Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland

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Judy Garland. The girl with the pigtails, the symbol of innocence in The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland. The brightest star of the Hollywood musical and an entertainer of almost magical power. Judy Garland. The woman of a half-dozen comebacks, a hundred heartbreaks, and countless thousands of headlines. Yet much of what has previously been written about her is either inaccurate or incomplete, and the Garland the world thought it knew was merely a sketch for the astonishing woman Gerald Clarke portrays in Get Happy. ...
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Overview

Judy Garland. The girl with the pigtails, the symbol of innocence in The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland. The brightest star of the Hollywood musical and an entertainer of almost magical power. Judy Garland. The woman of a half-dozen comebacks, a hundred heartbreaks, and countless thousands of headlines. Yet much of what has previously been written about her is either inaccurate or incomplete, and the Garland the world thought it knew was merely a sketch for the astonishing woman Gerald Clarke portrays in Get Happy. Here, more than thirty years after her death, is the real Judy.

To tell her story, Clarke took ten years, traveled thousands of miles across two continents, conducted hundreds of interviews, and dug through mountains of documents, many of which were unavailable to other biographers. In a Tennessee courthouse, he came across a thick packet of papers, unopened for ninety years, that laid out the previously hidden background of Judy's beloved father, Frank Gumm. In California, he found the unpublished memoir of Judy's makeup woman and closest confidante, a memoir centered almost entirely on Judy herself. Get Happy is, however, more than the story of one woman, remarkable as she was. It is a saga of a time and a place that now seem as far away, and as clouded in myth and mystery, as Camelot--the golden age of Hollywood. Combining a novelist's skill and a movie director's eye, Clarke re-creates that era with cinematic urgency, bringing to vivid life the unforgettable characters who played leading roles in the unending drama of Judy Garland: Louis B. Mayer, the patriarch of the world's greatest fantasy factory, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Arthur Freed, the slovenly producer who revolutionized the movie musical and gave Judy her best and most enduring parts. Sexy Lana Turner, Judy's friend and idol, who had a habit of trying to snatch away any man Judy expressed interest in.

And what men they were! Oscar Levant, the wit's wit, whose one-liners could all but kill. Artie Shaw, whose sweet and satiny clarinet had a whole nation dancing. Handsome Tyrone Power, who caused millions of hearts to pound every time he looked out from the screen with his understanding eyes. Orson Welles, Hollywood's boy genius and the husband of a movie goddess, Rita Hayworth. Brainy Joe Mankiewicz, who knew everything there was to know about women, but who confessed that he was baffled by Judy. Vincente Minnelli, who showed what wonders Judy could perform in front of a camera and who fathered her first child, Liza--but who also, with an act of shocking betrayal, caused her first suicide attempt. Charming, brawling Sid Luft, who gave her confidence, then took it away. And the smooth and seductive David Begelman, who stole her heart so he could steal her money.

Toward the end of her life, Garland tried to tell her own story, talking into a tape recorder for hours at a time. With access to those recordings--and to her unfinished manuscript, which offers a revelation on almost every page--Clarke is able to tell Judy's story as she herself might have told it. "It's going to be one hell of a great, everlastingly great book, with humor, tears, fun, emotion and love," Judy promised of the autobiography she did not live to complete. But she might just as well have been describing Get Happy. For here at last--told with humor, tears, fun, emotion and love--is the true, unforgettable story of Judy Garland.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Troubles That Don't Melt Like Lemon Drops

Judy Garland occupies a unique place in our hearts as the heroine who longed only for home in "The Wizard of Oz." The pink-cheeked Dorothy with the sweet and husky voice wanted only a place where she could find happiness, a place to let go of her cares. Gerald Clarke's Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland follows Garland's sad lifelong attempts to do just that: to get happy.

From Clarke's research, it seems clear that Judy Garland's lifelong unhappiness was rooted in her childhood. Born in 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, she was the youngest of Frank and Ethel Gumm's three daughters. As a theater owner, Frank Gumm could offer a venue for displaying his daughters' talents; as a relentlessly driven, frustrated stage mother, Ethel devoted herself to developing them. Baby Gumm, as Judy was known, made her singing debut at her father's theater the age of two, and was immediately acknowledged as the star of the sister act. While Baby loved to sing and enjoyed the approval of the crowd, the grueling life of touring was hard on her—exhausting enough that her mother introduced her to uppers and downers before she was ten.

It became even harder when her family moved to California. While Baby had always been sure of her father's love, her mother's interest in her seemed entirely businesslike, and with Hollywood in her sights, Ethel pushed her even harder. By age 13, Baby was called Judy and sang with the strong voice of a woman. However, her body was still that of a pudgy adolescent, and, while there were plenty of roles for teenage beauties, it was hard for a short, chubby girl to find work in the movies. To control her weight, she began to rely on pills even more. For the rest of her life, Judy would fight her drug addiction.

When she'd finally won a contract at MGM in 1935, she (and her mother) thought her future was secure. However, she did not begin working steadily until "Broadway Melody of 1938." By her first Andy Hardy film (1938's "Love Finds Andy Hardy"), Clark writes, "MGM established the persona that [was to] remain with Judy for the rest of her screen career." Her standard character was wholesome, friendly, a good confidante—not the sex symbol she longed to be. But not even the little girl next door was allowed to be plump, so the studio took an aggressive role in slimming her down. As relentless a parent as Ethel had been, Louis B. Mayer was worse.

"The Wizard of Oz" (1939) confirmed Judy as a major star for MGM. Her wistful rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" struck a chord in her viewers at the end of the gray Depression years. It's an appropriate signature song for Judy, who would always chase the happiness that always seemed just around the corner. Throughout the films that followed, she developed a reputation for being difficult: for arriving late, for bedeviling her directors at all hours, for showing up under the influence of drugs, unable to perform. MGM opposed her attempts to seek help and actively tried to keep her out of therapy. "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944) was a typically difficult shoot, with Judy's lateness and illness compromising the budget and schedule. As the victim of several nervous breakdowns, Judy simply became an unreliable performer.

She hung on with MGM through 1950, at which point she could no longer live up to MGM's demanding standards. Not even her habitual appetite for men had been able to lift her depression—by then she'd had three husbands, including director Vincente Minnelli (who fathered Judy's first child, Liza). In 1951, however, she reinvented herself as a concert performer, breaking all records at Broadway's Palace Theater. And her film career was not yet over; "A Star Is Born" (1954) would become known as her finest work as an actress.

Although she was working, she remained notoriously unreliable, and although she was making money, she found herself destitute. By giving her various husbands—five in all—unlimited and unquestioned access to her money and letting them manage her career, she was sometimes hard-pressed even to feed her children. For every smash opening, there was also a widely reported failure. And every time she stumbled into depression, drugs, and mediocre performances, it was that much more difficult for her to rise again.

Sick, exhausted, and addicted, Judy Garland died in 1969 of an apparent barbiturate overdose; although she had attempted suicide before, doctors concluded that her death was accidental. She never did find the happiness she longed for in "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." She never did, as Clarke regretfully concludes, "Get Happy." His chronicle of her sad life is sensitive and kind but also carefully reported and honest. He seems to wish, as many of us do, that Garland had somehow finally managed to find the place "where troubles melt like lemon drops."

Julie Robichaux

Julie Robichaux is a freelance writer. She lives in Manhattan.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Judy Garland's on-screen longing for a land where "sorrows melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops" was answered with a life plagued by emotional agony, dependency on drugs and alcohol, exploitative relationships, suicide attempts and physical violence. This exhaustively researched and illuminating biography by Clarke, whose bestselling 1988 life of Truman Capote won critical praise, is as compassionate as it is wrenching. It follows the basic themes established by the best of the more than 20 biographies and memoirs of Garland that have appeared since her 1969 death (in particular, Gerald Frank's 1975 bio, authorized by her family). But while most portray Garland as tormented by inexorable and sometimes inexplicable inner demons, Clarke brings to his work a far harsher evaluation of how the singer was treated by her employers, family and lovers: her mother gave her amphetamines at the age of four; producers at MGM sexually harassed her as a young teen; husband Vincente Minnelli cheated on her with men soon after their marriage; husband Sid Luft stole millions from her; fourth husband Mark Herron had an affair with Garland's son-in-law, Peter Allen (then married to Liza Minnelli). Many of Clarke's revelations are of a sexual nature--he mentions affairs with Sinatra, Glenn Ford, Yul Brynner and Tyrone Power as well as with women. Other revelations, such as of Garland attacking her young son, Joey, with a butcher's knife, are simply shocking. Yet Clarke never exploits this volatile material as cheap gossip; instead, he deftly weaves it into a detailed, respectful and haunting portrait. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Yet another biography of Judy Garland? Yes, but this one by Clarke, author of the acclaimed Capote, could possibly stand as the definitive work on the troubled actress/singer. It was ten years in the making and was extensively researched; Clarke even had access to Garland's unpublished autobiography. Garland, n e Frances "Babe" Gumm, was born into a show business family, which boded well for her own career. However, according to Clarke, her father was a closet homosexual who liked young boys, her mother took lovers, and neither spent much time together. This perhaps was a harbinger of the personal difficulties Garland would encounter. Clarke's meticulous research offers some revelations. He asserts that Garland's mother, not the much-maligned MGM studio executives, started Garland on the pill roller coaster that would be her downfall. This is a necessary purchase, even for libraries already holding books on Garland, as there is sure to be demand; Clarke has a big publicity tour planned. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/00.]--Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Bay Area Cooperative Lib. Syst., CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Mann
Understanding the magical connection Judy had with her audiences is a prize that's eluded chroniclers up to now, and it's really the only justification for another Garland saga. To this end Clarke, who conducted more than 500 interviews and had access to Garland's unpublished autobiography, aucceeds admirably, possibly even brilliantly. He defines not only what made Judy's magic so potent in her lifetime but also, critically, why it endures today...By presenting her life without the usual clutter and myth, he offers us a chance to see her fresh—a chance to grasp, finally, why the little girl on the yellow brick road and the woman dangling her feet off the stage at Carnegie Hall remains so powerful and vivid in our collective psyche and why she won't go away.
The Advocate
Elizabeth Kendall
Read Get Happy—it is a riveting account...Clarke deals with Garland's childhood better than anyone else so far . . . In no other Garland biography do we see as clearly as in this one how the combination of childhood neglect and exploitation led to Garland's later uncontrollable unraveling from within . . .
The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
"One of the most comprehensive biographies of entertainment icon Judy garland to date ... Clarke's skills as a storyteller make Garland's tale read like a heartbreaking novel."
US Weekly

"A compelling read ... in a big, gutsy biography,Gerald Clarke brings insight and fresh detail to Judy Garland's story."
Entertainment Weekly

"The last, best, and only essential account."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756761318
  • Publisher: DIANE Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Pages: 510

Meet the Author

Gerald Clarke is the author of Capote, the much acclaimed, bestselling biography of Truman Capote. He has also written for many magazines, including Esquire, Architectural Digest, and Time, where for many years he was a senior writer. A native of Los Angeles and a graduate of Yale, he now lives in Bridgehampton, in eastern Long Island, New York.
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Read an Excerpt


New candidates always appeared, however, and several weeks later in New York, Judy met another young man, John Meyer, who was eager to try. Meyer's story was to resemble Tom Green's in everything but length, all the emotions Green had experienced in two and a half years being compressed into less than two months, from the middle of October to the middle of December. Within minutes of their introduction, Judy and Meyer, a piano player and songwriter, were talking like old friends. Within hours, Judy was living with him in his parents' apartment on Park Avenue. Within days, they were engaged to be married, and Meyer, like Green, had embarked on a holy crusade: the salvation of Judy Garland. "She can be greater than she's ever been, and I can help her do it," he told a dubious friend. "I can help her get back up there. "

The first job Meyer got her was not much of a step up: an engagement at Three, the gay and lesbian bar where he played the piano. Jackie Scott, one of the bar's owners, at first turned him down, appalled at the thought that a woman who had filled the Palladium, the Palace and the Hollywood Bowl was reduced to selling her songs in a two-room bar on East Seventy-second Street-even if it was Scott's own bar. But when a friend pointed out the obvious, that Judy was desperate for money, Scott relented, and for two or three weekends Judy showed up around midnight, sang a couple of songs to adoring crowds, and walked out with a hundred dollars, her only income safe from the IRS. After that, Meyer aimed higher, arranging appearances on three national television shows and-his crowning achievement-five weeks at the Talk of the Town, London's premier supperclub, at a salary of approximately $6,000 a week.

For Meyer, the exaltation of a relationship with Judy-"she lived in four dimensions," he said-soon gave way to exhaustion, and a man who had astonished people with his nervous energy was suddenly struggling to stay awake. Judy had worn him out, too. A case of the flu ended their affair. While Meyer was in bed, fighting off a fever, Judy discovered another savior in another piano player: Mickey Deans, the night manager of Arthur, a smart Manhattan discotheque in which she had spent many late hours. Now it was Mickey Deans who would accompany her to London. Now it was Mickey Deans-DeVinko was his real last name-whom she wanted to marry. "I finally got the right man to ask me," she said. "I've been waiting for a long time."

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Table of Contents

1. Ethel and Frank 3
2. A Meager Stream--and a Love Like Niagara 33
3. A Princess in the Realm of Make-Believe 61
4. Production No. 1060--The Wizard of Oz 91
5. The Men of Her Dreams 117
6. A Ride to Nowhere on the Gar-Rose Railway 151
7. In Love with Harvard College 177
8. A Marriage Made in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 205
9. A Hell in Heaven 229
10. "I Am an Addict" 257
11. Resurrection 281
12. A Golden Deal and a Death in a Parking Lot 307
13. The Holmby Hills Rat Pack 333
14. A Standoff at the Stanhope and the End of Sid 359
15. A Need to Be Needed and Disaster in Melbourne 381
16. Liza--Riding a Whirlwind 403
17. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory 415
Notes 425
Bibliography 477
Acknowledgments 489
Index 493
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2011

    AMAZING!

    Im a 15 year old boy, When I was reading this book, it felt like I was acctually there, Experiancing all of the pain and suffering she did. It was amazing, the way Gerald Clarke wrote this truly amazing story of a Music God was amazing! I want to read it again and again and again!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    Judy-tastic

    A MUST-read for any TRUE Judy Garland fan! You get a sense of Judy the legend, her talent, and the deeply hurt person she was inside.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2002

    A great inside look at the true legend!

    Hi, my name is Franklin Johnson and I am 13 years old. I thourouly enjoyed this book simply be the authors way to show Judys` real look to life. Though I found that the book at the end was extremely shocking I found that the biography was well researched and how the author started with her mother and father to prove later problems. I recommend this book to any true Garland fan and quarantee your satisfaction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2000

    GET HAPPY GET HAPPY!

    I am a huge fan of Judy Garland but never really knew what she went through during her life. The book is beautifully written and it makes you LOVE JUDY so much more. I was able to relate to her so well. I couldn't put it down! Go and get it and READ, READ, READ!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2000

    Get Happy: Get the book!

    Get Happy is an excellent account of the life of Judy Garland. Once begun, I found the book difficult to put down. I highly recommend it to readers who want to know more about the girl who played Dorthey in the Wizard of Oz. The pictures in the story are also great. After finishing the book I can not believe Judy Garland lived such a life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2014

    Empty private lot

    It is large and has wolves ocupying it. It costs $510,005,100.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2001

    Unbelieveable Inaccuracies

    Mr. Clarke has gathered information from tabloid articles and from the memories of people who barely knew Judy Garland. At least 1/4 of his text is his own bizarre rhapsodies over his own methaphors and analogies. Furthermore, he doesn't support his facts at all and leaves the reader wondering where he got most of his information. What he does have that may be taken as truth has already been written about in far superior books on the subject - most notably by Gerald Frank's excellent 1975 book 'JUDY'. This book is a waste of time and money, and just serves the author as someone who, again, makes money off of the sorrows of this brilliantly talented woman.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2000

    Buy this NOW!

    This is the best book I have ever read.Buy it . It is worth the money.

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