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The Dark Side of The Rainbow Sofia Ribeiro Willcox on finding Dorothy in us all

The Dark Side of The Rainbow

Sofia Ribeiro Willcox on finding Dorothy in us all

by Sofia Ribeiro Willcox, Cultural Exchanger and Explorer
first published: November, 2022

approximate reading time: minutes

Judy's experience in the land of Oz was the opposite of wonderful.

The rainbow is the favourite and mystic destination of many cultures and superstitions. Many beliefs and meanings surround this symbol, from the gold pot to the bridge for the ancestors. That optical phenomenon is associated with the aftermath of simultaneous rain and sun; however, rainbows appear anytime or anywhere as long as there are water droplets in the air and sunlight shines behind them at a low angle.

Frances Ethel Gumm had a stormy life.

She was the fruit of unintended pregnancy from the vaudeville performers Frank and Ethel Marian Gumm. The apple never falls far from the tree; Frances and her older sisters, Mary Jane and Virginia, created the act “The Gumm Sisters.” Performing was the light of her life. In 1926, the family theatre turned into a failure, as people were homophobic and suspicious of Frank’s sexuality. That was the reason why, in the same year, the Gumm's moved to the Golden State.

They studied acting and dancing in the California; their mother, Ethel, became their manager and agent. Frances was the apple of her father's eye, while her mother was strict and toxic. The Gumm Sisters' career took off with a series of short films, including The Big Revue (Charles Reiner, 1929), Bubbles (Roy Mack, 1930) and The Wedding of Jack and Jill (Roy Mack, 1930). Eventually, the group changed their name to the Garland Sisters. Mary Jane changed her name to Suzanne and got married in 1935, ending their fraternal spectacle. Following her elder sister, Frances switched her name to “Judy”, possibly after a popular 1930s Hoagy Carmichael song with the same name.

In the wake of the Garland Sisters' breakup, Judy was hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. During the 1930s, MGM was the biggest, most popular, and most prestigious studio. Garland was the sun, while many women were the moon. However, in the same year, her beloved father was hospitalized with meningitis, and in a short time, he died from it. Her experience in the land of Oz was the opposite of wonderful. She experienced a massive transformation in her appearance. An evil queen started poisoning her with a nonsense diet on the basis of chicken soup and injected drugs from an early age. Numerous verbal aggressions and abuses from co-workers. Sexual harassment from superiors. The darkness and toxicity behind the Golden Hollywood era. 

Judy Garland innocently aimed to leave this environment through marriages. Throughout her forty-seven years, she married five times. Her first marriage ended in wheat, after her abortion at the insistence of her mother and the studio with the allowance of her first husband. Her first daughter was the fruit of her second marriage which ended in iron. Judy had postnatal depression; therefore, she remained in the hospital for a month. Her third spouse was sued by her due to grounds of mental cruelty and aggression, which ended in lace. Before the third divorce became official, she married secretly in Hong Kong, legally in Las Vegas later; however, they were divorced six months later due to Herron’s aggressions and a bitter battle over child custody. Her fifth partner, together till her death do they part. 

In parallel with her unfortunate marriages, her alcohol and drugs addiction, suicide attempts and eating disorders also affected her professionally. It contributed to her tardiness and absence on set. MGM fired her in 1950, making her financially unstable.

Judy, however, carefully and cleverly selected her husbands, both of them could boost her career. Vincent Minelli (Garland’s second husband) was a film director that changed her star persona from an infantile girl-next-door to more mature roles and a star in many musicals from the decade. Sydney Luft (her third spouse) was her tour manager and producer, who took her career beyond the United States. 

On June 22, 1969, Judy Garland died from an accidental barbiturate overdose in London; her funeral was in New York a week later. According to popular legend, the freshness of the event was part of the impetus for the Stonewall riots.  

Stonewall was a series of violent confrontations between police and LGBT+ rights activists outside the Stonewall Inn, a New York gay bar in the Greenwich Village. As the riots progressed, an international gay rights movement was born. This series of events became a symbol of resistance against social and political discrimination and oppression. Moreover, it served as a catalyst for a new generation of political activism, not only in the United States, worldwide.

Even the slang and euphemism "friend of Dorothy" (FOD) makes this connection between her and the LGBTQ+ community apparent. Later in 1978, the iconic rainbow flag was created; it symbolizes resistance, love, freedom, pride, and union. It is constantly added new colours in order to represent the diversity of this community with varied social groups involved, countless sexualities and gender identities.

After many years of storm, the rainbow will come to everybody-there we will find Judy Garland.

Essential Info
The Dark Side of the Rainbow was first published on Sofia's website. But we just don't have enough Judy Garland here and wanted it for ourselves!

Sofia Ribeiro Willcox
Cultural Exchanger and Explorer

Sofia has a BA with Hons in Creative and Professional Writing and Film and Television Studies from the University of Wolverhampton (2020-2023). Born in Brazil, Sofia is an enthusiast of pop culture (cinephile and melophile), social sciences (snowflake generation), and poetry (lusophone).

about Sofia Ribeiro Willcox »»



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