(April 23, 1928—Present) BACKSTORY: Hard to believe that this icon only lived to the age of 47. The body of work that she left behind is staggering. Her movies will continue to live on: "The Wizard of Oz," "Meet Me In St. Louis," "Easter Parade," and "A Star is Born." Her music still enthralls each new generation: "Over the Rainbow," "The Man that Got Away," and so many others. Not much new to say about Judy Garland that hasn't already been said.
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Judy was originally cast in the title role of "Annie Get Your Gun," the splashy MGM Musical that was eventually released in 1950 with Betty Hutton. Judy worked for approximately 2 months on the film and pre-recorded all of the film's musical numbers and even filmed two ("Doin' What Comes Naturally" and "I'm an Indian Too"). Exhausted even before the film production began, Garland's mental health was exacerbated even further by the choice of the manic Busby Berkeley as director. Berkeley was eventually replaced by George Sidney, but it was too late for Judy, as her physical health forced the studio to replace her. Below are the surviving costume test photos of Judy that were taken in preparation of filming the movie.
From Modern Screen Magazine, August 1967, Dorothy Manners: "What Happened to Judy?":
There would be mornings, and gradually there became too many of them, when the assistant director would knock on the door of her elaborate dressing room suite and call, "Miss Garland…they're waiting for you on the set. Rehearsals are starting…." No answer from within. "Judy! Are you all right?" he'd call again. No answer. The assistant would try the door. It was locked. Yet the workers at 20th Century-Fox knew she was there. She had been checked through the car entrance perhaps hours before. Puzzled, bewildered, the assistant would report back to the Valley of the Dolls company that Judy was "unavailable."
In similar circumstances, co-stars, the director and producer have been known to blow sky high. But not Barbara Parkins. Or Sharon Tate. Or Patty Duke. Nor David Weisbart, the producer. Instead, a silence of sadness pervaded the troupe from the stagehands and cameramen up to the head of the studio. It seemed so strange. When Judy had returned from New York after signing her contract to play the temperamental musical comedy queen Helen Lawson in the best selling novel by Jacqueline Susann, she had been in such good spirits. She was a gay and blithe spirit all over the studio±in the commissary where she frequently lunched with old pals; in the wardrobe department where Bill Travilla (photo at right) was whipping up such pretty gowns for her to wear. Particularly, she was delighted with her dressing room. A pool table had been installed in her rooms just because someone knew that was her new hobby. The suite had been fitted out with the latest in stereo and hi-fi record players because Judy must have music wherever she is. The studio had also issued a rare edict to protect her—she was not to be approached for any kind of publicity interviews or picture taking during her actual acting days in the film. Everything possible was being done to protect the girl whom everybody has wanted to protect all through her career.
It was cause for rejoicing that she breezed so beautifully through the pre-recordings of the songs she was to sing in the picture. "It's the old Judy," everyone enthused. But as the time approached for the actual filming of the acting part of the sensational novel, Judy's attitude changed. She was seen arriving and departing the studio lot at outrageous hours of the day and night. But during the vital working hours—where was she?
For two weeks this went on. The situation became intolerable and very costly. At last, there was no more going on like this. Again, even in despair, the studio still protected the "little girl" whose heart belonged over the rainbow. She was permitted to "resign" from the production. David Weisbart told me, "The whole company was sick at heart. Prop boys, camera assistants, even the stars would say, 'Can't we shoot around her a little longer? Maybe she'll get to feeling better.' We went as far as we could, believe me," he said softly.
And then, Susan Hayward was called in the replace Judy. The jolt seemed to accomplish what sympathy and kindness had not. Judy snapped out of it electrically. She said to columnist Harrison Caroll, "I don't know why they fired me—I have no idea. I had recorded my numbers and I was told they were the best I'd ever done. I don't understand." That was all her loyally devoted fans needed. Letters began to flood the studio mail department with demands that Judy be re-instated. That was impossible. Things had gone too far. But the outpouring of love and devotion Judy had inspired was not lost on the studio.
A top executive says, "It should pull Judy together just to know how much she is loved by the public. She's loved here. Whatever her problems, a lot of help is being held out to her. Frankly, we are as puzzled here as anyone anywhere."