June 26, 1969: As the film Judy – starring Renée Zellweger and directed by Rupert Goold – is released in cinemas, we look back 50 years into The Stage archive, to our report on Judy Garland’s death.
Sheridan Morley wrote: “The sudden and tragic death of Judy Garland in London on Sunday has taken from us one of the most remarkable theatrical entertainers of our time. Though only 47 when she died, she had been a singer for more than 40 years and an actress for more than 30. Starting as one of The Gumm Sisters in her mother’s touring vaudeville act, she became a child actress with MGM in Hollywood where from 1935 onwards she made such musicals as Meet Me in St Louis, Words and Music and Easter Parade, as well as the classic Wizard of Oz. But her life as a studio child at MGM was often unhappy, and from then on it became what she herself classified as a disaster area.
“As an actress she may have been erratic, but as a dramatic singer she was rivalled in her own lifetime by only two others: Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich. Unhappily, her final season at the Talk of the Town ended in a familiar pattern of shaky or totally missed performances, yet those of us fortunate to see her opening night were given a brief reminder of the magic that was Judy Garland. It seemed that, as with Piaf, the suffering of Judy Garland’s private life found a kind of release in her songs.”
If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive