21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Superficial But With Interesting Side Lights,
This review is from: Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland (Paperback)
Written in a decidedly gossipy and occasionally mean-spirited tone, the much anticipated GET HAPPY comes no where near unseating Christopher Finch's RAINBOW as the ultimate biography of entertainer Judy Garland, nor does it contain the exhaustive (and occasionally exhausting) detail of Gerald Frank's JUDY; still, it does offer a number of interesting sidelights into Garland's life that previous biographers have elected to either downplay or ignore.
It is in this area that GET HAPPY excells. Instead of merely acknowleding that Garland's father was homosexual and that this played a major role in family difficulties, Clarke is extremely explicit on the point; he also delves further into Garland's own sexual escapades with such figures as Artie Shaw, Betty Asher, and Tyrone Power than most biographers have dared, and he gives the fullest portait of the Garland-Rose marriage thus far offered in print. But when Clarke stumbles, he stumbles badly. Like many another before him (Anne Edwards is a classic case in point), Clarke tends to rely upon Judy Garland herself as the ultimate authority--and since Garland was notorious for re-engineering the truth to make a good story or to justify her own excesses, this is a serious mistake. Many of the ensuing errors (such as acceptance of the Garland-perpetuated myth that the "Munchkin" midgets were drunken deviates) may seem slight, but they raise questions about the depth of Clarke's research. More damaging to Clarke's credibility, however, is the light in which he casts such figures as Garland's mother, Ethel Milne Gumm, and MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer, which harken back to Garland's own sometimes hysterical self-justifications rather offering carefully balanced accounts.
Ultimately, GET HAPPY seems one third standard mythology, one third gossip column, and one third fact--and as the book progresses one begins to wonder about how much Clarke himself likes Judy Garland either as a person or a performer. Even so, it does make for an interesting read, at least as long as you don't take it too seriously, and it really should be read in light of more balanced and expert research--again, such as Finch's RAINBOW, which is sadly out of print but still widely available as a used book from various Amazon.com vendors.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 29, 2007 7:10:46 AM PST
California Greg says:
you write excellent reviews, but you should know that "penultimate" means second to last in a series -- not the "be all-end all ultimate" that I think you think it means (and which seems like it OUGHT to mean!).
Posted on Dec 1, 2007 10:25:10 AM PST
Gary F. Taylor says:
Thanks for the correction!
Posted on May 19, 2014 4:38:56 AM PDT
Anton Karidian says:
I think you do an injustice to the author by saying that "Clarke tends to rely upon Judy Garland herself as the ultimate authority." In looking over the 50 pages of endnotes to the book it's clear that Clarke used many resources for his research, including dozens of interviews that he conducted with people who knew Judy. You might question WHO he used as a source of information, but to say that his book is "superficial" and that his research lacks depth is unfair.
In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2014 12:21:10 PM PDT
Gary F. Taylor says:
Sorry you didn't like my review, but the author bears the ultimate burden of accuracy. I stand by that.
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