Everyone knows the scale of success of films like The Wizard of Oz (1939), and Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), big hits during their time, and all-time classics nowadays.
However, what is not often known is the extent to which Judy Garland, the legendary Hollywood star, civil rights activist and diva of the twentieth century that starred in them both, ended her days in near-poverty and poor health after decades of financial mismanagement, and the physical toll that her myriad roles in show business (as well as her history of life-long substance abuse) had on her body.
Far away from her early days of glory as a sixteen-year-old who received the Juvenile Academy Award for her role as Dorothy in the Wizard above of Oz, The Los Angeles Times laconically reported in the morning of June 23, 1969: “Judy Garland, who paid a tragic price for the life of the show-business superstar, died in London Sunday. She was 47.”
Whether you’re a big fan of Garland or not, there is no doubt something poignant in the final days of a fading superstar. Keep reading, then, as we review ten facts about her last days and her early death.
10 A Frail Mental Health
Two years before her death, Judy confessed in an interview for McCall’s magazine: “Do you know how difficult it is to be Judy Garland? “And for me to live with me? (…) I’m told I’m a legend. Fine. I certainly didn’t ask to be a legend. I was totally unprepared for it.”
And indeed, Garland had been suffering from depression her whole life, being in psychiatric treatment at eighteen and having already three nervous breakdowns at twenty-three.
In the thirteen years that she and her first husband Sid Luft were married, she attempted suicide no less than twenty times.
This complicated mental state didn’t recede in her later years and would, to an extent, play an essential part in her death.
9 Financial Problems
By those later years, also, she had been suffering from grave financial problems as a consequence of both her generosity towards friends and family (which she would help financially as often as she could) and, especially, the embezzlement of her earnings by her agents Freddie Fields and David Begelman.
She wasn’t able to pay her taxes as early as 1951 and 1952, and by 1961 she was indebted to the IRS in hundreds of thousands of dollars.