As Judy Garland's character rose to fame in A Star Is Born, her life was falling apart.

Judy Garland knew what it was like to be a falling star.

When she was just 31 years old, she played the role of Esther Blodgett in the 1954 version of A Star Is Born

She starred opposite James Mason as Norman Maine, a troubled Hollywood actor who was beginning to lose his grip on fame.

In the film, the pair meet when Esther is performing as part of a singing group. Norman stumbles on stage drunk and Garland’s character helps him save face by pretending it’s part of the act.

Impressed by her talent, Norman introduces Esther to his movie studio, and she quickly rises to fame.

But while Esther’s star was on the rise, Garland’s was on the decline.

Holly Wainwright, Rachel Corbett and Leigh Campbell debriefed on the movie after they watched it: 

According to The New Yorker, the actress had been addicted to amphetamines since she was a child actress. M-G-M, the studio she worked for, would feed her pills to keep her energy levels consistent throughout long, tiring days in front of the camera.

She was never able to kick the habit.

After several suicide attempts, she was fired from The Barkleys of Broadway, Annie Get Your Gun, and Royal Wedding. She was later completely let go by the studio.

In 1952, she married a movie producer named Sid Luft. The couple would have a daughter named Lorna together. After Lorna’s birth, Garland suffered from post-partum depression.

Under a doctor’s advice she was medicated, but she was also self-medicating with amphetamines and diet pills. She was obsessed with being “camera slim”.

In his memoir, Judy and I, Luft would admit that he never fully understood how much Garland was suffering.


“I wasn’t thinking of Judy as a clinically ill person, or This is an addict. I was worried something awful had happened to the delightful, brilliant woman I loved,” he explained.

Luft ultimately realised that he may have enabled Garland’s habit.

“I was enabling—a lesser version of what M-G-M had blatantly and inhumanely jammed down her throat.”

It was around this time that Garland decided she wanted to star in a remake of the 1937 version of A Star Is Born. Luft agreed it would help to restore her damaged reputation and acting credibility, and made a deal with someone to buy the rights.

But it was a move that ultimately backfired.

The film – which had key scenes cut by the studio – flopped in cinemas. At that year’s Oscars, Garland was sure she would receive the gong for best actress, but instead it went to Grace Kelly for her role in The Country Girl.

“The grosses fell by half. We went from heroes to failures. I said to Judy, ‘Jesus, baby, this picture is not going to make any money!’ We couldn’t believe what was happening,” Luft explained in his memoir.

A Star Is Born would be Garland’s last major movie role. She would later find work in singing tours and TV shows, but would never again rise to the heights of fame she experienced in her younger years.

After the film, her dependence on prescription medications increased, and she nearly died of liver failure.

Following years of failures and disappointments, Garland and Luft divorced in 1965.

In 1969, Garland died of a drug overdose. She was just 47 years old.

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