Review: Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland

Get Happy: The Life of Judy GarlandGet Happy: The Life of Judy Garland by Gerald Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is, I suspect, not a book for those who maintain the belief in Judy as being eternally pure and happy, rather like Dorothy in ‘Oz’. Such fans, like the person we meet at one point herein who called himself Judy’s number-one fan but who refused to help a down-on-her luck Judy when she feared a plot to kill her, because his Judy (he said) existed only in sunlight, probably do her no good and, I would suggest, by denying the terrible nature of her final years, diminish Judy’s achievement.

And this book does not stint on telling you just how terrible her life was. What emerges as a constant theme is the sheer stupidity of those around Judy who don’t seem to have realised just how popular and how big a star she was, and so tried to force her to conform to their ideas of proper behaviour rather than just being grateful that such an amazing (and profitable) talent had come their way. From MGM booting her off ‘The Barclays of Broadway’ when ‘Easter Parade’ had just become the top-grossing film of the year, to a TV executive who said ‘Miss Garland will have to learn to do things our way, as we will not do things hers.’

So, this is a story of pity and terror, and not for the faint-hearted. I just wish that someone had been more visionary and given her the chance to do her thing her own way. We saw, in ‘Easter Parade’ the hint of a partnership that could have put Astaire & Rogers in the shade, but it was not to be. Let us just be glad that we have what we have, and that the poor woman eventually found some kind of peace in the depths of the English countryside.

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