Despair, Drugs and Attempts to Kill Herself: Judy Garland's Husband Details Her Many Struggles in New Memoir

Sid Luft, Judy Garland's third ex-husband, delves into the depression and drug use that led to Garland's multiple suicide attempts in a new memoir

Judy Garland and Husband Sitting at Table
Photo: Bettmann/Getty

More than four decades after her death by accidental drug overdose at age 47, a new memoir about Judy Garland, the legendary songstress best known for her role in The Wizard of Oz, reveals tragic new details about her life and loves.

The book Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland, written by Garland’s third husband Sid Luft (father of Lorna and Joey Luft) reveals Garland’s bouts of depression, her long-time pill use, an abortion she got during the early years of their relationship and several suicide attempts. (Garland had an older daughter Liza Minnelli, with her second husband, director Vincente Minnelli.)

The book is based on notes from his autobiography that was drafted and never published before Luft’s death in 2005.

In one incident in the early ’50s, Luft claimed that Garland’s depression was so debilitating that she slashed her throat in the bathroom of their Beverly Hills home. Luft, who rushed home to find her, writes:

“Judy had cut her throat with a razor blade….What demons inhabited her soul just when life seemed so rich and productive? It was a gigantic puzzlement that she would poison herself with pills, and that the toxic reaction to whatever she swallowed would create an impulse for self-mutilation.”

Afterwards, doctors rushed to the scene and saved Garland’s life.

He also revealed another suicide attempt in a D.C. hotel several years later.

“When Judy came out in her short white lace negligee, her arms were in front of her and she said, ‘Look, darling, what I’ve done!’ ” writes Luft. “Her wrists had been slashed and she was bleeding profusely.”

Judy Garland

Luft quickly made tourniquets for her arms and took her to a doctor.

According to Luft, Garland’s biggest struggle was her dependency on pills, specifically Benzedrine, which Luft claimed she took to lose weight so she could be, in her words, “camera-ready.”

“Whenever she began to drop considerable weight, it was dangerous, signaling an unhealthy use of pills,” he writes.

After years of substance abuse and attempts to quit cold-turkey, Luft claims that one day he searched Garland’s bedroom, where she often spent evenings alone, to find evidence of drug use.

“Pills were hidden in packages of cigarettes… The clothes hamper was filled with beer bottles and a vodka bottle all empty,” Luft writes.

Though Luft has been criticized for marrying Garland for his own benefit (he attempted to sell her Oscar in 1993), he also writes that he loved her and tried to protect her.

“Whatever bad things happened, you don’t fall out of love with somebody like her,” said Luft of Garland in a 2001 interview. “All I know is that if anyone tried to save a woman who was breaking apart, I did. I know that I did the best I could do, and it still wasn’t enough.”

Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland (Chicago Review Press) will be released on March 1.

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