This is yet another documentary that I repeatedly watched and re-watched on YouTube. The A&E (from the days before they aired Duck Dynasty and before they completely abandoned their original purpose, but I digress) documentary from 1997, as a part of their Biography series, tells the story of the incomparable singer and actress, Judy Garland. The documentary is told through narration, archive photos and footage, and interviews from numerous people who knew Garland.
Judy: Beyond the Rainbow focuses Garland’s life from shortly before her birth, to her death.
It begins with Garland’s upbringing in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and focuses on her beginnings of stardom. Her family moved to California when she was four, and she began performing publicly with her two older sisters.
Garland eventually auditioned with MGM at the age of 12, and she captivated the studio with her singing voice, which was much, much, much, much more mature than would be expected for a girl her age.
MGM struggled to figure out what to do with Garland because she was too old to be a child star, but too young to be an adult performer. At a height of four feet and eleven-and-a-half inches, she was did not have the look of other tall, slender actresses at MGM, such as Lana Turner. She was a “girl next door.”
Eventually, Garland was cast in her signature role, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. This film included her signature song “Over the Rainbow” which she would sing for the rest of her life.
Throughour the 1940s Garland became a big star; she also got married to Vincente Minnelli, and had her first child, Liza Minnelli, but there were lots of problems in her professional life. Her dependency on drugs made it more and more difficult to keep up with the demands that MGM made of her. She was fired from three films, and left MGM.
Despite this, she found renewed success on stage including, most notably on the Palace on Broadway.
Garland and Luft tried to make a comeback with the film A Star Is Born for Warner Bros., but the production was troubled. Despite this, the film was very good and premiered to universally positive reviews. Then Warner Bros. decided to cut about 30 minutes from the film, which caused outrage. The film failed to make a profit, but Garland was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She was expected to win. Since she had recently given birth, a camera crew was set up in her room to broadcast her acceptance speech. However, Grace Kelly won for her role in The Country Girl. The crew immediately packed up their equipment and left, without saying another word.
Through the rest of the 1950s, Garland performed on stage and on TV. In the early 1960s she had her own show on CBS, The Judy Garland Show, but it lasted for only one season.
In 1969, Garland married her fifth husband, Mickey Deans in London, and they lived in the Chelsea neighborhood. On June 22, 1969, Deans found Garland dead on the bathroom floor. This ended the life of an incomparable singer, actress, and entertainer.
The documentary is one of my favorites because of the subject. Garland was very talented. But her talent was equally matched by the troubles of her life. It was easy to see the triumphs and struggles of Garland’s life, and this was helped by the numerous amounts of archival footage, narration, and interviews with several the actors, musicians, and filmmakers that worked with Garland. I really recommend this documentary to fans of Garland and fans of classic cinema.