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Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland Paperback – March 6, 2001
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Like his renowned Capote, Clarke's Get Happy is an addictively readable bio of an addict genius. We learn that it wasn't just the Hollywood moguls who mangled Judy Garland's soul. Yes, MGM's Louis B. Mayer did paw her teenage breasts, exacerbate her insecurity by calling her "my little hunchback," feed her uppers and downers ("bolts and jolts"), and repel the U.S. drug czar's personal attempt to get her into rehab. But the true villain was Judy's diabolical stage mom, Ethel Gumm, who fed her pills at age 9. Judy's heart belonged to her daddy, a kindly theater owner cursed with pederastic yearnings that evidently got the family run out of various towns, once by a man named Doc Savage. Daddy died young, and Judy kept hooking up with older men, including two probably gay husbands, one of whom cheated on her with her daughter Liza's husband. Her first best girlfriend in Hollywood (and probable lover) turned out to be a studio spy. She knew at least one of her agents, nicknamed Loeb and Leopold, robbed her blind, but since betrayal was everybody's way of life, she just laughed it off--and died dead broke. Judy cheated on Liza's dad (and her own great director) Vincente Minnelli, with still-handsome Orson Welles, who was cheating on Rita Hayworth. "People like me don't grow up easily," Judy once said. Most people in this book deserved to go up in flames, but only nice Margaret Hamilton, playing the Wicked Witch of the West, actually did so in a filming accident. She recovered; Judy didn't. It's fascinating to read about Judy's self-immolating life. But for a jolt of joy afterward, I prescribe the CD Judy at Carnegie Hall. Clarke lets you know what the songs cost, and what they mean. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Judy Garland's on-screen longing for a land where "sorrows melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops" was answered with a life plagued by emotional agony, dependency on drugs and alcohol, exploitative relationships, suicide attempts and physical violence. This exhaustively researched and illuminating biography by Clarke, whose bestselling 1988 life of Truman Capote won critical praise, is as compassionate as it is wrenching. It follows the basic themes established by the best of the more than 20 biographies and memoirs of Garland that have appeared since her 1969 death (in particular, Gerald Frank's 1975 bio, authorized by her family). But while most portray Garland as tormented by inexorable and sometimes inexplicable inner demons, Clarke brings to his work a far harsher evaluation of how the singer was treated by her employers, family and lovers: her mother gave her amphetamines at the age of four; producers at MGM sexually harassed her as a young teen; husband Vincente Minnelli cheated on her with men soon after their marriage; husband Sid Luft stole millions from her; fourth husband Mark Herron had an affair with Garland's son-in-law, Peter Allen (then married to Liza Minnelli). Many of Clarke's revelations are of a sexual nature--he mentions affairs with Sinatra, Glenn Ford, Yul Brynner and Tyrone Power as well as with women. Other revelations, such as of Garland attacking her young son, Joey, with a butcher's knife, are simply shocking. Yet Clarke never exploits this volatile material as cheap gossip; instead, he deftly weaves it into a detailed, respectful and haunting portrait. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The narrative reads like your guiltiest pleasure trashy fiction. It’s no wonder that Jacqueline Susann modeled her character Neely O’Hara after Judy (yes, I’ve read Valley of the Dolls. Shut up). There is a wonderful character arc as well; it follows the pattern that many would expect out of the life of an addict.
You begin reading feeling terribly sorry for Judy. Her closeted gay father gets them booted out of at least three homes for chasing teenage boys. From a young age, her mother feeds her pills both for energy and then to get to sleep. Diet pills soon followed. She was under an enormous amount of stress to look a certain way, and told by many she was fat and homely. One can’t blame her for ending up the drug-addicted emotional cripple she turned out to be.
As the story goes on, however, the pity party begins to wane and the narrative gains some balance. The full picture of her life makes clear all of the opportunities and squandered chances at redemption she was given. Ultimately, it seems the blame for her early demise lies with Judy herself. It is still heartbreaking, though, the way it is when anyone of enormous talent wastes it and dies young.
This is just a biography though. It's not about Judy Garland as the iconic performer and her place in American and gay culture. I'm not knocking it for being what it's not. It's just information you might like to know to set the proper expectations for your read. I do recommend the book.
For Judy, there were glorious highs - and lows that would have decimated most people although Judy "recovered" from all but the last. This book is an amalgam of previously published resources and new information including the author's interviews and Judy's own autobiographical musing and ranting into a tape recorder for a book that never was. The book is sometimes disconcerting as it jumps back and forth through the years, sometimes pedantic, and told this reader more that I wanted to know about Judy's sex life. (I hope I can forget the one encounter involving the song or my enjoyment of her singing "Over the Rainbow" will be forever diminished.) As the author says: "More than any other stimulus, [music] awakens sleeping memories."
The author, while casting aspersions on Judy's mother and Louis B. Meyer & the MGM system for starting Judy on pills and yo-yo dieting , himself seems fixated with Judy's constantly fluctuating weight. There is a picture on page 346 of a bloatedly ill Judy that one would think would do more to motivate dieters and fitness wannabes more than any exhortations by Richard Simmons or Sarah Fergason. Just put a copy of that picture on your freezer door - you won't want to reach in to grab Haagen-Daz!
When Judy was "on" she was brilliant. The author points out that for most of her life "In those days, there were no drugs to fight depression - the first antidepressant, Iproniazid, did not come on to the market until 1957." Later in the book, he speculates that Judy was "probably bi-polar." How different could it have been if only ...