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JUDY GARLAND by David Shipman


The Secret Life of an American Legend

by David Shipman

Pub Date: June 10th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56282-846-0
Publisher: Hyperion

Big, heart-heavy bio of Garland that—though never stylish- -holds throughout. Shipman wrote the huge, chatty film history The Story of Cinema (1984). One wonders, starting out, what new stuff Shipman has dug up. Whole books study passages in Garland's life, such as the making of The Wizard of Oz and of A Star Is Born, and the shooting of her TV series. Must we settle for fresh dirt on her sex life? Yes, her bisexuality takes up a page or two; her husband/director Vincente Minnelli's homosexuality is scanned; and, at one point, we find Garland climbing into the back seat and fellating her gay hairdresser after she's failed to bring her driver to climax by hand. But such ginger-flavored passages are fairly rare. What we really get is the unbelievable downhill slide of a stupendous talent who could reduce seven thousand people at once to sloppy tears, even near her end. At the age of 12, she sang like ``a woman with a heart that had been hurt.'' Though a child, Garland outstripped her two older sisters in their stage act together. One wonderful night as an adult, when she ran out of encores, the audience sang ``Auld Lang Syne'' to her. Garland rises time and again here through death's trapdoor, each resurrection thrilling as she gets back up and rips out her heartstrings. This is a sad story: Pills, pills, pills, from girlhood on. Huge earnings, endless hospitals. Slit wrists, blamed on her mother, and teenage daughter Liza caring for Garland's crumbling ego. Tax problems, quarrels with film and TV studios, broken contracts, cancellations. Then the Big Cancel. If you can take it, it's a great story. (Twenty-four pages of b&w photographs)