For audiences familiar with “Sid & Nancy,” the title of a new documentary streaming and airing on Showtime will be disconcerting. But instead of a pair of lovers entrenched in punk rock, “Sid & Judy” tells the story of Judy Garland through the words of the journal of her third husband Sid Luft. The film is narrated by Jon Hamm and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
But in “Sid & Judy,” it isn’t just the lives of the married couple that gets exposed for audiences. The film is also a documentary about Garland’s early life. Her father performed on vaudeville and his three daughters followed in his footsteps. Each detail is interesting. The dark moments in Garland’s life, including her clashes with her mother are covered, as are scandalous tidbits about her father’s rumored homosexuality as the reason the family moved to the West Coast from Garland’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. There, it seemed, a star was born, even though the Gumm Sisters (soon to become Garland) had been performing for years.
The world of “Sid & Judy”
The context the film provides through black-and-white clips of New York during the 1950s for example, shines a light on the glamorous era and how exciting it must have been to be a famous person during such an era. But Garland’s story reminds viewers that there were a number of rules and guidelines especially concerning weight and appearance that she had to follow which might have made the limelight a little less fun.
But to the filmmakers’ credit, the world of the story is created effectively, and slowly the Garland of headlines and rumors disappears, and a real woman with anxiety and other issues appears. She becomes a real person. In some ways, the film challenges viewers to see Garland beyond “The Wizard of Oz” and the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” However, the latter takes on a melancholic feel when listeners consider Garland’s life.
“Sid & Judy”: a love story
Garland would ultimately be married five times. Luft was husband No. 3, but, lasting 13 years, his marriage to Garland would be her longest. Her fourth marriage would only last five months. Her fifth marriage to musician Mickey Deans, would only last three months because of Garland’s death at 47.
Thus, Garland’s time with Luft seems the most meaningful for the way he recalls their life together and details of Garland’s life in general.
Even if Garland had not been famous, a woman who dealt with a pushy mother, possibly abusive husbands and a likely closeted father would have a life story that would be a fascinating narrative for anyone interested in the lives of others. That Garland was so famous that she became iconic, makes the facts of her life even more interesting. Her trials also point out the problems with the way women were treated in Hollywood.
Garland’s relevance to the gay community was mentioned, but no one could quite pinpoint her appeal, except that she offered hope in the form of her many comebacks and the songs she sang with the authority afforded by her big voice and indomitable spirit.
“Sid & Judy” is necessary viewing for those who like true Hollywood stories, or just American narratives, or anyone who wants to hear a fascinating story of a woman who seemed to have it all, but whose fragilities kept showing up, even as the public and others demanded more from her.