The sad life of Judy Garland, the tortured star of The Wizard of Oz

During filming, the studio spied on her, a manager called her “My little hunchback” and she smoked 80 cigarettes a day. She suffered harassment, became addicted, and died of an overdose. Beyond the tragedies, the one who was Dorothy disappeared from Kansas and is still one of the best female actresses in the history of cinema half a century after her death.

Like Marilyn Monroe, she died in the bathroom of a barbiturate overdose. Having just turned 47, Judy Garland walked the yellow brick road for the last time fifty years ago but she did not return to Kansas nor was she swept away by a whirlwind, as in “The Wizard of Oz”, the film that established her as one of the best most popular artists in the history of cinema, but also the one that caused him multiple complexes.

She was 16, but her Dorothy must have looked twelve. By then she was already addicted to pills, which Metro Goldwyn Mayer provided her to avoid the demanding filming: amphetamines during the day to stay awake, and barbiturates at night to rest. She was forced to wear tight corsets and gauze to conceal her chest; She suffered harassment during the film, where her stunt double and personal trainer, Barbara Bobbie Koshay, spied on her by order of the studio. Dressed in blue and with her sought-after red Campinas, Garland suffered the scourge of Louis B. Mayer, who accentuated her insecurity by calling her “my little hunchback” during the filming of the film, one of the great achievements of Technicolor, which she celebrates in August 80 years.

For the film, the actress won a special Oscar, but also countless problems. Her tendency to gain weight subjected her to constant surveillance by MGM producers and managers, who imposed a strict diet based on lettuce and liquids that exacerbated her anxiety and increased her addiction to tobacco, reaching to consume eighty cigarettes a day.

“The Wizard of Oz” elevated Judy Garland, whose death marks half a century this Saturday, but she drew a legacy of shadows in her future. The actress never fully recovered from a tortuous shoot in which another executive called her a “pig with pigtails” and the Munchkins, those dwarfs who populated the fictional world of the film, abused her.

What had been a productive relationship ended up deteriorating. After the success of the film, Víctor Matellano says in “The Wizard of Oz. Secrets beyond the Rainbow” (Lumière Pigmalión, 2019), distrust was established at MGM, which fired Garland from several projects for not showing up for filming, which in turn caused the actress anxiety attacks and attempts to suicide. Always under the media spotlight, without the protection of a mother complicit in those excesses that sealed a fragile personality with low self-esteem, Garland grew up comparing herself to other stars and, like many of them. Her traumatic childhood did not improve over time, and it led the singer to countless disorders, with anorexia and psychological problems that she only tried to overcome with alcohol.

She also suffered the ups and downs of several relationships, accumulating five marriages, one for each decade since 1941. The fame of promiscuity that followed her did not affect her best-known partner, the film director and father of modern musicals Vincente Minelli, with whom she had an affair. daughter, actress, and singer Liza Minelli.

After fifteen years, MGM released her from a prolific contract that included more than twenty of her titles. The performer, who in her day had a vaudeville group with her sisters, returned to the cinema in 1954 with “A Star is Born”, but on this occasion, she did not win the Oscar for which she was nominated. She didn’t do it either in 1961, when the candidacy that earned her the role in “Winners or Losers?” (The Nuremberg trial) remained just that, a candidacy. In the end, in the showcases of the eighth best female star in the history of cinema, according to the American Film Institute, only one statuette shines, the Youth Academy Award (for “Babes in Arms” and “The Wizard of Oz”) which he achieved in 1940.