‘Judy was the love of his life’

Producer Sid Luft, who is credited with reviving the career of his then-wife Judy Garland in the 1950s, has died. He was 89.

Luft, whose movie production credits included Kilroy Was Here (1947), French Leave (1948) and A Star Is Born (1954), died on Thursday in Santa Monica of an apparent heart attack, John Kimble, a long-time friend and business partner of Luft, said on Friday.

Luft and Garland were married in 1952 and divorced a tumultuous 13 years later. The marriage was Garland’s third and Luft’s third.

They had two children together, Lorna in 1952 and Joey in 1955.

Luft also was stepfather to singer and actress Liza Minnelli, who Garland had with director Vincente Minnelli in 1946.

Luft was credited with helping resurrect Garland’s career after she was released from her contract at MGM in 1950 following a series of personal and professional crises. It was at MGM that she became a star and made such films as The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me in St Louis.

Luft, as Garland’s manager and agent, produced stage shows for her in London and New York and then brought her back to motion pictures, said Coyne Steven Sanders, Luft’s long-time friend and author of the 1990 Garland biography Rainbow’s End.

A Star Is Born, produced by Luft and directed by George Cukor, brought Garland an Academy Award nomination for best actress. The oft-filmed story of a troubled movie star whose career is overshadowed by that of his protegée also got five other nominations, including for best actor (James Mason), best score and best song.

Luft in 1995 also successfully produced a special show for CBS that marked Garland’s first appearance on television.

But Luft’s marriage to Garland was marked by numerous separations. During their divorce hearing in 1965, Garland told a judge that Luft was an abusive husband.

”He struck me many times. He did a lot of drinking,” Garland, who died in 1969, told a judge.

Garland professionally turned to Luft again in 1966 and he booked her on United States and international stage tours, Sanders said.

”Sid was a great showman, he had great instincts and he knew how to package and put together a show,” Sanders said. ”Certainly, I can say, knowing him, that Judy was the love of his life. He still loved her and always did.”

In 1993, when Luft tried to auction off the 1939 best-juvenile-actress Oscar that Garland won for her performance in The Wizard of Oz, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences sued and won.

After he and Garland divorced, Luft married Patti Hemingway in 1970. That union also ended in divorce.

He married actress Camille Keaton in 1993. — Sapa-AP

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