Anne Hathaway (shown at the Academy Awards) has definitely left her pop princess roles behind. Next for her is a stage and film adaptation of Gerald Clarke's biography, "Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland."
The Weinstein Co. has optioned the movie and stage rights of the book, which came out in 2000 and should provide rich fodder for a film.
I reviewed the book when it came out and it paints Garland as a high-maintenance woman, given her early and lifelong addiction to drugs; multiple marriages and bed partners; chronic insecurities; repeated suicide attempts; and the over-the-rainbow voice that remains her legacy.
"We are thrilled to have the brilliantly talented Anne Hathaway portray stage and screen legend Judy Garland. I have worked with Anne on projects in the past and have known her for many years. She will be a true class act in this challenging role," Harvey Weinstein said in a press release.
Here's my review, published in the PG on June 11, 2000:
Katharine Hepburn once said Judy Garland was a 24-hour-a-day job - and she was right.
Garland was a high-maintenance woman, given her early and lifelong addiction to diet pills, uppers, downers and anything she could steal from her friends' medicine chests; multiple marriages and bed partners; chronic insecurities; repeated suicide attempts; and the over-the-rainbow voice that remains her legacy.
Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm June 10, 1922, had a life that no screenwriter could invent because no one would believe it. Everything was writ large.
Her mother, unhappily pregnant for a third time, did everything she could to induce a miscarriage. When her youngest daughter proved to be an entertainer at age 2 1/2, she then did everything she could to make her a star - and did. And yet she didn't love her daughter the way the girl wanted or needed to be loved.
"If Frank's love was like Niagara, unending and unstoppable, Ethel's could be compared to the flow that comes out of a faucet: a meager stream that she could turn on, and turn off," Garland's latest biographer, Gerald Clarke, writes of Judy's parents.
In mid-March, before singer Lorna Luft came to Pittsburgh, she said of her mother's latest biographer, "I respect him and I know he was really on her side," but Clarke never talked to Garland's two daughters and son. "Some of the stories in there are not only inaccurate, but some of them don't need to be in there," Luft said.
I now understand what she meant. Clarke provides an exhaustive, often overwritten picture of Garland and her family - including the names of the teen-age boys who supposedly had sexual encounters with Judy's father. (This falls under the Too Much Information category.) Three generations of women in the family married men who, it turned out, liked men.
If you've ever wondered how a high-wattage star can die almost penniless, Clarke tells you. Garland made and spent and was cheated out of millions. In the mid-1960s, some of her fans even took turns paying her telephone and electric bills.
"To keep up her spirits, Judy kept a scrapbook of comically macabre news stories" about black widow spiders nesting in a beehive hairdo or victims of a train wreck who were laid out on adjacent tracks and run over. A friend recalls that when she would get depressed, she would take out her scrapbook and say, ‘Look at this! You think I've got troubles!' "
Oh, she had troubles. Big troubles.
MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer would place his hand on her left breast to show just where her heart was. Early on, she described herself as a "fat little frightening pig with pigtails" and struggled with herself and the studio over her weight.
Her mother arranged an abortion after Garland became pregnant by first husband David Rose. A married Garland fell in love with actor Tyrone Power, whose wife refused to divorce him. And those are just the earlier years, before she married four more times, underwent six electric shock treatments and ingested countless pills.
Clarke bestows mythic status on Garland and every so often goes into hyperdrive. Or something.
Consider this passage about the singer leaving her imprint at Grauman's Chinese Theater. "With Mickey Rooney helping on her right side, her mother on her left, she pressed her feet and hands into a slab of wet cement, so that, like the image of some girl of Pompeii, immortalized by a belch from Vesuvius, her lithic impression would remain long after she herself was gone."
You should hear his take on Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" and the Yellow Brick Road. "She is treading in the footsteps of heroes, of Odysseus fighting the hostility of gods ..."
Where's an editor with a red pen or a finger on the delete key when you need one? "Get Happy" is an often fascinating read, but it's rarely a fast one.
In the requisite Pittsburgh connection, Garland was breaking all records at the Stanley Theater (now Benedum Center) when she heard MGM had acquired the rights to "The Wizard of Oz" and assigned her the role of Dorothy. After an early screening of the movie, several of MGM's "men in dark suits" suggested the deletion of "Over the Rainbow" and the scene surrounding it. Mayer refused.
Before plunging into "Get Happy," I knew Garland led a dramatic, tumultuous, ultimately tragic life, but I didn't know all the details. And Clarke does offer the details, suggesting that Garland was truly happy only when she was onstage.
It's ironic that after she died of an accidental overdose of barbiturates in June 1969 at age 47, 22,000 people paid their respects and another 2,000 were turned away.
And this was a woman who had watched champagne grow flat in untouched glasses at her last wedding, to Mickey Deans, the night manager of a Manhattan disco. Many of her friends had promised to attend but didn't. Not a single famous name walked through the door.
In the end, Garland exhausted friends and fans, just as she had exhausted herself.