Paul's Reviews > Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland

Get Happy by Gerald Clarke
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There are a couple of very nasty anecdotes in this judy garland bio which I would have suppressed, because now they're in my brain whenever I hear her extraordinary voice. But of course biography isn't hagiography, and if you go round censoring the lurid aspects of your subject you're now engaged in PR which is a whole other thing. I dunno. Do we really need to know that Marlon Brando and J Edgar Hoover were lovers? Or that Richard Nixon sired a love child in 1960 who later briefly married Britney Spears? You see how tricky this stuff is. What with 24 hour celebwatch channels and Heat magazine and Walmart selling kits on how to liposuct your own baby it's not easy to keep an even keel.

Judy garland was born not only without an even keel but without a keel of any sort. She wrote the book on how not to be famous. Your Britneys and Lindsays are following bravely in her rubyslippered footsteps but she had to do it all without the help of the 74 different varieties of space dust you can now score on any downtown street corner and the obligatory leaked home movie sextape. But if there were camcorders and internets in the 40s, you just know Judy would have had her threesome with the very young Richard Nixon and J Edgar right up there for all to goggle at. And plus she did have large amounts of talent.

Judy married 14 guys, some three times, and each one stole all her money. Like Bob Dylan and John Lennon she had an unnatural ability to look like different people from one year to the next. That part may be due to the drugs and the extreme dieting regimes of course - same with John Lennon and Bob Dylan. I don't know about Marlon Brando. And Richard Nixon always looked the same, from the age of 19 right up to when he died and as far as I know he still does. (Not so Britney! (I loved her "raunchy biochemist" look.))

note change of face shape from round to hatchet


Judy Garland crashed and burned several times as we know and after being gurneyed off to some sanatorium she always came back with a different career. From child star to grown up star, to impossible diva, to concert hall sensation, to character actress. Had she lived she may have joined the Black Panthers or have invented Tippex or become the leader of the Central African Republic. She was exhausting. She had one of the 20th century's great voices, unmistakeable after one note, and she sang a lot of the great songs although much of what went down on record is a little too ringadingding for me. (That hi-octane 40s swing style did nobody any favours, it's like a smile painted on a corpse).

She was the epitome of the great star who you thought was really just like an ordinary person lost in a whirl of Hollywood mania - like yeah, of course she was! so ordinary! - but she could really sell that ridiculous idea. She even sells it to me. It's like she had a special heat that melted cynicism. So I wanted to find out about her life, and now I'm slightly sorry I did. This also happened with Dusty Springfield. Books can be dangerous, they're not something passive, they jump into your head and ramify your mind.

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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Paul, I've watched some great biographies on Judy Garland and have always loved watching her sing. She always looked like she was ripping out her guts when she got up there on stage. Such passion. It sounds like this book may be a case of Too Much Information, though. I'm still hoping to see A Star is Born. Never seen The Clock.

message 2: by Paul (last edited Jan 06, 2008 05:02PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul A Star is Born is the Big One and she is great in it, albeit that the movie itself suffers from elephantitis. The Clock is a non-singing wistful wartime romance which it looks like everyone's forgotten. Here's a very cute early recording (ignore the visuals) - the monologue in the middle is perfect

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, I've heard she's wonderful in A Star is Born, but it wasn't the greatest movie and it was too late for her to really make a comeback. I'll have to check into The Clock. Thanks for the link.

message 4: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Paul wrote: "A Star is Born is the Big One and she is great in it, albeit that the movie itself suffers from elephantitis. The Clock is a non-singing wistful wartime romance which it looks like everyone's forgo..."

I watched the Clock after reading a HUGE profile of Garland's movies in the New Yorker by....I want to say Salman Rushdie, but I'm not sure if my brain's fucking with me on that one. It was an epic blow-by-blow only-in-the-old-New-Yorker rundown of stuff like 'Pigskin Parade.'

Paul Well I hope you liked it!

message 6: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal Aha!

Some of us LIKE our corpses painted! Now I've got an angle on you, Paul Bryant...

Paul why - what do you know??

Paul Thanks KI - Brian, I know nothing about Audrey except that she was gobsmackingly beautiful. Ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise.

message 9: by Diane (new)

Diane I have read this book a few years ago
and, like you, I can remember some
awful findings. I don't know whether
it was in this book but I read once
that a wardrobe lady on "Ziegfeld
Girl" came on the job so eager to
like Judy and just as keen to dislike
Lana but she said the opposite was
true - Lana was sweet and Judy was a
bit of a troublemaker. Also the two
photos - the first one is definitely
early Judy 1939-1940, the second I
think is the mid 1940s when diet
pills where beginning to do their
job too well.

message 10: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul thanks for reminding me of this review, I'd forgotten it! I wonder what was in those diet pills.

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