According to Gerald Clarke’s Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland, at one point, the famous actress looked at the doctors who were treating her for drug abuse and declared, “There is something you fools do not understand. I am an addict. And when I want something, I can get it.”
Unfortunately, between Garland’s celebrity status and her appetite for self-destruction, this comment proved all too true. Men, drugs, food, and (though one wouldn’t think this would be desired) people who belittled, cheated, and abused her — she had it all, which probably accounts for her death at age 46.
Clarke admirably details Garland’s life from its beginning, when she was born Frances Gumm and indoctrinated into the family show-biz act commandeered by her mother, to its sordid end, where she was on her fifth marriage and died of an accidental overdose. Clarke often adopts a sob-sister tone when deconstructing Garland’s career — he is given to extensively quoting John Milton, and he calls one of Judy’s manipulators an “artful Iago.”
But Clarke succinctly catches Garland’s appeal to vast audiences (some of them blatantly gay) and shows that in the destruction of the phenomenon called Judy Garland, she was as much to blame as anyone. The book also provides a nice mini-bio of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio where Garland toiled for 15 years and was robbed of her childhood.
This is a must-read for Judy Garland fans and show-biz buffs alike.