Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Prescription to Die

Judy Garland

Judy Garland
Judy Garland

Born Frances Ethel Gumm, the singer reinvented herself as Judy Garland, entering the Hollywood studio system at age three. She became a worldwide star with her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, filmed when she was just 16. Behind that sweet-cheeked visage, though, was an overworked star who had become addicted to uppers and downers as a teenager with the help of her studio handlers.

Her troubles with drugs snowballed as she grew older; she used them to control her weight but suffered a nervous breakdown which led to her being released from her MGM contract. She later tried to kill herself. During the third part of her career, Garland returned to the stage, with mixed results: her recording of the live record, Judy at Carnegie Hall in 1961 became an instant classic, but later appearances in Australia were marred by seemingly drunk-and-drugged behavior onstage, where she was quickly booed off. She deliberately overdosed after reading a review of her Melbourne performance, and lapsed into a coma, but recovered. She experienced a brief resurgence in television, with her variety show, The Judy Garland Show, but the show was canceled after one season, because its competition, Bonanza, was too strong, devastating the fragile performer.

By the time her husband Mickey Deans found her dead on June 22, 1969, she had relocated permanently to London, where she was living in Chelsea. Toxicology results revealed that she had swallowed ten seconal pills, but it was not ruled a suicide, as she had taken them over the course of several hours. Her death was instead ruled an "incautious self-overdose."

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