Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

5/5 (1)

Frances Ethel Gumm was a big movie star. You knew her as Judy Garland.

Judy began performing in vaudeville at the age of 2½ as a member of the singing Gumm Sisters. At 13 she was signed by MGM. He movie roles were varied, often appearing with Mickey Rooney in the “Andy Hardy” comedies, musical directed by future husband Vincent Minelli, and Oscar-nominated dramatic roles. But her most memorable performance was Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.”

MGM promoted her as a “girl next door,” made her wear teeth caps and a nose plug, put her on a diet of chicken soup and coffee to keep her slim for the screen, fed her tobacco and pep pills.

Growing up in Tinseltown, she had a series of bad affairs. The studio forced her to have at least two abortions.

She went through five marriages: David Rose, Vincent Minnelli (with whom she had daughter Lisa), Sidney Luft (with whom she had daughter Lorna and son Joey), as well as a brief marriage to tour promoter Mark Herron, followed by a final marriage to nightclub manager Mickey Deans.

In 1947 Judy had the first of several nervous breakdowns and was placed in a private sanitarium. She made numerous suicide attempts. Her health deteriorated. She was hooked on drugs.

Fired by MGM at age 26, she suffered career setbacks, made comebacks, later performed at Carnegie Hall.

This is the Judy Garland we meet in “Judy,” the new biopic playing at Tropic Cinema. Renee Zellweger takes on the title role, even doing her own singing.

A tough act to follow as they say, but Zellweger does a credible job of transforming herself into an on-screen Judy Garland. She even released her first ever solo album to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Judy’s death in 1969. It includes some of Judy’s greatest hits, including “Over The Rainbow” and “Get Happy.”

Judy’s daughter Liza Minnelli disavows the movie, stating that she “did not approve nor sanction this film project in any way.”

A loose adaption of Peter Quilter’s Olivier- and Tony-nominated play, “Judy” offers a straight-forward look at the songstress during her legendary 1968 “Talk of the Town” tour, an attempt to reignite her fading career.

Directed by Rupert Goold, the film follows Garland as she arrives in London for a run of sell-out concerts at the Talk of the Town nightclub. The film follows her life through romance, addiction and battles with her management.

The effort was both physically and emotionally exhausting.

In 1969 Judy Garland died at 47 of a drug overdose.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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