×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows

Seldom in a biographical television made-for does a star so expertly inhabit another's skin as Judy Davis does here with Judy Garland. Davis' characterization moves like a swift boxer in the ring, bounding from rope to rope and then to the center, going toe to toe with demons, lovers and show business in general, taking punches and showing resolution over cowardice, honor over all. If a quality program can attract significant ratings then this should be a sweeps champion.

With:
Judy Garland - Judy Davis Sid Luft - Victor Garber Vincente Minnelli - Hugh Laurie Roger Edens - John Benjamin Hickey Young Judy - Tammy Blanchard Ethel Gumm - Marsha Mason Kay Thompson - Sonja Smits Louis B. Mayer - Al Waxman Lottie - Jayne Eastwood Lorna Luft (13-17) - Alison Pill Frank Gumm - Aidan Devine Mickey Rooney - Dwayne Adams Mark Herron - Martin Randez Artie Shaw - Stewart Bick Busby Berkeley - Michael Rhoades

Seldom in a biographical television made-for does a star so expertly inhabit another’s skin as Judy Davis does here with Judy Garland. Davis’ characterization moves like a swift boxer in the ring, bounding from rope to rope and then to the center, going toe to toe with demons, lovers and show business in general, taking punches and showing resolution over cowardice, honor over all.

Garland succumbs early to uppers and her life is sped up to a blur as she whips through a mislaid childhood, five marriages (two of which yield three children) and a distinguished career in song that was seemingly one struggle after another. Davis masters the mannerisms of Garland and the punch-drunk state of an overly medicated soul. But most significantly, she infuses her portrayal with an assertive claim on life that makes “Life With Judy Garland” a rare entity in the biopic arena.

If a quality program can attract significant ratings then this should be a sweeps champion.

Perspective of “Life” comes from the eyes of Garland’s middle child, Lorna Luft, who saw the pill popping for the destructive force it was. Luft eventually breaks down as a teenager, taking care of a drug-addled Garland and then upon the news of her mother’s death at 47; it’s then that the point-of-view registers most clearly — this is a wounded child who wears her family battle scars with pride.

Father Sid Luft, the producer, is treated like a saint in Robert L. Freedman’s straightforward script, which is generally free of the sanctimonious drivel that accompanies pics about drug addicts.

Film covers Garland’s life, starting with her family’s vaudeville routines in Grand Rapids, Minn., in 1924. Ethel and Frank Gumm (Marsha Mason as the domineering stage mother, Aidan Devine the benevolent father) take Baby Frances to Hollywood where, in 1935, Louis B. Mayer is treated to an impressive vocal display at her audition for MGM.

Young Judy, played by remarkable look- and sound-alike Tammy Blanchard, is put through the ringer at the studio until Mayer options L. Frank Baum’s book “The Wizard of Oz,” which he presents to her on her 15th birthday.

After a spell in which Shirley Temple is suddenly the studio’s top choice for the pic, Garland is back in the lead role and, for the first time in her young life, popping pills to stay slim and alert. No worry, though: Her buddy and co-star Mickey Rooney (Dwayne Adams) is living out of the same little orange bottles.

She makes 19 movies in nine years before landing in the lead role in “Meet Me in St. Louis” and in the arms of Vincente Minnelli (played as a helpless softie by Hugh Laurie). Re-enactments of her movie scenes are remarkably well done.

Robert Allan Ackerman’s direction is fluid and precise as the story moves from movie sets to nightclubs to an abundance of bedroom scenes — Garland in love, Garland searching for pills, Garland trying to awake from a deep sleep.

Eventually, the actress is attempting suicide, recovering and making yet another comeback. It’s a life pattern that will continue until her death.

Through it all, a delicate balance is struck between her two guiding hands — Mason as the stern mom, and John Benjamin Hickey, who plays vocal coach Roger Edens, as a sympathetic ear.

As much as Freedman bases his text on the Lorna Luft tome, he nicely sets up the foundation that was set early on for Garland and, one infers, allowed to persevere when the showbiz house of cards tumbled.

Director of photography James Chressanthis gives “Life” a realistic, down-to-earth tone. Pic is blessed with the Garland recordings — and the lip-synching is quite good — though review cassette did not include the score, corrected picture or final voiceover.

Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows

ABC; Sun. Feb. 25, Mon. Feb. 26, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Toronto by Alliance Atlantis in co-production with In-motion and in association with Storyline Entertainment. Executive producers, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Ed Gernon, Peter Sussman; co-executive producers, Lorna Luft, Robert Allan Ackerman, Kirk Ellis; co-producer, Dave Mace; producers, John Ryan, Robert L. Freedman; director, Robert Allan Ackerman; writer, Robert L. Freedman, based on the book "Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows" by Luft.

Crew: Director of photography, James Chressanthis; production designer, Dan Davis; editor, Dody Dorn; music, William Ross; casting, Mary V. Buck, Susan Edelman, Tina Gerussi. 4 HOURS.

Cast: Judy Garland - Judy Davis Sid Luft - Victor Garber Vincente Minnelli - Hugh Laurie Roger Edens - John Benjamin Hickey Young Judy - Tammy Blanchard Ethel Gumm - Marsha Mason Kay Thompson - Sonja Smits Louis B. Mayer - Al Waxman Lottie - Jayne Eastwood Lorna Luft (13-17) - Alison Pill Frank Gumm - Aidan Devine Mickey Rooney - Dwayne Adams Mark Herron - Martin Randez Artie Shaw - Stewart Bick Busby Berkeley - Michael RhoadesWith: Daniel Kash, Amber Metcalfe, Krista Sutton, Ellis Turner, Harrison Kane, Alex House, Brittany Payer, Arielle Di Iulio, Sarah Moussadji, Brandie Marie Ward, Carly Alves, Rosemary Dunsmore, Hume Baugh, Cara Pifko, Zoe Heath, Richard M. Davidson, Lindy Booth, John Stocker.

More TV

  • Florence and the Machine

    Florence & the Machine Premiere New Song on 'Game of Thrones'

    [pmc=related] If the voice singing the song during the end credits of “Game of Thrones” tonight sounded familiar — or unmistakable — yes, it was Florence + the Machine. The group’s version of the original “Game of Thrones” song “Jenny of Oldstones” debuted during the closing credits of this season’s second episode, following a rendition [...]

  • Game of Thrones Fan Theories

    Best Fan Theories for the Final Season of 'Game of Thrones'

    After eight seasons, “Game of Thrones” fans will finally see if their long-held theories will pay off. Dozens of important characters and a complex plot have made diehard viewers try to foresee plot twists for years. With the original R+L=J theory confirmed, meaning that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark were the real parents of Jon [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • Tryion Lannister Game of Thrones Episode

    'Game of Thrones' Season 8 Episode 2 Leaks

    The second episode of “Game of Thrones'” final season has leaked online ahead of its Sunday night debut. Fear not, “Thrones” fans: though the internet is dark and full of spoilers, this post is free of any details from Season 8 episode 2. Rumblings of a leak began on the “Game of Thrones” Reddit and [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Signs of Solidarity and Strain Emerge as Week 2 of WGA-Talent Agency Standoff Begins

    Hundreds of WGA members rallied solidly behind their union last week as the industry grappled with uncertainties spurred by the sudden break between writers and their talent agency representatives. But as the standoff heads into its second week, signs of strain among some WGA members are beginning to emerge. Shalom Auslander, author and creator of [...]

  • Jon Snow Arya Stark Game of

    'Game of Thrones' Final Season Vegas Odds Reveal Wild Theories

    With “Game of Thrones” hype at an all-time high, Las Vegas may be raking in as much money as the Iron Bank. HBO’s fantasy masterpiece has seized the gambling world’s attention nearly as much as the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby. Fans spew countless theories on social media, such as which characters will be axed [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content