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Liza Minnelli, 'Cabaret' Phenom and Judy Garland's Daughter, Then And Now

Entertainment | March 12, 2021

Liza Minnelli in 'Cabaret.' Source: IMDB

When you're born the daughter of Judy Garland, as Liza Minnelli was, singing, dancing and acting are not casual pursuits. If you didn't inherit mama's pipes, don't bother. Good news for Liza, whose father was the director Vincente Minnelli -- the young performer proved to have a world-class singing voice, and the dance and acting chops to make a splash in Hollywood. Her Best Actress Oscar for Cabaret, nomination for The Sterile Cuckoo, and Emmy accolades for several performance specials all suggest that the daughter was born to follow in her mother's footsteps.

Liza and Judy one of the most successful mother daughter pairs ever. (biography)

Hollywood creates stars, which naturally leads to power couples that inevitably beget Hollywood kids. More often than not the children of these incredibly famous and powerful pairings end up in the same industry as their parents. While the leg up on the competition helps, most kids of the famous actors and actresses fall short of their parents’ towering achievements. Either that or they end up as cautionary tales of getting too much too soon. Liza Minnelli transcended all of those cliches and became a huge star in her own right. Her path to fame and fortune wasn’t without bumps but she navigated the turbid water of Hollywood her way without apologies. 

A Star From The Start

Not a normal childhood but one Liza enjoyed nevertheless. (entertainmentweekly)

Obviously, as the child of Judy Garland, Liza grew up around the stage. At three years old her mother took her on stage for the first time. At 11 she danced under the bright lights as her mother sang “Swanee” from “A Star Is Born.” Her childhood was atypical but not one she regretted, "It was no great tragedy being Judy Garland's daughter. I had tremendously interesting childhood years–except they had little to do with being a child."

Dancing was Liza’s first love, “I always wanted to be a dancer. I went all my life. And then, I was always hoping that I’d get to be in the yearly show. Twice I didn’t make it. But the third time, I got it.” After her parents divorced when she five she ended up on the road with her mother. “When I was growing up, nearly everybody I met was in the industry. Looking back, of course you realize that wasn’t a regular childhood. But to me, at the time, it was.”

Genes, Grinding, And Good Fortune

Minnelli worked tirelessly to follow in her mother's footsteps. (TCM)

With the stage in her blood and her sights, she lived alone in New York at the precocious age of 16. “I was at the Barbizon Hotel for women. I went to dance school every day, two classes a day. I went to see shows. My dad was nice enough to tell the producers to let me in. I watched a lot of them from the back, so I could see every detail.” Such an early start obviously paid dividends when she became the youngest actress to ever win a Tony for leading actress in “Cabaret.”

Her co-star Joel Grey knew stardom when he saw it, “She was this fresh, bursting, bright-eyed talent. You could see that connection to her mother and father. You just knew that she was somebody that was going to happen. She was so tender and frail and fragile and strong at the same time.”

Learning For Better And For Worse From Her Mother

Liza inherited many of her mother's strengths but also a few of her weaknesses as well. (Vogue)

In Judy Garland’s day, actors were treated very differently. Garland once recalled, “They’d give me and Mickey Rooney pills to keep us on our feet long after we were exhausted. ... Then they’d take us to the studio hospital and knock us out with sleeping pills… Then after four hours they’d wake us up and give us the pep pills again so we could work 72 hours in a row. Half of the time we were hanging from the ceiling, but it was a way of life for us.” That brutal treatment led to Garland’s addiction problems, which she, unfortunately, passed on to her daughter.

Despite their growing difficulties, the two grew closer as Minnelli aged. “As I became a teenager, I became her best friend and confidante. We would laugh and talk for hours. Sometimes in person, sometimes on the phone, depending where we were. As I grew up, we became incredibly close.” 

Unfortunately, Garland died of an accidental overdose in 1969. She was just 47 years old.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Liza checked into Betty Ford to address her addiction issues. (pinterest) .jpeg

Minnelli’s stardom eventually overshadowed even that of her mother. She became one of the very few actresses to earn EGOT status, winning an Emmy, a Grammy Legend Award, an Oscar, and four Tony awards. She even made the pixie cut fashionable by pure accident after cutting some gum out of her hair.

However, performing on stage with her mother still gave her the biggest butterflies. “It was the strangest feeling,” says Minnelli. “One minute I was on stage with my mother, the next moment I was on stage with Judy Garland. One minute she smiled at me, and the next minute she was like the lioness that owned the stage and suddenly found somebody invading her territory.”

As she put it, “I got my drive from my mama and my dreams from my father. “She had drive and she had guts. She had huge ambition, a great sense of resilience, and a simply wonderful sense of humor. I like to think she passed those three traits on to me. You don’t ask a princess what it feels like to be a princess, because she doesn’t know anything but being a princess. I didn’t know anything but being Judy Garland’s daughter.”

Tags: Judy Garland | Ladies | Liza Minnelli | Then And Now

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!