Old Hollywood Part One – Judy Garland

We hear a lot of people talking about the golden age of Hollywood, where actors and actresses were glamorous, mysterious and seemingly perfect. On the surface it appears to be superior to modern Hollywood in every way; performers were dignified, we never saw them in their pajamas at the supermarket but instead dressed in lavish outfits on a red carpet or sipping cocktails in an exclusive bar. But the truth is that Old Hollywood was a dark, abusive, narcissistic machine that took advantage of everyone and anyone who entered into its world. And so we are going to write a series of pieces on this sinister beast and the people whose lives were made and then destroyed by its insatiable appetite, and we begin with one of the most tragic tales of them all; Judy Garland.

“I’ve always taken ‘The Wizard of Oz’ very seriously, you know. I believe in the idea of the rainbow. And I’ve spent my entire life trying to get over it.” – Judy Garland

Garland was born Frances Gumm in Grand Rapids Minnesota in 1922 where her parents ran a small theatre. Due to some accusations made against her father by ushers in their business the family was forced to relocate to California; where they purchased and ran another theatre. In 1928 Judy and her two sisters formed a dance troupe known as “The Gumm Sisters.” Over the following years these three sisters would have their first film debut and tour the Vaudeville circuit together performing songs and dancing across the country. During their success the troupe changed their name from Gumm to Garland and little Frances became Judy.

Gumm Sisters 02

In September 1935 thirteen year old Judy was brought into MGM studios for an audition by her father and she was immediately signed into a contract with the studio. Compared to the beautiful women in Hollywood at the time (think Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner) Judy was described as “the ugly duckling” and “the little hunchback” by the then studio chief Louis B Mayer.

Over the following years Judy was teamed up with Mickey Rooney in a series of buddy style films. To keep up with production schedules teenage Judy was prescribed  amphetamines to stay awake for the long shoots and also barbiturates to be able to sleep at night. MGM also demanded that their ugly duckling be kept on a strict diet, which consisted of only a bowl of soup and a plate of lettuce on most filming days. In an interview later in Judy’s life she was asked what she thought she missed out on most as a teenager, and her response was simply “eating.”

In 1938 at the age of 16 Garland was cast in undoubtedly her most famous role; Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. This film was met with critical acclaim and earned her the Oscar in 1940 for the Juvenile Award Category and is still remembered now as one of the greatest films to come out of this era. Judy’s performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was named the greatest movie song of all time by the American Film Institute and in 1981 her performance of the song was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Today when people think of Judy Garland, they no doubt think of this beautiful performance.

1940 was a huge year for Judy, she won her Juvenile Oscar Award for Oz and also acted in three new films for MGM, this was also the year she got engaged to her first husband at 18 years old. Her marriage to David Rose was short, they were wed in July 1941, Separated in January 1942 and sadly divorced by January 1943.

By 1944 Judy had earned herself top billing in films made by MGM, she was even billed before Gene Kelly in their film “For me and My Girl.” This year also produced another huge hit for Garland in the musical “Meet Me in St Louis.” The musical soundtrack performed by Garland for this film was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005 and four songs from the soundtrack were also included on the American Film Institute’s Greatest Movie Song of all time list. An affair with Orson Welles also occurred in 1944 who was married at the time to fellow superstar Rita Hayworth.

In 1945 Judy married Vincente Minnelli and the following year gave birth to her first child Liza at the age of twenty four. Liza herself would go on to become an infamous performer in her own right.

Judy Liza.jpg

Judy with sweet baby Liza in 1947

In 1947 things started to become difficult for Garland. While shooting “The Pirate” she had a nervous breakdown and was committed to a private sanitarium away from her daughter. The same year also included Garland’s first suicide attempt, rumoured to have taken place on the actual set of The Pirate; Judy slit her wrists with shards of broken glass. She was one again committed to a psychiatric hospital and “The Pirate” became Garland’s first film with MGM to actually lose money.

Judy soon returned to work with MGM for “Easter Parade” with Fred Astaire which was released in 1948 and became her top grossing film of all time. Because of the huge success of the film MGM paired these two up numerous times over the following years and Garland’s schedule became busier than it had ever been. During the filming of “Barkleys of Broadway” Garland was still being prescribed sleeping pills and was also using illegally purchased morphine, she also began to develop a dependence on alcohol. In 1948 a doctor declared that Garland should not be working as much as she currently was with MGM and they immediately suspended her contract completely, replacing her in all films with Ginger Rogers.

Yes the studio that introduced Garland to amphetamines and barbiturates was now suspending her career because she had developed an addiction to those very same drugs. Later in 1948 she returned to MGM and her daughter Liza made her film debut at the age of two and half.

Shortly after her return to MGM Garland was set to star in “Annie Get Your Gun” directed by Busby Berkeley. Busby and Garland clashed dramatically and she was once again suspended by MGM. During production of this film Garland was also undergoing electric shock therapy for her depression and drug addiction. This led to an extended stay a Boston hospital to try and get clean, eat and sleep normally (as she was still barely eating due to her strict diets) and gain some weight.

Garland Summer Stock

Garland on the set of Summer Stock 1949

In 1949 Garland would star in her final released film for MGM; “Summer Stock” with Gene Kelly. To lose weight for the role Judy tragically went back to taking pills and dieting, undoing all her progress from her recent hospital stay. It is rumoured that she would turn up late or not at all for filming throughout the entire production.

“Royal Wedding” was another MGM film to be made in 1950 which signed Garland but from which she was again suspended. It was shortly after her suspension that Judy once again attempted to end her life, she was only in her late twenties. Upon reflection of this time Garland was quoted as feeling “I wanted to black out the future as well as the past.

With her contract at MGM now over Judy had to find other ways to keep an income coming in, and other ways to keep performing. At the time Bing Crosby was host of the television variety show; “Kraft Music Hall.” Crosby had heard that Garland was struggling financially as well as battling depression once again and wanted to help his friend. Between 1950 and 1951 Garland made eight appearances on his show.

Judy an Bing

Garland with her dear friend Bing Crosby

In 1951 Judy put on a show at The Palace Theatre in New York City which was described as “one of the greatest personal triumphs in show business history.” It broke all previous ticket sales records for the theatre and earned Judy a Special Tony Award for her contributions to Vaudeville. But unfortunately at this same time her relationship with Minnelli was deteriorating, and by the end of 1951 the pair had divorced. However it wasn’t long before Garland married for a third time in 1952 to the manager of her tours; Sid Luft.

The musical remake of “A Star is Born” was released in 1954 to “tremendous” critical acclaim and launched Judy Garland back into cinemas around the world. Garland was nominated for and won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a comedy or musical. She was tipped to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for the film and everyone felt confident she had the award in the bag. On the night of the Oscars Judy could not attend as she had just given birth to her second child with Luft, the awards had sent a camera crew to her hospital room so that she could accept her award, but to everyone’s surprise, she did not win.

In the mid 1950s Judy did a string of TV specials and performances on the Vegas strip until unfortunately in 1959 she was hospitalised with acute hepatitis. She stayed in the hospital until 1960 and when she was released she was told that she had only five years to live, she was 38 years old.

Garland’s performance at Carnegie hall in 1961 was once of the most triumphant and successful events of her career. A two record album of the performance was released and quickly earned certified gold status, it spent thirteen weeks at number one and also won four Grammys including Album of the Year and Best Solo Female Vocal Performance. The following year she would also be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Golden Globes.


Judy with her children Liza, Lorna and Joey onstage at her legendary Carnegie Hall Performance.

Despite the success of “Judy at Carnegie Hall” the performer was still hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt by the 1960s. Garland was desperately in need of a steady income so she agreed to do “The Judy Garland” show in 1962 which would involve a new show taped and aired each week. Despite the fact she was now a mother of three and suffering an incurable disease that would kill her within a matter of years, Judy in her true fighting spirit said on with the show.

It was on this show that Judy gave (in my opinion) the single most soul crushing and heartbreaking performance of all time. It was later reveled by Garland that her husband  (Luft) had been abusive. She had lived through addiction, hospitalisations, abuse, electric shock therapy and the news of her impending death when she gave this performance and you can see every painful moment of her life on her face.

In 1963 she divorced Luft and in 1964 despite receiving three Emmy nominations The Judy Garland show was cancelled, an emotionally and financially crushing blow to Garland. Throughout the 1960s Judy performed in a number of shows, including one with her then 18 year old daughter Liza Minnelli and an Australian tour. During this time Garland was recording notes to herself in hopes of writing an autobiography and in these tapes she said; ‘When you have lived the life I’ve lived, when you’ve loved and suffered, and been madly happy and desperately sad, well, that’s when you realize you’ll never be able to set it all down. Maybe you’d rather die first.’

Judy Garland’s final performance was at the New York City Palace theatre in 1967. Two years later she married her fifth and final husband Mickey Deans, with whom we hope she found some happiness. In June of 1969 Garland was found dead at the age of 47 from an overdose of barbiturates, the coroner stated it was accidental and not a suicide. At her memorial in New York City over twenty thousand people lined up and filled the streets to pay respects to her body.

People Outside Funeral of Judy Garland

The crowd of people paying respects to Judy at her funeral in 1969 Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Since her death Judy has had six separate records inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, she received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and every year her hometown of Grand Rapids Minnesota holds a Judy Garland festival in the month of June to commemorate and celebrate her life.

Judy was a talent and beauty that the world was lucky to know, but unfortunately her life was riddled with tragedy and heartbreak. She hated Hollywood and made it known in numerous interviews, she believed that MGM was responsible for her addiction and turning her down the dark path of depression an dependency. Judy was more than just a performer, she was a human being who was used and abused by people and an industry that didn’t give a shit about her but only her profits.

So I will end this short summation of her beautiful yet tragic life with a quote of her own words…

‘There is something besides ‘The Man That Got Away’ or ‘Over the Rainbow’ or ‘The Trolley Songs’. There’s a woman. There are three children. There’s me! There’s a lot of life going on here.’

‘I wanted to believe and I tried my damnedest to believe in the rainbow that I tried to get over and I couldn’t. SO WHAT!’


Judy Garland with her three beautiful children. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS




McConaissance or McConspiracy??

The only thing we love more than movies here at CablaGoobla is speculating wildly about conspiracy theories. Lucky for us these two things often go hand in hand.

The other night as I was about to watch the premiere of True Detective Season Two, I was thinking about the distinct lack of Matthew McConaughey, and then about how drastically old Matt turned his career around. This drastic change in roles has been referred to by critics worldwide as “The McConaissance” and has both confused and delighted film and television fans across the globe.

But where did this change come from? I now invite you on a journey through time as we put a (equally plausabile, and by that I mean ludacris) McConspiracy theory on the table for consideration.

Let’s start at his birth shall we? I mean we’re committed to this so we are going all the way here. Matthew was born in 1969 in Texas, the same year that the United States put a man on the moon, convenient… I don’t think so. His childhood was pretty simple, in high school he spent one year living in Australia before going off to college to study a Bachelor of Radio Television and Film back in Texas.

High School Hope - Such a Fragile Thing

High School Hope – Such a Fragile                           Thing

In 1993 he played David Wooderson in the Richard Linklater CLASSIC “Dazed and Confused.” This is one of those movies that is very much loved by film fanatics, so he got off to a really good start! Throughout the 90s he also appeared in “Angels in the Outfield” (classic), “The Texas Chainsaw Massace: The Next Generation” (well everybody has an awful horror movie in their past, it’s a right of passage) and “Boys on the Side” (starring Drew Barrymore, Whoopie Goldberg & Mary-Louise Parker) which despite the strong nineties cast is pretty bad.

Dazed and Confused Era - aka The Rapist Moustache Phase

Dazed and Confused Era – aka The Rapist                                      Moustache Phase

His big break came in 1998 with “A Time to Kill” based on the John Grisham novel. Matthew playe young lawyer Jake Tyler Brigance in the gritty tale of a black man on trial for murdering two men who raped his daughter, sparking a resurgence of KKK activity. So, it is clear here that McConaughey started out pretty damn strong! He was in a few shockers but this John Grisham movie appeared out of nowhere like “BAM LET’S GET REAL MATTHEW.” Things were on the up and up for his career, but as the nineties wore on, the evil monster that is RomCom typecasting starting to awake.

Then came a string of other really great roles in “Contact,” “Amistad” and “U-571” and it was all coming up Matthew McConaughey, he was lulled into a false sense of security by everyone around him. When all of a sudden, the producer of HBO’s “Sex and the City” (who I assume was sitting in a high backed leather chair and stroking a very fluffy cat while sporting an eye patch and smoking a cigar) shouted at his pleb minions “Bring me this McConaughey boy, we’ll make a typecast romatic interest out of him and make BILLIONS.”

Enter the bleakest phase of his career.
“Sex and the City” – Plays himself aka a hottie young actor
“The Wedding Planner” – Enough said
“Freedom a History of Us” (Documentary) hang on.. this actually seems good and he played a lot of interesting historical characters…. maybe
“How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” – ah fuck, sorry buddy.
“Sahara” – I mean you had good intentions with this, but it turned out terribly
“Failure to Launch” – Do not be fooled, this is not an awesome space movie, it’s a terrible terrible RomCom
“Two For the Money” – Football movie… maybe things are taking a turn…
“We Are Marshall” – Another Football movie? So soon? This can’t be good..
“Fool’s Gold” – This movie is probably the crowning jewel of BLEAK
“Tropic Thunder” – sigh
“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” – THIS was his wake up call.

All Hope is Lost

                     All Hope is Lost

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was truly the most awful movie, one of those films that when you are watching you can see your soul leaving your body and attempting to crawl into the other room so it doesn’t have to witness the nightmare. And obviously the one that got Matthew thinking about his life, I mean, he was quoted around this time saying “I got to feeling like, for a few years, I was doing something that I liked to do with romantic and action comedies. But believe me, I noticed there were other things that were not coming in.” We noticed it too buddy, we noticed it too.

After that atomic explosion of shit Matthew started taking a few roles that went against his shirtless, bozo, ladykiller typecast.

This is where the wild speculation gets rolling.

“The Lincoln Lawyer” came out in 2011 and once again Matthew was playing the role of a lawyer in a gritty drama film. Little piece of info I left out earlier, before studying film this guy was going to become a lawyer. Just before starting college he thought, nah this isn’t for me, I don’t want to lead that lawyer life.

Perhaps being cast as a lawyer again in an actually good movie made him feel a sea of regret and relief? The very thing he chose not to study in order to persue acting had potentially saved his career. And so begins our spiritual journey of irony.

Sometime between 2011 and and his Oscar Winning performance in “Dallas Buyers Club” in 2013, something happened to McConaughey, something that remains unexplained but crucial in our understanding of his career.

I have come up with a theory that has zero substantiated evidence, but that never stopped Fox Mulder, and I have no Scully to keep me in check so I am going to go for it.

After his appearance in “Magic Mike” Matthew decided to take a little time out for himself (probably to recover from the shame) maybe, just maybe, he wandered out into the desert. While strolling through the majestic beauty of the outlands, he sat down in the sand, and wept for seven days and seven nights. “Oh Matthew, what have you done” he cried, face in hands while looking up at the burning sun and glistening moon above him.

The evidence is strong.

                 The evidence is strong.

On the eighth day he was delirious, hallucinating about a future filled with academy awards, revered directors and characters who actually have substance. A mirage appears before his eyes, he walks towards it, stumbling on the cracked soles of his feet. Inside the mirage are the ghosts of films past. Standing before him in all their awful RomCom glory, hands outstretched, calling to him; “Cooome to usssssss, you will never wear a shirt on screen again.. come to us an embrace the suuuuuuuuuck.”

But then another mirage appeared, himself ten years in the future, and he grabbed his younger self and repeatedly punched him in the face until young Matthew fell unconcious on the ground. When he awoke he had lost 38 pounds and looked and felt like a new man, he followed the footprints in the sand his future self had left and emerged from his quest. This spiritual journey inspired him to take the role of Ron Woodruff in “Dallas Buyers Club” for which he won Best Actor at the Academy Awards and for which he mentioned (in part) the only evidence I have to corroborate my theory (see video).

Also around this time he really started to go on a lot of weird spritual nonsense rants, which can only be explained by what he saw alone out in that desert. It’s the only logical conclusion.

Next came “Wolf of Wall Street” and then his KO punch; “True Detective.” When I watched True Detective I was so ready to watch McConaughey fail, but every scene he was in was a symbolic “YOU DON’T KNOW ME” slap in the face. He had emerged from the fiery pits of RomCom hell as a soulful, gritty drama actor.

“Interstellar” came along, damn that movie is good, and he is fantastic in it! Combining his love of well written scripts, black holes and sand must have really been a dream come true for McConaughey. Shooting through space just like those men in his birth year, if anything it as his destiny, at the very least a spiritual calling that could only be explained by a dreadlocked shaman, but it has something to do with witnessing time travel himself.

Or is it?

                                 Or is it?

We had all doubted Matthew, for almost a decade we saw him prancing around without a shirt, playing the same worn out, idiotic, awful characters and when we were told he was going to be in a HBO drama we scoffed. But through it all, future Matthew was watching, pushing his younger self to go for it an make a good name, bring great pride upon the name of Matthew McConaughey.

And so there it is, our journey is complete.

Travolta: The journey.

Travolta is the Hollywood equivalent of that weird neighbour who you never want to speak to, but kind of have to because he is always *around.*

At the Academy Awards this week he seemed to accelerate his decline into madness by being the creepiest dude in attendance. In the photo below Travolta can be seen trying to kiss Scarlett Johansson, who looks completely unaware of the nightmare that is happening beside her.

He showed off, splashin around.

He showed off, splashin around.

With the current state of Travolta in mind, we would like to take you on an in depth analysis of the man,the myth, the enigma that SOMEHOW still gets invited to big events. Come with us now,on a journey up Mount Revolta.

Phase 1: Dreamboat Travolta
Before John descended into weirdsville he was quite the dreamboat, adored by many both in and out of the business after taking the lead role in the classic TV series “Welcome back Kotter.” That show was awesome, and Travolta was HILARIOUS in it. Next up came box office mega success stories Grease and Saturday Night Fever. If you were alive in the late 70s you probably wanted to bone or be John Travolta (even if he was already a Scientologist).

Phase 2: The Dark Times
Ummm anyone who has seen “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” will surely agree with me that it was one of the lamest, most terrible films ever made. I have seen it many times,purely for the lols at the bleak acting and tacky storyline. It’s a masterpiece of straight to VHS/DVD film-making. After this came One of a Kind and Perfect (yep we also have a “wait, what movie?” face on right now). While Travolta was busy swimming in a sea of shitty movie scripts he turned down roles in both American Gigolo AND An Officer and a Gentlemen.. mistake.. these films solidified the career of who we will now official knight as Travolta Rival #1 – Richard Gere. TO BE FAIR Travolta married his Boy in the Plastic Bubble co-star Diana Hyland in the 70s, and she did tragically die of Breast Cancer in 1977, so Travolta had bigger things on his mind, we’ll let this one slide Johnny.

Phase 3: Attempting Serious Career
This is where things started to get interesting. The nineties were an awkward time for everything, but the roles Travolta was choosing were more sporadick than Naomi Campbells mood. We got Look Who’s Talking (ugh) followed by a string of far more serious roles like Pulp Fiction, Face/Off (glory) and Get Shorty. It seems like he was aiming for a legitimate acting career… things were maybe going his way, he could be taken seriously! On a personal note he had married again and had baby Jett, it’s all coming up TRAVOLTA.

Johnny Cool.

                          Johnny Cool.

Phase 4: It all ends here, it all ends… today
Swordfish came out in 2001.

I really want to let Swordfish resonate with you all.

Okay, so that movie was the worst, I think we are all in general agreement here. It’s cliched, poorly written and I honestly don’t know how it attracted so many big names. Maybe it was the fact we had all just survived the dawning of the (age of aquarius) new millennium? Hacking is a thing? Right? I think those were the only two questions the producers of this movie asked during the pitch. Somehow Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry were seemingly unaffected by this gargantuan pile of rancid dung though, so what happened to Travolta?

Battlefield Earth happened. I just, I can’t even be mad about this movie, I’m just so deeply deeply disappointed. This movie received BULK terrible reviews and was, if you’ll excuse my French, a real kick in the vagina for SciFi lovers.

Meanwhile in the 2000s Travolta had two more kids and became pretty obsessed with flying planes.

In all seriousness though in 2009 things took a truly tragic turn with the death of John’s first son Jett in the Bahamas. As much as I wanted to write a truly “Mean Girls” type expose on Travolta I really can’t ignore the fact his child died. What a fucking nightmare.

So, I take a respectful (metaphorical) four year pause before plunging into the years 2013, 2014 & 2015…

Phase 5: Commencing Launch Sequence
Well, I think we all kind of didn’t notice the Travolta movies for the past few years, but we sure have noticed his truly bonkers behaviour at various events and awards ceremonies. I honestly think his main problem is saying words. He just, really struggles with those words! The 2013 Oscars he word vomited Les Miserables incorrectly, in 2014 I think we all remember the trainwreck that was him trying to pronounce Idina Menzel,in case you missed it… here is the special little treat…

Between the Academy Awards Travolta enjoyed hobbies such as (alleged) sexual assault and battery.. Yeah that masseur suing him thing was pretty pretty bad. BUT the case was dismissed by the judge. So… we cool? Not quite. In 2014 Travolta’s pilot (wait I thought HE was a pilot? So why.. whatever) made claims that they had a sexual relationship (affair) which Travolta denied repeatedly. NOTE they were not assault claims, just claims the two had a consensual homosexual relationship.

travolta nothing wrong

Now we are in 2015 and I think Travolta has made it his secret mission to just try and weird the absolute fuck out of everybody. He’s got nothing to lose. I’m not kidding the only movie he has coming out this year is “Gummy Bear The Movie 3D.” If your only job this year was doing a voice for a movie about a highly addictive CANDY, you would probably feel like Travolta too.


This years Oscars were simply a precursor to the glorious insanity that we can probably expect to see from Travolta, forever. Oh and if you need closure on the whole Idina Menzel name screw up, he tried his best this year too…(trust me, if nothing I have said in this has made sense to you so far, I really feel like this will clarify).

It’s been real Johnny-T and I can’t wait to see what new world of awkward we enter as the year progresses, CablaGoobla OUT.