Judy Garland found fame on the big screen. But off-screen, the star led a life of self-destruction -- looking for love despite being married five times
Her iconic character Dorothy set out to find happiness “Over the Rainbow” in The Wizard of Oz. But off-screen, Judy Garland‘s quest for peace was plagued by insecurity, depression and drug abuse.
By her side throughout the young star’s life were her five husbands, who each witnessed her struggle with her inner demons.
Sadly, love couldn’t save Garland, who died in 1969 from a barbiturate overdose. She was 47.
Here, the stories behind her marriages and the men in Garland’s life.
David Rose (1941–1944)
David Rose was already a successful composer and orchestra leader when he first met Garland — he was asked to make some arrangements for her records. She was young then, and their association was purely professional. But after his first marriage to actress Martha Raye ended after less than three years, he and Garland saw more of each other. Eventually, their common enthusiasm for music led to romance, and they married in July 1941.
It was a scandalous move at the time. Garland, the shining star of MGM, was just 19, and Rose was 12 years her senior. Her mother and the MGM studio heads forbade her to do it, worried the wedding would ruin her reputation as the innocent teenager from The Wizard of Oz. But Garland stood her ground — rushing off to Las Vegas with Rose to get hitched.
Their shared musical passion wouldn’t be enough to keep them together. The two were polar opposites — Rose, reserved, and Garland, far more fond of parties and dancing. According to biographer Gerald Clarke, Garland was anxious to be a mother. But when she found out she was pregnant, both her mother and Rose would encourage her to have an abortion. The two divorced in 1944.
Rose would continue to find success with hits like “The Stripper” and “Holiday for Strings.” He won four Emmys for compositions he wrote for television programs like Little House on the Prairie and Bonanza.
Vincente Minnelli (1945—1951)
Garland’s 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis was one of her biggest hits — launching songs “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” into the American lexicon. But it was memorable for Garland for another reason: It’s where she met her second husband, director Vincente Minnelli.
It was Minnelli who pushed Garland to drop her “girl-next-door” image, hiring a makeup artist who refined her appearance to give her a more sophisticated look. The makeover exposed Garland to a whole new audience. They would marry in June 1945.
But Garland’s crippling insecurities, depression and anxieties would eventually take over — especially as she self-medicated with drugs like amphetamines and sleeping pills, which she had used since she was a child. Fired from MGM after 15 years, Garland had a nervous breakdown and spiraled out of control — even attempting suicide twice. The stresses took a toll on their marriage, and Garland began an affair. She and Minnelli divorced in 1951.
Sid Luft (1952—1965)
Though they first met when she was 15, Garland and businessman Sid Luft began dating 14 years later when Garland was still married to Minnelli. Out of work and recently hospitalized after a suicide attempt, Garland was at a low point. But in Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland — a new memoir about the late star excerpted in this week’s PEOPLE — Luft writes he felt “an electrical force” and a desire to protect her.
They married in June 1952 — and would remain together for 13 years, by far her longest relationship. They had two children together — Lorna Luft, born in November 1952, and Joey Luft, born March 1955.
He became her manager and staged a comeback with triumphant live engagements in London and New York, and was instrumental in getting her the lead in 1954’s A Star Is Born, which earned her an Oscar nomination.
However, Luft couldn’t save her from herself. In the years that followed, her dependency on various pills quickly began to dominate their relationship. He said her drug addiction, suicide attempts and constant struggle to diet drove them further apart. “If I were to show concern, she’d abruptly tell me to ‘f— off.’ ” he wrote.
By 1962, the pair were living “virtually separate lives” in the same home, with the children residing in one wing that Garland occasionally visited. “[The children] wouldn’t realize she was stoned,” Luft writes.
For more about Judy Garland and Sid Luft’s marriage, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE — on newsstands now
They finally divorced in May 1965, with Garland telling a judge at a court hearing that Luft had been abusive, according to numerous reports. The New York Times said Garland told Edward R. Brand of the Superior Court, “He struck me many times. He did a lot of drinking.”
Though Luft denied the claims, he again faced scrutiny decades later when he attempted to sell her Academy Award, only to be blocked by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. He married twice more.
Mark Herron (1965—1967)
Garland wasn’t single for long. She married actor (and tour promoter) Mark Herron in a Las Vegas ceremony in November 1965. (They actually wed in the summer of 1964, but since Garland was still legally married to Luft, they had to wait to make it official.)
He produced Garland’s two 1964 London Palladium concerts with Liza, as well as some 1956 Canadian appearances.
They separated five months later. Garland was granted a divorce in 1976, testifying that Herron had beaten her. According to The Los Angeles Times, he said he had “only hit her in self-defense.”
Herron continued acting — often appearing in summer stock productions. He had a long-lasting relationship with fellow actor Henry Brandon. The two stayed together until Brandon’s death in 1990. Herron died in 1996.
Mickey Deans (1969)
Musician Mickey Deans was only married to Garland for three months before she died.
The two met on strange terms. As he explained in his 1972 autobiography Weep No More, My Lady, they were in Garland’s hotel in New York in 1966 — Deans posing as a doctor when delivering the singer a package of stimulant tablets.
They dated on-and-off for three years before Deans proposed, and they wed on March 15, 1969.
He discovered Garland on the morning of June 22, 1969 dead in their bathroom.
Eventually, Deans moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he focused on historic renovations and producing police fundraising events. He never remarried, and died of congestive heart failure in July 2003 at the age of 68.