Classic Hollywood wasn't all bright lights and beautiful stars...
She Couldn’t Marry or Have Kids
First, the studio was unhappy about her planned wedding to David Rose when she turned 18. In fairness, that was partially to maintain her youthful persona and partially because she was not yet divorced and “home wrecker” was not a look they wanted on Judy. The couple eventually did wed, but the studio was not happy—and that’s where things get even more sinister.
In 1941, Garland became pregnant. In case this wasn’t obvious, MGM was not going to risk losing their newly minted teenage starlet to something as silly as a baby. The execs insisted that Judy have an abortion. The starlet complied, because (as Jane Ellen Wayne notes in The Golden Girls of MGM) “married or not, the MGM girls maintained their virginal image.” A few years later, it would happen again and despite Judy’s desire to keep the child, MGM arranged another abortion against her wishes.
3. Also, Judy and her Teenage Cohorts Were Drugged… A lot
Because the studios benefitted from pumping out as many movies as possible and packaging them into bundles, which would raise profits and ensure that “B movies” would be bought as well as “A movies,” stars were forced to work almost non-stop. Like I said before, Old Hollywood was basically that episode of Black Mirror with the singing competition.
The studios soon realized that people can’t work for multiple days in a row without rest. Even though they were slowly killing their young stars, rather than cut back production a tiny bit, the execs were just like “we have deadlines” and kept pushing, instead. Their solution was to force their stars to take cocktails of drugs to keep them on schedule.
Paul Donnelly’s biography of Garland, offers the starlet’s own take on the experience:
“They had us working days and nights on end. They’d give us 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—Mickey [Rooney] sprawled out on one bed and me on another. Then after four hours, they’d wake us up and give us pep pills again so we could work 72 hours in a row.”