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Film Review: “Judy”

“Judy”
Rated PG-13
118 Minutes
Released September 27th

The movie “Judy” is an adaptation of the stage play End of the Rainbow that details the tragic last months of the star’s life – specifically her performances at the Talk of the Town nightclub in London in late1968. I remember Judy Garland as a child star, as do most of us, from her unparalleled performance in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Watching her as Dorothy in that movie, with her innocent and dreamy quality, you would never have known that as a young studio artist who was “discovered” by Louis B. Mayer at the age of 13 and signed to a studio contract with MGM, she was made to feel inadequate and plain by the studio bosses. Just under 5’ tall, she was branded as a cute girl-next-door and makeup artists even put prosthetics on her teeth and nose to enhance her looks – not a positive experience for a teen’s sense of self-worth. And, she went to the studio school with Ava Gardner, Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor, who were perceived to be exceptionally beautiful. Garland felt that she was always the ugly duckling. The studio also used to give child actors with amphetamines to keep them awake and energetic on long shoots. That was the world in which the real Judy Garland (Frances Ethel Gumm) was shaped. Her struggles to be a person and not just a voice, engendered a pain that resonated through her singing and made her performances extraordinary.

As I watched her perform later in life I felt as though I could feel the sadness that was hiding behind her amazing voice and the way she used it to channel the deepest of emotions. It was as if she were reaching out to her audience to throw her a lifeline, as they were in fact her only connection to the real world. Renee Zellwegger “gets” Garland’s pain and her yearning to bond with her audience. The actress has endured pain herself, which she uses to realize her performance.

Jessie Buckley embodies Rosalyn Wilder beautifully in the film. Wilder was the real life production assistant during Garland’s performances at Talk of the Town. Initially put off by Garland’s erratic behavior, she comes to gradually understand her demons and feel her pain. The real Wilder was also a consultant on this film, which added realism to the story. She was adamant about keeping the portrayal of Garland true to the person she was during that time.

Judy Garland was able to reach into the pain and tragedy of her life and turn it into inspiration through her performances. This film memorializes her gift. As Wilder says, “The thing about Judy Garland that people probably don’t know now, 50 years on, is that she was a legend…one of the great performers of the 20th century. When I would have to get her to go onstage and the lights would come on and she started, she still had that magic.”

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

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