This blog is part of Comet Over Hollywood’s blogathon: “Gone Too Soon”. Be sure to check out Jessica’s blog to see other posts in this category.
“Gone too soon” evokes thoughts of short-lived television shows and an empty bowl of ice cream; I rarely connect the phrase to human beings unless, of course, they were stars of the Golden Era. These sudden departures are only premature to those who genuinely care for the person who passed or selfishly desire another performance to dazzle and fill the escapist void. What wouldn’t I give to see Judy Garland belt out another note or even play another dramatic role?
From Pigskin Parade to I Could Go On Singing, I’ve seen them all more than once and I know the songs by heart. Superficially, I could believe Judy left us far too soon, but I also know two terms consistently linked to her career which imply abiding presence:
Legend and Legacy.
Now, this first term legend has many definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary ranging from “a story, history, account” to “an unauthentic or non-historical story, esp. one handed down by tradition from early times and popularly regarded as historical”. Unfortunately for Judy, some of her “history” involves tragedy, particularly related to her career and the end of her life and ‘fans’ link this to her ability to overcome and continue to shine.
Hold onto your hats, because I’m going to attempt to do a math equation in order to debunk this tragic theory before we proceed.
I’ll approximate 10 years of Judy’s life filled with genuine “tragedy” due to these significant events:
- 1935, Frank Gumm’s death.
- 1949, Annie Get Your Gun.
- Mid-late 50s, hepatitis/liver/health issues.
- 1965-1969, slow decline.
Judy Garland lived 47 years, so, if my numbers are correct (and you may check my math because I am an Arts student), this means around 80% of Judy’s life on Earth was not tragic. Then, my dear friends, the word legacy comes into play. Her legacy continues today through rereleases of her films, soundtracks, albums and new releases of books (not to mention her online presence revitalizes her life’s work on a daily basis). Her 100th birthday is fast approaching and now our math equation becomes more impressive because we’ve gained ten percent and the numbers will continue to rise.
Judy is a legend because she possesses a legacy which appears to be some sort of mythical story. Her existence was so fleeting, but she had that “little something extra” those “leather lungs” and a personality to make Lucille Ball “look like a mortician” to grant such a perpetual title.
The easiest way to illustrate Judy Garland’s current impact is through personal account. In 2009, I joined the Judy Garland Message Board after much consideration. You see, I was one of those forum lurkers and I stumbled onto the site one afternoon in November 2008 after having seen Meet Me in St. Louis for the first time (and four more times subsequently the same week). “Under the Bamboo Tree” reminded me of the childhood plays my sister and I would perform for our parents in the living room and “The Trolley Song” brought tears to my eyes. The Trolley Song, Hilary? Yes, yes… the Trolley Song! Her performance, still to this day, causes a knot to form in my throat because it is just so believable! Get a clue, John Truitt.
After joining the JGMB, I began to consume Judy Garland as much as I consumed breakfast, lunch, and dinner; For Me and My Gal: pancakes, The Pirate: a BLT, and Summer Stock, oh Summer Stock… roast, potatoes, and carrots with a side of lemon meringue pie. The greatest part about my well-balanced Garland diet was my peers, my fellow Garlandians. Each of the members had their own tier of the food pyramid they preferred, but we were a support system for one another.
One day, I found a girl who loved the dinner portion of Summer Stock as much as I do. We talked for (what seemed like) hours about how much we adored “You, Wonderful You”, Gene Kelly’s scar, and argued about “Heavenly Music” — hey, I think the hillbillies are quality! Eventually, I spoke to Katie on a weekly basis about Judy and our topics expanded from Gone with the Wind and Mary Poppins to every-day-life conversations.
Three years later, I live with my best friend, Katie, in a different country than my own. We go to school together, create a monthly classic film podcast and weekly radio show called The Scarlett Olive, and sing “(Howdy Neighbour) Happy Harvest” under our breath in the middle of the grocery store. There’s something so comforting about our friendship since most of our interests hail from decades ago when Judy Garland’s legacy had just begun. Perhaps it’s because we know we’re the flame that keeps the candle burning.
So, for those who mourn her loss and glorify her tragedy, I’m here to tell you: Judy Garland did not leave us “too soon”, because she never left. She is a legend and will remain one as long as true talent is recognized, discussed, touted, and shared.