE PIRATE, as he engaged in an affair (I believe) with Gene Kelly, he failed her as a husband and as a director.

As a director because he catered to Gene.  (And THE PIRATE is a good movie but Gene looks ridiculous with the fake sideburns.)  As a husband because it's one thing for the gay or bi-sexual Minelli to have affairs (Judy had her own affairs) but it's quite another to have an affair with an actor on one of her films.

I think the two betrayals combined to really destroy her.

My opinion.

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