Fifty years after her death, Judy Garland remains one of the most beloved and iconic stars of American cinema. Yet, while she brought joy to many in films like The Wizard of Oz and A Star is Born, the singer and actress’s real life was filled with tribulations. Along with her well-known struggles with depression and substance abuse, Garland spent most of her life searching for love.
While some of the men in her life played prominent roles in her career, all five of Garland’s marriages had an important impact on the star. Here’s everything you need to know about the men she loved.
Rose, a British-born composer and bandleader, became Garland’s first husband just two years after she starred in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz; the actress was 19 at the time, Rose, who had previously been married to actress Martha Raye, was 31.
Worried that the marriage would tarnish Garland’s pristine, youthful image, both her mother and the studio she was under contract with, MGM, objected, but Garland pushed forward with the marriage, tying the knot with Rose in Las Vegas in 1941. However, Garland’s extroverted nature and Rose’s homebody tendencies soon began to create problems in the relationship. Adding to the hostilities, Rose, along with Garland’s mother, forced her to have a secret abortion after the star found out she was pregnant. (Many studio starlets including Joan Crawford and Bette Davis received illegal abortions to avoid the impact that pregnancy and motherhood might have have on their careers.) The couple divorced in 1944.
Rose later went on to receive two Emmy awards for his songwriting work, as well two Oscar nominations.
The same year that she divorced Rose, Garland starred in the film Meet Me in St. Louis under the helm of then-largely unknown director Vincente Minnelli. Though Garland had initially turned down a role in the film and, once convinced to take the part, held a contentious relationship with Minnelli during the early days of filming, the two slowly became close over the course of the film’s shoot. By the time Meet Me in St. Louis debuted, quickly became MGM’s highest selling to date, the couple had already started living together.
Nearly 20 years Garland’s senior, Garland felt that Minnelli (born Lester Anthony Minnelli) helped bring out a sense of maturity and onscreen elegance in her that the star, tired of playing teenage sweethearts, had craved. In turn, Garland petitioned for more films for Minnelli on MGM’s roster, a position that not only suited him and Garland, but also kept the studio happy as as they believed that Minnelli and Garland’s continued relationship would prevent her from moving on from MGM at the end of her contract. Indeed, when the couple married in June of 1945, MGM co-founder Louis B. Mayer himself gave the bride away.
By August of that year, Garland was pregnant, though this time her mother, the studio, and Minnelli were all pleased by the announcement, and in March of 1946, Garland and Minnelli’s daughter Liza was born. In the weeks that followed the birth, Garland remained bedridden, and though it was not diagnosed at the time, many now believe she was suffering from postpartum depression. It was almost a full year before Garland returned to work, and even that revival was cut short by a nervous breakdown that culminated in her stay at two different psychiatric clinics.
The happy collaborations that had brought Minnelli and Garland together as artists had begun to deteriorate—Minelli was, at Garland’s insistence, removed as director of Easter Parade—and along with it, their marriage. Worsening matters, Garland’s spiral into increasing drug use (she had been on amphetamines and barbiturates to maintain her weight and help her cope with her workload since she was a child), suicide attempts, and Minnelli’s affairs with men—his sexuality had been the subject of rumors for some time, including his relationship years earlier with sculptor and Fifth Avenue window dresser Lester Gaba.
In 1949, the couple officially separated. The autumn of the following year, after a long series of flagging performances, lateness, and failure to appear, Garland was released from her MGM contract; her marriage to Minnelli, which had come with the blessing of the studio, was also soon to end.
After their 1950 divorce, Vincente remained under contract with MGM into the 1960s, directing films like Father of the Bride and An American in Paris, and earning an Oscar for his work on Gigi. He married three more times before his death in 1986, and had another daughter, Nina Minnelli.
Garland’s longest marriage by far was to movie producer Sid Luft. The couple had known one another tangentially since the late 1930s, and once they reconnected toward the end of Garland’s marriage to Minnelli (Luft, already divorced once, was married to actress Lynn Bari at the time), they quickly began seeing once another.
Taking over as Garland’s manager, Luft set about revitalizing her career, helping to architect television specials and shows for her at Carnegie Hall. “She was so incredibly talented that I knew she could land on her feet if she had some help. So what if the movies didn’t want her? She could always sing,” Luft once told The Telegraph.
But the beginning of their relationship was marred; Garland discovered she was pregnant while preparing for one of her shows in New York and for the second time in her life felt pressured into getting an abortion for the sake of her career. Nonetheless, the couple was able to move on and married in 1952. Later that same year, they welcomed their daughter Lorna; a son, Joey, was to follow in 1955.
In perhaps the most prominent move that Luft made for Garland’s career, he produced the 1954 film A Star is Born as a comeback for the actress. The film garnered six Oscar nominations, including a Best Actress nod for Garland.
However, a film success wasn’t enough to solve all of their problems. Garland’s longstanding issues with depression, drug use, and alcoholism continued, and though he had always appeared publicly as a supportive husband, Garland told a judge during their 1965 divorce proceedings that Luft had struck her on numerous occasions and also drank heavily. (Luft denied those claims.)
Between 1963 and his death in 2005, Luft worked on a memoir, Judy and I, detailing his marriage to Garland that was published posthumously.
An actor and tour manager, Herron met Garland while producing her two 1964 shows at the London Palladium with her daughter Liza. The duo began a whirlwind romance that had rumors of marriage swirling, despite the fact that Garland was not yet divorced from Luft. After her divorced was finalized though, Herron and Garland quickly married in a Las Vegas ceremony in November of 1965.
The wedded bliss was short-lived. Within five months, the couple had officially separated, and in 1967 their divorce was finalized after Garland testified that Herron had been abusive. In return, Herron said that he had “only hit her in self defense.”
After his divorce, Herron maintained a relationship with character actor Henry Brandon for nearly three decades, until Brandon’s death.
Garland’s shortest marriage took place a mere three months before the star’s death. The actress was already floundering when she met Deans (born Michael DeVinko) in the late ’60s. Plagued by debt and the pressures of continuing to perform, her substance abuse took a continuing toll on her physically and mentally. Deans, who was 12 years Garland’s junior, came to her hotel room in New York to deliver drugs and they hit it off, dating off and on for a few years before Deans proposed marriage in 1969. They married in London that March, and rented the house where Garland would ultimately overdose, just 12 days after her 47th birthday.
In 1972, Deans wrote a memoir of his relationship with Garland titled Weep No More, My Lady: The Best Selling Story of Judy Garland. (Garland’s daughter, Lorna Luft later wrote her own memoir about her mother in which she described Deans as “most unsuitable person to take care of” Garland, who “gave in to her and fed her all the things she wanted.”) He later moved to Ohio, according to People, and dedicated his time to historic renovations. He died in 2003, having never remarried.
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