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Judy Garland: A Biography

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Praised as undoubtedly the best of the many books on Judy Garland by no less a critic than John Lahr (the son of Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz), Anne Edwards s biography attempts to present a complete picture of the late actress, and not just the boozing, drug-addicted caricature of a woman that is central to lesser biographies. From Edwards's account we Praised as undoubtedly the best of the many books on Judy Garland by no less a critic than John Lahr (the son of Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz), Anne Edwards s biography attempts to present a complete picture of the late actress, and not just the boozing, drug-addicted caricature of a woman that is central to lesser biographies. From Edwards's account we learn, for example, that Garland saw it as her duty to provide for her family financially, a generosity that her mother Ethel exploited with disastrous results. A student of great poets Shelley, Keats, and Browning in particular she often tried her own hand at verse; surviving poems are reproduced here. Above all Judy Garland sought to please, whether it was an audience or a studio head, and therein lies her powerful and heartbreaking story.


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Praised as undoubtedly the best of the many books on Judy Garland by no less a critic than John Lahr (the son of Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz), Anne Edwards s biography attempts to present a complete picture of the late actress, and not just the boozing, drug-addicted caricature of a woman that is central to lesser biographies. From Edwards's account we Praised as undoubtedly the best of the many books on Judy Garland by no less a critic than John Lahr (the son of Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz), Anne Edwards s biography attempts to present a complete picture of the late actress, and not just the boozing, drug-addicted caricature of a woman that is central to lesser biographies. From Edwards's account we learn, for example, that Garland saw it as her duty to provide for her family financially, a generosity that her mother Ethel exploited with disastrous results. A student of great poets Shelley, Keats, and Browning in particular she often tried her own hand at verse; surviving poems are reproduced here. Above all Judy Garland sought to please, whether it was an audience or a studio head, and therein lies her powerful and heartbreaking story.

30 review for Judy Garland: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    I freely confess that I have loved Judy Garland since I first watched the Wizard of Oz on my grandparents’ small black and white. I was four. I was mesmerized and smitten with that voice, that vulnerability and her loveable companions. (imagine my surprise to learn they weren’t too nice to their young co-star... ) This is the second biography I’ve read about Judy Garland—while this was good, I’m not sure it was as unbiased as it could have been. It’s respectful yet detailed. The time line can be I freely confess that I have loved Judy Garland since I first watched the Wizard of Oz on my grandparents’ small black and white. I was four. I was mesmerized and smitten with that voice, that vulnerability and her loveable companions. (imagine my surprise to learn they weren’t too nice to their young co-star... ) This is the second biography I’ve read about Judy Garland—while this was good, I’m not sure it was as unbiased as it could have been. It’s respectful yet detailed. The time line can be tricky but I’ve no doubt that some of the anecdotes were real. What I didn’t appreciate was the author playing armchair psychologist when faced with Garland’s often manic, manipulative or downright self-destructive behavior. Several reviews blamed the author for making excuses or covering up Garland’s less than acceptable or even unimaginable behavior. I disagree— there were plenty of awful anecdotes of both her victimization by those who sought to make a living off the “Judy Garland” machine but also in subtle ways, when portraying her own victims— her three children. I’m not sure anyone writing about a mega-force of talent and vulnerability like Garland can keep from picking a side. What draws all ages from all generations to Judy— is it Dorothy? Is it any of her other performances that often feel enhanced by her crazy, manic, victimized life away from the camera? I don’t know but it was hard to look away from what becomes inevitable— a tragedy that surely shouldn’t have been allowed to happen! Who is to blame? Mayer and his MGM-machine that demanded perfection, box office gold, svelte figures and 18-hour days from his stars? The relentless ambition of a stage mom? A string of husbands, some of whom may have had the right intentions but grew tired of Garland’s baggage (be it pills, debts, breakdowns or endless cycles of career ups and downs). Eventually everyone chooses a side— and it’s rarely Judy’s, although for some (Minnelli), I cant blame them. No judgment— by her early 20s, I don’t think anyone could have fixed what was broken inside Judy Garland. This book made me sad for her, disgusted with her (I might have shook her myself) and at times angry at her inability to take control— to say, No!! But always I was fascinated by her... she gave these luminous performances (films, concerts, TV shows and albums) despite the back stage drama, hospital stays and endless pill popping over the decades. As she aged, she became a witty conversationalist and consummate performer. She transformed songs and made them so uniquely hers that they will forever be synonymous with the legend “Judy Garland.” Has anyone ever really sang “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” in the same achingly melancholy manner? Or found the jazzy notes of tunes showcased in other films— A Star is Born or Summer Stock? The list goes on and on... therein lies the fascination. Star performances given by a truly broken soul. Somewhere Over the Rainbow remains both her anthem and a reminder that we can always hope. Regardless, when I hear her sing that song, I am once again a 4-year-old enchanted by a girl longing for more up on a small 12-inch screen. That’s the image of Judy Garland I choose to keep in my heart!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This is the most unreliable Judy biography I have read. The author is biased toward feeling sorry for her, which interferes with the facts at times. The level of detail is also disappointing, and other works on Judy's life are more comprehensive, like the one by Gerold Frank. This is the most unreliable Judy biography I have read. The author is biased toward feeling sorry for her, which interferes with the facts at times. The level of detail is also disappointing, and other works on Judy's life are more comprehensive, like the one by Gerold Frank.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Olsen

    This book changed me when I was a senior in high school. It truly was one of the reasons I entered show biz for good. Judy's life is so fascinating and beautiful and tragic all at once. Ms. Edwards has triumphed in telling her story in this way. Everyone should read this book! This book changed me when I was a senior in high school. It truly was one of the reasons I entered show biz for good. Judy's life is so fascinating and beautiful and tragic all at once. Ms. Edwards has triumphed in telling her story in this way. Everyone should read this book!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    Abysmal. It's not the writing and certainly not the subject matter because I adore Judy. It's the wrong facts. There are wrong facts run amok that it became unreadable. The final straw was Tyrone Power running away with Judy to Mexico. I went in search of a better Judy biography that at least had the facts straight. I'm now reading Frank Gerold's book and within 100 pages, it's true and excellently written. And it's been endorsed by many Judy fans who want to see her life written truthfully. If Abysmal. It's not the writing and certainly not the subject matter because I adore Judy. It's the wrong facts. There are wrong facts run amok that it became unreadable. The final straw was Tyrone Power running away with Judy to Mexico. I went in search of a better Judy biography that at least had the facts straight. I'm now reading Frank Gerold's book and within 100 pages, it's true and excellently written. And it's been endorsed by many Judy fans who want to see her life written truthfully. If had to give a positive, Anne Edwards does write in a way that's captivating. Which is why it's a shame she couldn't get things right.

  5. 4 out of 5

    AJ

    I was excited to win a copy of this book because I actually knew almost nothing about Judy Garland except that she was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and struggled with drug addiction throughout her short life. This biography certainly explained her life and struggles in a way that makes you sympathize with Judy Garland. However, I thought that the book struggled from assuming that the reader is already very familiar with the subject matter, a lot of nonlinearity in writing that is confusing, and a I was excited to win a copy of this book because I actually knew almost nothing about Judy Garland except that she was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and struggled with drug addiction throughout her short life. This biography certainly explained her life and struggles in a way that makes you sympathize with Judy Garland. However, I thought that the book struggled from assuming that the reader is already very familiar with the subject matter, a lot of nonlinearity in writing that is confusing, and at the same time, lack of foreshadowing or making connections with previous things written in the book. The first chapter was especially difficult for me to get through, as the author wasn't clear about who she was writing about: Judy Garland or her parents! It is also unclear what the sources for the book are, as they aren't referenced or cited, and are only mentioned in the acknowledgements section. Finally, although I cannot fault the author for this, the publishing of this book was very hastily done (I originally thought that maybe I had an ARC, but this seems to be the final published version), as many duplicate (printed) pages were inserted at random a few times into this book, which wasn't immediately obvious at first. So I'd get to page 176, and then go back to page 165, for example, and have to skip back through to get back to 177.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Iulia Necșulescu

    A truly heartbreaking story. I would have given this a 4 star rating if it weren't for some things. First, I noticed the author omitting her affair with Joe Mankiewicz. Secondly, some accounts of Judy alone with her thoughts were overly fictionalized. And lastly, I despised it when the author was calling her fat or bloated, describing in detail how her double chin stood out from one dress or another. It is completely unnecessary and it defeats the purpose of the book. By those descriptions one m A truly heartbreaking story. I would have given this a 4 star rating if it weren't for some things. First, I noticed the author omitting her affair with Joe Mankiewicz. Secondly, some accounts of Judy alone with her thoughts were overly fictionalized. And lastly, I despised it when the author was calling her fat or bloated, describing in detail how her double chin stood out from one dress or another. It is completely unnecessary and it defeats the purpose of the book. By those descriptions one might think that she was morbidly obese but if you care to look up pictures of her from that period you can see she is just more plump than usual. This stupid standard on women's bodies to look as thin as possible is what led to Judy's addiction in the first place, so why the hell is it also in this book??

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    The Biography That Almost Got Away I’ve read a dozen Judy Garland biographies and I’ve known about this one for decades. I just never chose to read it. I had read bad reviews. And the original paperback cover, with a drawn picture of Dorothy on it, made it seem like a throw away book for teens. It is in fact very good and very much for adults. It’s one of the better bios out there on her, despite getting some filmography listings and some dates wrong. The author’s arm chair psychoanalysis of Judy The Biography That Almost Got Away I’ve read a dozen Judy Garland biographies and I’ve known about this one for decades. I just never chose to read it. I had read bad reviews. And the original paperback cover, with a drawn picture of Dorothy on it, made it seem like a throw away book for teens. It is in fact very good and very much for adults. It’s one of the better bios out there on her, despite getting some filmography listings and some dates wrong. The author’s arm chair psychoanalysis of Judy rings true to me and is empathetic.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Rose

    I enjoyed this book, I have read many books on Judy as I am a big fan and I enjoy the different perspective each brings to her life. As with everything, each of us brings a different lens to our experiences and this is the same with this book. In my opinion Anne Edwards was respectful of the difficulties in Judy's life and I appreciated this. I enjoyed this book, I have read many books on Judy as I am a big fan and I enjoy the different perspective each brings to her life. As with everything, each of us brings a different lens to our experiences and this is the same with this book. In my opinion Anne Edwards was respectful of the difficulties in Judy's life and I appreciated this.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Steve Moskowitz

    An okay biography, but the kindle version has typos. A little dry.

  10. 4 out of 5

    The Voracious Bibliophile

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A well-documented and insightful look into the life of America’s greatest entertainer. Born Frances Ethel Gumm as the third daughter in a middle-class family, the girl who would become Judy Garland was the embodiment of her mother’s unrealized aspirations. Once the tyrannical and domineering Ethel realized young Frances’s potential to be a great star, she left the two older daughters (once performing as a group of two and then three when Frances was born) with their father Frank while she and Fr A well-documented and insightful look into the life of America’s greatest entertainer. Born Frances Ethel Gumm as the third daughter in a middle-class family, the girl who would become Judy Garland was the embodiment of her mother’s unrealized aspirations. Once the tyrannical and domineering Ethel realized young Frances’s potential to be a great star, she left the two older daughters (once performing as a group of two and then three when Frances was born) with their father Frank while she and Frances hit the road. Ethel pulled every string and curried every favor to push her young daughter on the stage. She withheld love from her when she failed to perform to her mother’s exacting and unreasonable standards, forever leaving Frances with the feeling that she had to earn love. When she landed her MGM contract and started attracting the notice of the viewing public, her life quickly spiraled out out of control. Not yet a teenager, she was given “uppers” to keep her on her feet and “downers” to knock her out. Under the orders of studio boss Louis B. Mayer, the commissary on the lot would only give her chicken soup to eat in an effort to curb her weight. Her mother, Louis B. Mayer, and an unforgiving press became the Unholy Trinity that prevented Judy from ever finding lasting happiness. Desperate for love, she entered into ill-advised marriages with a series of men, but they all fell apart. She wanted to be the best mother she could be, but her substance abuse issues and emotional volatility often created role reversals for first Liza (her daughter with Vincente Minnelli) and later, Lorna (her daughter with Sid Luft). These men controlled her finances, her career, and her access to the wider world. They denied her any sense of agency and then blamed her for lacking control of her own life. For longtime fans of Judy Garland, this heartbreaking book will reveal the truth of the woman behind the curtain, the woman who managed to propel us all over the rainbow even when she couldn’t get there herself.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Julie Morales

    Most people know about the tragic life of Judy Garland, but if you don't know, this book tells you more than you could ever want to know. Judy grew up Frances Gum to a mother who set almost unattainable expectations for Judy. The only way she could be what her mother, and later managers and producers expected her to be, was with pills, which she was being fed by the age of 14...diet pills to make her conform to the shape and size they thought she should be, sleeping pills to put her to sleep long Most people know about the tragic life of Judy Garland, but if you don't know, this book tells you more than you could ever want to know. Judy grew up Frances Gum to a mother who set almost unattainable expectations for Judy. The only way she could be what her mother, and later managers and producers expected her to be, was with pills, which she was being fed by the age of 14...diet pills to make her conform to the shape and size they thought she should be, sleeping pills to put her to sleep long enough so that later, speed was given to her to keep her going at an unreasonable pace. Judy would struggle with these addictions for the rest of her life, and I believe it was this that ultimately killed her at the age of 47. When I think of her, I wonder what more she could have done with her life if things could have been different, but we'll never know. This book talks about the rest of her life, too, though. It's not all gloom and doom, although the older she got, the harder it was for her to bounce back. She had one daughter from one marriage and a daughter and son from another. She was married for the final time just a few months before she died. Judy was the type of person who wanted others to tell her what to do. She needed to be managed. She spent her whole life with a childlike dependence on others for the major decisions in her life, and it was this dependence that allowed her to be talked into aborting her first child. This, along with the addiction she struggled with, was the most tragic part of her life I thought. I've always had a fascination with Judy Garland, and this book was a fascinating read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Judy Garland is missed by one more person now. I've never been a true fan of Judy Garland, I enjoyed her voice and the movies I had seen but never was a devoted follower of her Hollywood career like I had those of some of her peers. I certainly never knew the tragic story behind that immense talent only recently becoming aware of the fact that she died at such a young age (47). This book tells the story of how she was used by so many people in her life, people who should have been looking out for Judy Garland is missed by one more person now. I've never been a true fan of Judy Garland, I enjoyed her voice and the movies I had seen but never was a devoted follower of her Hollywood career like I had those of some of her peers. I certainly never knew the tragic story behind that immense talent only recently becoming aware of the fact that she died at such a young age (47). This book tells the story of how she was used by so many people in her life, people who should have been looking out for her, people who were duty bound to keep her safe but failed to do anything more than exploit her talent. Throughout her life her self worth was based on her ability to perform in front of audiences and cameras, her studio got her hooked on pills at a young age, an addiction that slowly wore her down, destroyed her, and killed her. Even as she was weakening at the end she was continually forced to perform, "just one more show" an empty promise of endless last shows. She died too young after too sad a life. Judy Garland's life is a true tragedy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Poor Judy I’ve always been a fan of Judy Garland. As a little girl, I loved Meet Me in St Louis, Summer Stock and all of her other musicals. I was always in awe of her talent. Then just recently I saw the movie ”Judy” with Rene Zellweger and was very shocked by how they portrayed Judy Garland in the movie. The movie was very good but I was saddened by the fact that she took so many drugs. Then I read this book. First I felt very sad for her and then I got angry because I felt that she was weak. An Poor Judy I’ve always been a fan of Judy Garland. As a little girl, I loved Meet Me in St Louis, Summer Stock and all of her other musicals. I was always in awe of her talent. Then just recently I saw the movie ”Judy” with Rene Zellweger and was very shocked by how they portrayed Judy Garland in the movie. The movie was very good but I was saddened by the fact that she took so many drugs. Then I read this book. First I felt very sad for her and then I got angry because I felt that she was weak. And then by the end of the book I was heart broken for her. What a terrible time she had. She was used by so many people in her life. She was so very strong and courageous. This book is so well written and it shows the tragedy of her life. Judy Garland was an amazing women and Anne Edwards did a wonderful job telling about her.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lynsey

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I found this to be a very even handed biography with much interesting info. I disagree with another review that implied it was too sympathetic. Garland went through a lot of hardship--my opinion is that MGM and Mayer nearly ruined her life by giving her almost no choice but to be addicted to pills with the routine they forced her to endure. Her mom didn't do her any favors either. It also seems that her mother and Sid Luft basically stole money from her. I am grateful that the world has her reco I found this to be a very even handed biography with much interesting info. I disagree with another review that implied it was too sympathetic. Garland went through a lot of hardship--my opinion is that MGM and Mayer nearly ruined her life by giving her almost no choice but to be addicted to pills with the routine they forced her to endure. Her mom didn't do her any favors either. It also seems that her mother and Sid Luft basically stole money from her. I am grateful that the world has her recordings as she was a fabulous entertainer, yet without question she paid a high price for fame. I hope she experienced much love during her life because it seemed she was a sweet and sensitive soul. I would recommend this for Garland fans!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Stronza

    With such a tragic story, it’s hard to enjoy what you’re reading. With true stories you’re still hoping what you read will somehow change and you root for Judy the entire time. I would have enjoyed hearing more of Judy’s voice. Which I don’t think any biography will be able to encapsulate that due to Judy not being able to finish her life in words. Judy was easily influenced and never mentally stable. This caused her to continue to make poor decisions of the people she kept around her. Watching With such a tragic story, it’s hard to enjoy what you’re reading. With true stories you’re still hoping what you read will somehow change and you root for Judy the entire time. I would have enjoyed hearing more of Judy’s voice. Which I don’t think any biography will be able to encapsulate that due to Judy not being able to finish her life in words. Judy was easily influenced and never mentally stable. This caused her to continue to make poor decisions of the people she kept around her. Watching her movies after knowing a bit more about her adds a bit more magic now.

  16. 5 out of 5

    A reader somewhere

    Overall found this to be an interesting read, but in desperate need of an edit (lots of typos in the Kindle edition). Also if I was taking a shot everytime the author mention Judy's weight - whether it be that she was skinny or fat at that time - I would have been drunk halfway through the book. We get that she had problems relating to eating and staying thin but it was tiring to keep reading about her weight. Overall found this to be an interesting read, but in desperate need of an edit (lots of typos in the Kindle edition). Also if I was taking a shot everytime the author mention Judy's weight - whether it be that she was skinny or fat at that time - I would have been drunk halfway through the book. We get that she had problems relating to eating and staying thin but it was tiring to keep reading about her weight.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I think I would have enjoyed this book more if the author wasn't so clearly biased toward "poor Judy". I even wondered if the author had been part of the "Judy Cult". There were facts and opinions that I learned from other sources that the author left out or got wrong (maybe the book was written before the facts came out), and the drama became repetitive. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if the author wasn't so clearly biased toward "poor Judy". I even wondered if the author had been part of the "Judy Cult". There were facts and opinions that I learned from other sources that the author left out or got wrong (maybe the book was written before the facts came out), and the drama became repetitive.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Meranda

    This books was not well structured. In fact it was very repetitive. However, I walked away with a new found respect and sadness for Judy. Her life was hard and she was never really given a chance at a happy life. I think the beginning chapters were strong, I just didn’t enjoy the writing at the end and skimmed the last few pages.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bobbi Wiley

    A remarkable biography of a true legend. One may think they know Judy, but this reveals an intimate side to her. This book and her story will stick with me forever. One thing holds true, Judy Garland may be the hardest worker to ever navigate the red carpets or Hollywood. Her perseverance and strength is like no other.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It’s possible that some of the things I got tired of in this book had nothing to do with the author and everything to do with Judy’s real story. It seemed that Judy was constantly giving her best performance, more tired than ever, more desperate for love than ever, on her way to a comeback… Over and over and over.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Connie

    Took me forever to slog through this book. Despite being written about one of entertainment’s most radiant and luminous stars, it is dry and not very entertaining. Kept hoping it would get better. But no. There are better Garland bios out there.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    Being a fan of most Judy Garland films I've been meaning to read a biography for a while but there are so many I was reluctant to choose a bad one. This came recommended and I'm glad I read it, i can't say enjoyed as the story is understandably bleak. What a life :( Being a fan of most Judy Garland films I've been meaning to read a biography for a while but there are so many I was reluctant to choose a bad one. This came recommended and I'm glad I read it, i can't say enjoyed as the story is understandably bleak. What a life :(

  23. 5 out of 5

    Annie Booker

    I think is the arguably the best biography of Judy Garland. Rich in detail and written with sympathetic understanding yet deep honesty it reveals the greatness of Judy Garland despite her ups and downs and the sometimes almost impossible problems she encountered.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    It's an interesting book but it didn't make me "feel" Judy's voice. I am not a fan of her not having hear she sing or act beside The Wizard of Oz but I love old Hollywood. The writer is a good researcher but still I was not emotionally involved in the story. Something was lacking. A pity. It's an interesting book but it didn't make me "feel" Judy's voice. I am not a fan of her not having hear she sing or act beside The Wizard of Oz but I love old Hollywood. The writer is a good researcher but still I was not emotionally involved in the story. Something was lacking. A pity.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cindi

    What an amazing star and yet an infamous tragedy - bouncing from one person to the next who's main interest was not her health and emotional well being but the $$ she could bring to them. What an amazing star and yet an infamous tragedy - bouncing from one person to the next who's main interest was not her health and emotional well being but the $$ she could bring to them.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Helen Worsham

    Not sure how accurate this bio is, but I learned alot about this great star!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Natalie548

    I loved this book, and found it hard to put down.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    Interesting yet tragic life of Judy Garland. I enjoyed it. Easy read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I felt some information was opinion-based or from inferences made.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dgilloon

    Very well written and interesting. Keeps you reading all night. I don’t like Judy as much as I did before I read this book.

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