“There was more than a love affair:” Inside Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney’s unbreakable bond

Judy Garland traveled down the yellow brick road and became a mega Hollywood star. The actress, known among other things for her terrific performance in The Wizard of Oz, was one of the greatest shining stars of the Golden Hollywood age. At the same time, many other prominent actors were making their way into the world of cinema. One was Mickey Rooney – with whom Judy Garland had a unique relationship.

Mickey and Judy became great friends, and through the years, the two worked together many, many times. However, at the same time, as rumors about a romantic relationship came to light, the onscreen power couple created an unbreakable bond that lasted decades.

This is all you need to know about Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney’s story – and what made him go to the press and say that she was a liar.

First, Judy Garland wasn’t born “Judy Garland.”

Her name at birth was Frances Ethel Gumm, and she was welcomed to the world on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Judy Garland – early life

As a young girl, she was called “Baby Gumm.” Her parents were vaudeville professionals, and as a result, Garland also became familiar with the stage at a very young age.

She sang “Jingle Bells” when she was just two at her first public performance. Soon after, she began performing with her two older sisters, forming the group the “Gumm Sisters.”

Garland knew from the beginning that she wanted to be a movie actress, singer, and dancer when she grew up. In reality, this was something she’d been told by her mother, Ethel.

Ethel pushed all three of her children into show business, and the results weren’t pretty. Nevertheless, Ethel had a vision and a plan for her daughters, regardless of if the girls wanted to accommodate her or not.

However, it soon became apparent that Judy was the one with the most talent, and so she got most of the recognition.

Speaking with Barbara Walters in 1967, Garland said her mother was a “mean” stage mother.

Drilled by “mean mother”

“She was very jealous because she had absolutely no talent,” she said. “She would stand in the wings, and if I didn’t feel good, she’d say, ‘You get out and sing, or I’ll wrap you around the bedpost and break you off short!’ So I’d go out and sing.”

When Judy was only four years of age, she, her sisters, and her mother moved to California. Rumors said that her father’s affairs with others might have affected Ethel’s decision. As for Judy’s career, this turned out to be a great move.

California was the center of show business at the time. Sure, music would come to move its “capital” to New York in the 1960s – then back to California in the ’70s – but during the ’20s, California, especially Los Angeles, was the place to be.

“As I recall, my parents were separating and getting back together all the time. It was tough for me to understand those things, and, of course, I remember clearly the fear I had of those separations,” Garland recalled of the time.

Judy was already a performer when her family moved to California. Of course, some of the places they visited weren’t particularly appropriate for children, but that wasn’t anything Garland’s mother concerned herself with.

Started touring at the age of 10

Judy would repeatedly join on stage with her sister when her mother performed. As a result, the Gumm Sisters became The Garland Sisters in 1934.

Her mother heavily pressured Garland to perform consistently, irrespective of health or well-being. In fact, her mother, Ethel, was the first person to provide pills to her talented daughter, according to Judy’s biographer Gerald Clarke.

From when Judy was 10, Ethel prepared pills for her to “keep the girl’s going!” on auditions and while touring. Later at night, she gave her daughters sleeping pills to calm them down. Garland later characterized her mother as “the real Wicked Witch of the West” – referencing the villain in one of her most beloved films, The Wizard of Oz.

At 10, Judy Garland started touring the US as a solo act. Her life would change forever as he was signed to the MGM studio three years later. Garland auditioned in front of the film studio’s co-founder, Louis B. Mayer, and he was absolutely blown away.

Mayer was stunned over how beautiful Garland was while singing, and he didn’t even ask her to do a screen test. Instead, he immediately signed her.

Judy Garland – work at MGM

Now, this might seem like the most wonderful of dreams for any young talent hoping to pursue a career in show business. Getting a studio contract at the age of 13 isn’t something that just happens – and it was clear that Judy Garland was extraordinary.

However, hers wasn’t to be a wonderful experience full of smiles, support, and love. No, instead, Garland walked into a living nightmare that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

From the start of her studio career, it was like MGM owned all the rights to Judy Garland. And in one way, they did, as they owned all the artistic work she was a part of.

Judy knew something was very wrong. It was a different era, where ideals were different, but she knew things were taken way too far.

MGM starved Judy Garland and pushed her to the limits. They forced her to lose weight and facilitated the start of what would become a lifetime dependency on pills.

At times, Judy Garland worked six days a week and up to 18 hours a day.

At the same time, she didn’t live a life like any other regular teenager, going to high school and spending time with friends. Instead, Garland got thrown into a world of parties with the likes of Clark Gable and Lana Turner, as well as attended film premieres.

Judy Garland – marriages, husbands, children

Some of Judy Garland’s most significant roles included Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, which she starred in at 17. Garland cemented her place in Hollywood as a beloved icon with her legendary singing of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and her acting.

She continued with work in films such as Meet Me in St Louis in 1944, Easter Parade in 1946, and, of course, the 1954 film A Star Is Born, in which Garland showed the world her unique talents better than in any other movie.

Judy Garland became a legend onscreen, but she lived a troublesome life caused by the treatment at the MGM Studios in her youth. However, she wasn’t alone in all this, as she was married five times throughout her life. Also, at the same time, she and actor Mickey Rooney shared a very special relationship that would get much more public interest.

At the age of 19, Garland married her first husband, British-born composer and bandleader David Rose. The couple tied the knot in Las Vegas in 1941 – even though her mother didn’t like it because it could have affected her youthful image. Three years later, the couple divorced, and the year after, in 1945, Judy Garland married her second husband, stage and film director Vincente Minnelli. Together they had one child, Liza Minnelli. However, they divorced in 1951.

A year later, show business legend Sidney Luft and Judy Garland got married and welcomed two children together, Lorna and Joey Luft.

Judy Garland’s relationship with Mickey Rooney

He became a significant figure for Garland as he was the producer of her comeback film A Star is Born in 1954. It received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress to Judy. Their marriage lasted for 13 years until 1965, which was the longest marriage of the legendary actresses’ life.

The same year, Garland walked down the aisle once again. This time, with actor Mark Herron. They met when Herron produced two of her shows in London, but the couple split just five months after marrying. Two years later, the divorce was finalized.

Just three months before her passing in 1969, she married her last husband, Mickey Deans. Judy Garland passed away on June 22, 1969. Mickey had broken through her locked bathroom door and found her lifeless. She was only 47 years of age.

As Judy Garland went through five marriages, maybe her strongest bond was with someone that she never married at all. She and co-actor Mickey Rooney had an unbreakable bond throughout their lives, with the couple first teamed up for the 197 film Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry.

Claimed that she was lying

They had met back at the Lawlor Professional School in Los Angeles for the first time. And just as everyone else, Rooney was blown away by her voice.

“Judy sang, and Mickey couldn’t believe her voice,” Richard A. Lertzman, co-author of The Life and Times of Mickey Rooney, told Closer, adding that Judy was equally impressed by Mickey.

“She loved his talent and energy,” he said.

Both Garland and Rooney were under MGM contracts. Naturally, therefore, the two starred in many films together, and as they grew up, they became one of the most legendary and biggest onscreen power couples.

Judy Garland claimed that the MGM Studios she and Mickey Rooney worked for had provided her pills to keep her full of energy.

She said the orders for her to be supplied with pills came straight from the top boss, Louis B. Mayer. However, Mickey Rooney, at one point, denied Judy’s version.

“Judy Garland was never given any [pills] by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Mr. Mayer didn’t sanction anything for Judy,” Rooney said, as quoted by PBS. “No one on that lot was responsible for Judy Garland’s death. Unfortunately, Judy chose that path.”

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland became terrific friends when working so closely together.

Did Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney have a romantic relationship?

“Judy and I were so close we could’ve come from the same womb,” Rooney said. “We weren’t like brothers or sisters, but there was no love affair there; there was more than a love affair. It’s very, very difficult to explain the depths of our love for each other. It was so special. It was a forever love. Judy, as we speak, has not passed away. She’s always with me in every heartbeat of my body.”

Some of the films Rooney and Garland starred in alongside each other were Babes in Arms, Strike up the Band, Babes on Broadway, and Girl Crazy. They were all within the musical genre, as the two entertained the viewers in the 1930s and 1940s.

“We made a lot of pictures together, Judy and I. She was a wonderful girl. We knew what we were going to say before we said it to each other. We were great friends, and I know that the world is sad to have lost Judy,” Mickey Rooney said in a Television Academy Foundation interview, adding that they didn’t spend a lot of time together outside of the stage.”

“She had her own life to live, and I had mine.”

In 1948, Rooney and Garland starred in their last film together, Words and Music. Even though they didn’t act together again, they remained friends. In 1963, the couple reunited as Mickey Rooney appeared in the first-ever production of The Judy Garland Show.

“It was wonderful working with Judy”

It was, of course, a wonderful reunion. And as Rooney recalled, it was as if the two had spent every day of the last 30 years together.

“It was wonderful because Judy had a wonderful dressing room. They had a yellow brick road leading from her dressing room down to the stage,” he recalled.

“It was wonderful working with Judy. I did a routine on her show called ‘The Golf Thing,’ and it was wonderful, [it was] Judy’s favorite thing that I did. Nothing had changed. It seemed like it was only yesterday that we had worked together.”

Judy Garland will forever be remembered as a legendary singer and icon, and she passed away way too early. May her always rest in peace.

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