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Get Happy by Gerald Clarke Book Review

Updated on September 22, 2018

About the book

Author: Gerald Clarke

Pages: 510

Published: 2000

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

The Book

Judy Garland will always be remembered for playing the part of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. But how many of us really knew much about her? Throughout her life she was always in the public eye, rarely out of it. But what was she like as a person? This book, written by Gerald Clarke, gives us a unique insight into the life of this gifted and talented, yet troubled woman. This book gives us a detailed account of her early life and how her singing career began as a young girl. Her mother was a very driven and determined lady, clearly the domineering kind of lady. She certainly drove her daughters hard into working at their young careers in the entertainment industry. Ethel Gumm could possibly be blamed for Judy's addiction to drugs, which sadly lasted her whole life and ultimately took her. As a child she could give Judy pills to keep her awake, and pills to help her sleep. Her father doted on her but unfortunately passed away at a young age for Judy, which affected her deeply.

What is interesting to read was her time spent in what seemed the regimented MGM studios under the hands of the founder of MGM, Louis B Mayer. Much like her mother, they controlled every aspect of her life including her social life and even what men she dated. If they disliked or disagreed with the current love of her life, they would tell her. From a child, she had her life taken care of and had everything done for her. When she left the care of her mother and moved into the MGM studios, her whole life was in the charge of the people around her. Consequently, she never really learnt any life skills as such. It is no surprise then that problems ensued and she found it difficult to cope, on and off screen.

The book basically covers Judy's life from birth to her untimely death. What we see is a woman who desperately wanted to be wanted, and loved. She searched for this love through her 5 marriages. Indeed, she did get 2 beautiful daughters with Lorna Luft and Liza Minnellia. The book covers her early days as a child singer and rise to stardom with her beautiful singing voice. And as we progress throughout the book it covers in detail her extensive movie career and also her personal life with her marriages and battle with drug addiction.

My Thoughts

I found the book interesting and intriguing to read. There is a whole chapter on the making of Wizard of Oz. This, of course, was her first starring role. It was interesting to read about the making of this film and about the other cast and crew. I guess it is easy to point fingers at people to blame for the way Judy led her life. As a child, she had her mother controlling her life, and then Louis B Mayer at MGM. But I think, ultimately, Judy made her own decisions in life. It is a sad fact that her emotional and drug problems got in the way of her career and personal life. Gerald Clarke does tell us of the many times she caused problems at the studios when she would just not turn up because she was sick. She relied a lot on people to do things for her and sort her problems out. There is no doubt she loved her daughters. I think through her daughters, she finally found that love she craved all her life. But in the end, her addictions were all too great.

This book I found interesting and captivating to read. I learned a lot about Judy Garland as a person and the people around her. She had such a wonderful talent at singing and acting. She did, indeed, brighten peoples lives when she started singing. But it was also sad to read that she was always longing and searching for people to love her and to simply take care of her. It is an intriguing and fascinating book to read.


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