Today at 12pm, Easter Parade will hit BBC 2 screens, with the indefinable Judy Garland starring alongside the exceptional Fred Astaire. The MGM picture was released in 1948, just under ten years after Garland’s career-defining 1939 picture The Wizard of Oz – but she didn’t have an easy time bringing the movie to big screens. Before production even began, her husband was slated to direct the movie.
At the time in 1948, Garland was married to her second husband Vincente Minnelli. The pair first met on the set of the 1944 movie Meet Me In St Louis. Garland played the film’s star, Esther Smith, while Minnelli was the film’s director.
He took quite a liking to her but wanted to change how she was seen by the public. Up until that point, Garland was seen as a sort of Girl Next Door figure. Minnelli wanted her to break out of this stereotype and become a real actress. As a result, he connected her with new hair and make-up professionals to give her a new look.
After he gave her this attention, their connection grew, and the following year – on June 15, 1945 – the pair were married. A year later, on March 12, 1946, Garland gave birth to her daughter, Liza Minnelli.
But things swiftly went downhill.
Garland’s mental health issues and addictions reared their heads again, and she began struggling.
She reportedly self-medicated with drugs such as amphetamines and sleeping pills. Both of which she was introduced to as a teenager. At just 26-years-old, her issues with anxiety and depression seeped into every aspect of her life.
As a result, she began arguing with Minnelli. So when Vincente was optioned to direct the 1948 picture Easter Parade, Garland went to her therapist for advice.
The psychiatrist reportedly gave her a strong dose of wisdom: Do not let Minnelli direct that film. (Via IMDB)
Garland took the advice on board and, before long, director Charles Walters was brought on to direct the picture.
It is not known how Minnelli took the news, but MGM was thrilled. The movie was the company’s highest-grossing film of the year.
Easter Parade even won an Oscar the following year for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
It no doubt helped that Garland was working alongside Astaire, who was brought onto the picture to replace Gene Kelly, who had broken his foot just before shooting began.
Things did not end well for Garland and Minnelli, however.
After Garland’s personal issues continued to spiral out of control, she was eventually fired by MGM in 1949. She was pulled off the film she was shooting, Annie Get Your Gun, for “excessive tardiness, overweight, drunkenness, and instability”. (Via PBS)
Distraught, Garland reportedly went on to have an affair, which was the final nail in the coffin for her marriage to Minnelli. They divorced in 1951 after just six years of marriage.
The following year, in 1952, she married American producer Sid Luft, the man she was married to the longest out of her five husbands.
Garland was married to Luft for 13 years, until 1965.