Judy Garland: The legend behind the rainbow
I know I don’t normally talk about movies here but in the spirit of shaking things up a bit I decided why not? I hope you all don’t mind my little indulgence!
You see I went to watch Judy on Wednesday night and I left it emotionally wrecked. An incredibly mind-blowing and affecting movie, Judy is directed by Tony nominee Rupert Goold and has just recently had it’s UK and Irish release.
We all are very familiar with the version of Judy Garland we see every Christmas as she appears on our screens wearing sparkly red shoes, has a dog called Toto and who is friends with a Tinman, a Scarecrow and a Lion. We are all very familiar with the beautiful voice of this iconic Hollywood actress, but what do we know of her later years?
The movie takes us on a journey to 1968, thirty years after the incredible success of The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland arrives into London for a five week stint at The Talk of the Town theatre. Now, me being Irish, and a child of the seventies, I had no clue what The Talk of the Town was so I did a bit of research and let me tell you a little of what I discovered. In 1958 the London Hippodrome, originally built in 1900, was converted into a large restaurant/nightclub and repackaged under a new name The Talk of the Town. It was successfully operational for twenty-four years until it’s eventual closure, due to rising costs, in 1982. In it’s heyday it hosted many a great artist but the movie focuses in on one, the amazing Judy Garland.
Played by Renee Zellweger, her Oscar-deserving portrayal of this complex and fragile iconic figure is overwhelmingly powerful every step of the way. Judy Garland, born Frances Gumm in 1922, was only forty-seven years of age when she died. Too young with so much left to offer but the industry chewed her up and threw her out on the heap to fade into obscurity. But Judy Garland couldn’t fade away. With four husbands and three children to support and a huge tax bill to settle, Judy Garland was in serious financial difficulty. America didn’t have much to offer her anymore so with very little choice available, she accepts a stint at The Talk of The Town in London.
Leaving her two small children behind, currently in a custody battle with their father, Judy arrives in London with a pressured schedule awaiting her and a trove of English fans looking to see/hear their idol. At this point in her life Judy is very much dependent on uppers and downers mixed with alcohol to get her through the day. The world as she knew it is collapsing around her and Judy is just about clinging on to reality.
The movie shares flashbacks to Judy in her early days on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Shocking, tragic, disgust are just some of the words that come to mind on seeing the way she was treated, under the guidance of Louis B. Mayer, the renowned film producer and co-founder of MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) The industry used her, squeezed everything out of her and set her on the road of addiction, a path she struggled to veer off all her life until her sad passing in 1969.
Renee Zellweger’s vocal ability is PHENOMENAL. It is so very hard to believe that she wasn’t lip-syncing, the performances carried such character and that strength of note that we all associate with Judy Garland. Yes I did immediately download the soundtrack on Spotify as soon as I came home!!
Judy Garland’s decline was difficult and upsetting to watch. Her fragility was so obvious, her loneliness so very evident yet nobody could help her. The damage to Judy Garland was too deep, the trauma experienced too raw. She is an icon, a superstar, a hero to many but she was also a mother, one who loved her children dearly but just could not love herself.
Judy is a compelling, harrowing, poignant, emotional and extraordinary movie about an extraordinary person, Judy Garland.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me