‘Sid & Judy’: 3 Major Takeaways From Showtime’s Documentary
“The Little Girl With the Big Voice” who grew up to be one of Hollywood’s most tragic and resilient figures — that’s how many people think of The Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland, who died of an accidental overdose of barbiturates 50 years ago, at age 47.
In the intimate documentary Sid & Judy, her addiction and string of late-career comebacks play out against her relationship with third husband Sid Luft (above, with Garland and son Joey).
Their love affair began shortly after MGM terminated the unreliable Garland’s contract in 1950. Luft produced her Oscar-nominated turn in 1954’s A Star Is Born and was there for her triumphant 1961 Carnegie Hall concert before they divorced in 1965. Sid & Judy director Stephen Kijak, who used excerpts from Luft’s memoir (read, as the couple, by Jon Hamm and Jennifer Jason Leigh) for voiceover narration, previews three key takeaways.
1 . Garland’s Hollywood story remains painfully relevant.
Fans know the tale: MGM provided prescription pills to help the starlet work long days and then fall asleep, and monitored her weight. Her business managers embezzled from her. CBS tinkered with her variety series The Judy Garland Show (1963–64), then just canceled it. “There was that talent being misused, abused and taken advantage of by the system, [which] is run by dudes,” Kijak says. “This highlights, yet again, that problem of men trying to control women.”
2 . Judy isn’t without blame for her dependency.
We learn the lengths she’d go to for pills and alcohol, but the era must be considered, too. While looking through old women’s magazines for stories on Garland, Kijak notes, “Every third page is an ad for ‘Calm your nervous wife down. Take these pills.’ It was part of the culture.”
3 . Her talent still mesmerizes.
Side-by-side versions of “The Man That Got Away” from A Star Is Born illustrate the performer’s power and control, Kijak says. She delivered “as much intensity as she would on the stage, take after take,” he adds. “It’s mind-boggling.”
Sid & Judy, Documentary Premiere, Friday, October 18, 8/7c, Showtime