The Amount of Abuse Judy Garland Suffered Still Haunts Me to This Day

by Emily Rick

Image via Wikicommons/MGM

Image via Wikicommons/MGM

A life-long lover of Judy Garland, I am. I've devoured biographies, her daughter's memoirs, documentaries, films, and mostly, her MUSIC. No one has a voice like Miss Judy.

And today, as I watched American Masters: Judy Garland, I was again sucked in by the sadness.

This beautiful soul lived under the assumption, wrongly, that she was ugly; that people wouldn't like her.

Even at the end of her life, with sold out performances, she always had an extreme fear five minutes before she hit the stage. She often was very close to not going on.

She died tragically, at barely 47: a drug overdose... but really? I'm quite sure her body just couldn't handle it. Judy's tiny body had been through more than most ever experience.

At the tender, vulnerable age of 12, she was signed at MGM. They were enamored of her talent, and rightly so. Her singing and heartfelt, emotional acting are unmatched... and she could dance. Although she couldn't execute every move, she learned the routines faster than professional dancers. It's also been said that she's the only partner of Fred Astaire who you watched instead of him.

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Unfortunately and unforgivably, MGM began to see her as a money maker — only that — not a human. As soon as she landed The Wizard of Oz and forever changed our culture, the ensuing abuse was prevalent.

The studio called her fat, bound her chest, started her on speed and refused to allow her food. She was only permitted chicken broth. She weighed 105 pounds. She was just a baby. Granted, people really didn't realize the impact of drugs, but they were nearly all she consumed — around the clock.

The suffocating pressure for her to make pictures alongside bombshell starlets destroyed any self-image and self-concept she had. She would read articles about "her," not recognizing any of the details. Poor darling no longer knew who she was.

The pills were relentless. At one point, before ol' LB gave her his famous boot, she had been awake for 14 DAYS STRAIGHT. 14 days of rehearsals that she literally needed to be shoved into. 14 days I can only imagine were insanity-making agony.

Through the talent and the legendary performance that was Judy, the sadness was so, so clear.

Whenever I see or hear this lovely, talented, immaculate soul, I have two reactions: 

1. YAY!!!! Judy Garland!!!!!!!!

2. My breath catches and my heart breaks. I just want to hug her.

This is 47?! No, dolls. This is a lifetime of worn-past-your-limit abuse. 

I love you, Judy. Though I wasn't yet born, I care.

 

Emily Rick is a Minneapolis based marketer and writer. She's passionate about music, history, and all things girly. When she's not playing Nancy Drew, you can find her daydreaming about being a backup singer for Stevie Nicks or fighting for what she believes in.