3 Stars – Challenging
All of us at some point have fears about how our life might end up. Will we be unhappy? Will we be poor and on the street? Will we be all alone? It is unlikely that most people put “being rich and incredibly famous” on the list. For Judy Garland, this should have been her number one fear. By the time she reached her last year on earth at age 47, she was the poster-child for how fame and fortune can leave you lonely and broken in spirit.
When you think of others in the same situation (Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe), it is sobering to think how our society idolizes this kind of lifestyle and adoration as the supreme sign of success. In many ways, it is the ultimate seduction luring us into Hell.
Judy takes us on a sad ride through the last year of Ms. Garland’s Hollywood career and crumbled personal life. Judy Garland (played masterfully by Renee Zellweger) was a product of the “golden age of Hollywood”, when the Studios created and controlled “stars” as their own property. MGM boasted in the 1940’s that they had “more stars under contract than were in the heavens.” By the end of 1939, Judy Garland had become one of the most famous faces and voices in the world, especially after “The Wizard of Oz” won an Academy Award for her singing “Over the Rainbow”.
While some stars went on to control their destiny, children like Judy, along with Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney, who were being reared and controlled by a Studio and then left to their own fates once they reached adulthood, spent their remaining years trying desperately to figure out what happiness was really all about. Needless to say, none of them were prepared for the realities of life. Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor both went through eight marriages. By the time Judy reached her 40’s, she found herself practically living in her car and popping pills all day long to survive. This was a form of ‘child-trafficking’ in the mid-20th Century.
By the last year of her life in 1969, Judy was on the financial skids, and she agreed to take a performing tour to England where she was still highly remembered and admired. Her nightclub act was a mixture of nostalgia and a dose of displayed alcoholism. Now separated from her fourth husband and her kids, all alone and broke, she finally succumbed to the excesses of her lifestyle on June 22, 1969 in Chelsea, London.
What is it then, that is so seductive about this level of success? Is it just that we want to be loved by everyone? All of us want to be recognized for the work that we do, to feel fulfilled and gratified by having done things that give meaning to our life. Money can make some parts of life easier, but it can also be more stressful than being broke. Maybe it just comes down to the fact that we are all tempted to believe that “we can be more in control of our destiny that those other weak people.”
Judy is a good reminder that money and fame are not the gifts that they appear. It is a red- light reminder that we need to seek a sense of personal satisfaction and well-being from sources that have a lasting value. Can you have both? In theory, yes, but in the words of Jesus, “it is harder for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.” Don’t squander your time and talent seeking things that won’t last.
What is your earliest recognition of Judy Garland’s film Wizard of Oz? Why do you think it is considered one of the greatest films of all time?
Do you think the callous disregard for young stars by the studios is well represented in this film? Why do you answer as you do?
Do you agree with Jesus’ warning about the burden of wealth?