Judy Garland’s life story is one full of tragedy, heartache, exploitation, and loss. She spent the majority of her time on this blue spinning ball searching desperately for love and happiness only to come up empty-handed. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to name another star who suffered as intensely as Garland did.
Even though it’s been more than half a century since her death, Judy still remains one of the most iconic and beloved stars of American cinema. She brought so much joy to world with films like The Wizard of Oz, and A Star is Born, but behind the scenes, the actress and singer’s love life was full of strife and struggle.
Along with her well-publicized battles with sustenance abuse and depression, Garland struggled to find real, meaningful, heartfelt connections. While beloved by the public, Garland’s search for true love seemed to be nothing more than a fool’s errand. She was married five times – four of those marriages ended in divorce, while the final one was cut short by her untimely death on June 22, 1969.
Garland was just 47 years old when her light was snuffed out by a drug overdose. It makes you wonder if she would have lived a longer, fuller life if she had actually found the meaningful kind of love she searched so tirelessly for. While we may never know the answer to that question, we do have a pretty good idea why her marriages fell apart.
Facts Verse Presents: Why All 5 of Judy Garland’s Marriages Failed.
Judy married bandleader and composer David Rose – no relation to the Schitt’s Creek character – in 1941, just two years after The Wizard of Oz debuted in theaters. On their wedding day, Garland was 19, and Rose was 31.
While both her mother and MGM founder Louis B. Mayer objected to the marriage, Garland ignored their wishes, and the two exchanged vows in secret in Las Vegas with a justice of the peace presiding over the ceremony. After tying the knot, the couple moved in together in LA.
Garland believed that Rose would be the only man she would ever marry, but not long after moving into their Bel-Air mansion, cracks began to form in that youthfully naive vision. For one thing, the two had diametrically opposed personalities and were thus inherently incompatible. Puppy love no doubt blinded Judy to this fact until it was already too late. Garland would later describe Rose as acting like an ‘old man’. But that’s not really that surprising considering their 12-year age gap.
Even though it was becomingly increasingly evident that the two weren’t meant to be each other’s forever loves, Judy tried her best to keep the marriage alive. Just three years later, however, they decided to call it quits after Judy discovered that she was pregnant. Her mother arranged for her to have a clandestine abortion – something that was quite frowned upon but not at all uncommon in the studio system era. By the end of 1944, Garland and Rose were officially divorced.
Minnelli was a renowned Hollywood director best known for his musical films An American in Paris and Gigi. Garland and Vincente struck up a relationship while working together on the set of Meet me in St. Louis in 1944, although they had first met while filming Strike Up the Band in 1940.
Minnelli is frequently credited with helping Garland arrive at her trademark look. In fact, one biographer, Emmanuel Levy, author of “The Advocate”, noted that Garland never looked more beautiful than the way that Minnelli made her look.
Garland and Minnelli walked down the aisle in 1945. Less than a year later, Judy gave birth to their daughter, Liza. Throughout their marriage, they continued to collaborate in films, albeit with some difficulty.
During the production of the 1948 film The Pirate, Garland was neck-deep in her addiction to prescription drugs. Reportedly, she missed 99 out of the film’s 135 shoot days. It’s a wonder that the flick even got completed at all.
Minnelli found himself in the difficult position of being the one in he and his wife’s relationship that was expected to be the sole source of stability. But even though Garland’s frequent mood swings and rampant drug use were obviously interfering in their lives, Minnelli deeply loved her and was quick to show her sympathy. In retrospect, it’s obvious that that isn’t the best recipe for keeping a marriage going.
Garland’s instability continued to rock their marriage right till the end. She was deeply depressed, anxious, and hopelessly addicted to pills of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Her condition continued to deteriorate after she was fired from MGM for suffering a nervous breakdown.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Garland and Minnelli’s marriage failed, however, was the fact that Vincente had a huge secret that he was trying his best to keep underwraps. As it turns out, he was gay! As a young man, he wasn’t afraid to explore this side of himself openly while living in New York City, but once he came to Hollywood, he covered up that aspect of his personality and went on to marry four woman – Garland being his first.
When Garland and Minnelli divorced in 1951, Judy was already seeing the man who would come to be her next husband.
Sid was a movie producer who eventually became Judy’s manager. They first met in 1937, two years before Garland played Dorothy in Oz. In 1950, the two reconnected at a nightclub in Manhattan. Both Sid and Judy were still married to their previous spouses at the time, but that didn’t stop them from striking up a romance. Luft’s marriage to actress Lynn Bari was in shambles, and Garland’s marriage with Minnelli was doused in unhappiness. After pursuing Luft, Garland finally worked up the courage to leave him and seek a divorce.
While Garland was disappointed that Vincente wasn’t able to help advance her career, Luft did the exact opposite. Both before and during their marriage, Luft championed her ambition. He was also the one that produced A Star Is Born – the film that is known for bringing about Garland’s big comeback.
When Luft married Garland, his intentions were evidently quite noble. He loved her deeply and just wanted to help protect her from the trauma that seemed to follow her wherever she went. The last thing that he wanted was for her to be hurt again.
But not long after getting together, a major problem arose. Garland got pregnant while they were having their affair. Luft reacted to the news by instructing Garland to seek an abortion. The last thing he wanted was a big media scandal to contend with.
In 1952, the two got married. Soon after, Garland had a daughter named Lorna. Later, she also gave birth to a son, Joseph.
Luft and Garland were married for 13 years. That would make this the longest of Garland’s marriages. That also means, however, that it’s the marriage that spent the longest time in a state of decay.
Luft was troubled by Judy’s addiction to pills. Before they got married, he thought he could handle it, and to be fair, he did help her achieve a modicum of stability after some particularly rough patches that included suicide attempts and the downturn of her career. Inevitably, however, their relationship began to fray as Garland’s health declined and her substance dependency increased.
Luft wasn’t without his own share of problems as well. During their divorce proceedings, Garland claimed that he had hit her many times and drank heavily.
Judy met actor Mark Herron in 1964 while she was still with Luft. After her and Luft’s divorce was finalized, the two got married, once again in Vegas, in November 1965. Herron was very supportive of Garland’s career and even produced some of her concerts with her daughter Liza in London.
Six months after getting hitched, however, Garland was granted a legal divorce. She testified to the judge at her divorce proceedings that Herron had manhandled her. In his defense, Herron claimed that he had acted in self-defense.
Just like Vincente Minnelli, Herron was gay. After divorcing Garland, he stayed with his life partner, stage and film actor Henry Brandon, until Brandon’s death in February 1990.
Mickey Deans, Judy Garland’s fifth and final husband, was a musician and manager of a disco venue. Judy met Deans in a rather unusual, yet distinctly Judy Garland kind of way. In 1966, when she was 44, Deans delivered a parcel of stimulant drugs to her hotel room. The two instantly felt chemistry and started dating despite the fact that Deans was 12 years her junior. Interestingly, this was the same age gap as Judy’s first marriage, albeit with reversed roles.
After dating for three years, Deans and Garland made things official by getting married in 1969. Judy gushed to reporters that she had finally, after all those years and failed marriages, found her true love. While that’s what she was telling the media, Judy’s friends were less confident.
One of Garland’s production assistants, Lori Wilder, derided Deans by calling him the ‘dreadful man who became her husband’. She went on to lament that if Garland had put an ad in the paper looking for the most unsuitable person to take care of her, she would have likely found a better partner.
On the 22nd of June, 1969, Deans discovered Garland’s body lying lifeless on the bathroom floor of their London apartment. It was quickly discovered that she had died of an acute barbiturate overdose. Garland’s autopsy concluded that if she hadn’t died from an overdose, she likely wouldn’t have lived much longer as she was already suffering from severe cirrhosis of the liver. That being said, a second autopsy’s results disputed that claim.
Regardless, it was clear that Garland was living on borrowed time. Between her declining mental health, substance abuse, and various other health struggles, it was obvious that she wasn’t going to wind up finding her fairy-tale ‘happily ever after’.
Whether or not Deans really was the love of her life is a matter of debate. Still, it’s heartbreaking that they never got the chance to really see where their marriage was going to lead. Garland’s light was snuffed out much too soon – leaving behind a dismally sad cautionary tale for all those who think that being a star is all about glitz and glamour.
Judy, wherever you are. We hope you finally found the happiness you spent your entire life searching for.
Before we wrap this video up, we’d love to hear what you have to say about Judy Garland’s five failed marriages. Did you know that two of her husbands were gay, and her fifth and final husband was one of her drug dealers? Let us know in the comments. And as always, thanks for watching.