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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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The writing style is poor, sensational, and at times a lot of "they must have been thinking" worthlessness.
Ms. Garland deserves much better. This could have been a book of her triumphs mixed with the disappointments and been a much more involving story. It, unfortunately, seems to have little on its mind but to degrade her (as it insists others did all her life).
On the down side, I learned more about Judy Garland's sexual habits than I ever want or needed to know about.