Born into Hollywood royalty Liza Minnelli was the daughter of screen legend Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli. There was a certain inevitability that Liza would follow in the family tradition but even before she could make a considered choice she made her (brief) film debut at the age of three in the role of a child whose on screen parents were played by her real mother Judy Garland and actor Van Johnson in the musical In The Good Old Summer Time. When her parents divorced in 1944 Liza split her time between their separate homes and often accompanying her mother on tour, at the age of seven she joined her during a performance at New York's Palace Theatre and while Judy Garland sang 'Swanee', (a song she famously performed in the 1954 film A Star Is Born) Liza danced on the stage. Her schizophrenic homelife had found her schooling inconsistent and although she enrolled at the New York High School for the Performing Arts in 1961 by the following year she had also attended the Sorbonne in Paris before embarking on a professional acting career. Having already worked in the chorus of regional musical productions including Wish You Were Here, The Flower Drum Song and Take Me Along she made her professional debut at seventeen in an off-Broadway revival of the 1941 musical Best Foot Forward for which she received the 1963 Theatre World Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Debut. Gaining experience in touring productions of Carnival, The Pajama Game and The Fantasticks she also guested on her mother's American TV shows before signing to Capitol Records who released her 1964 debut Liza! Liza!. In November 1964 a bravura performance alongside her mother at the prestigious London Palladium was documented on the Judy Garland album Live At The London Palladium which was released the same year (1965) as her second solo album for Capitol It Amazes Me.
Her Broadway debut in John Kander & Fred Ebb's Flora, The Red Menace was rewarded with a Tony Award for Best Actress In A Musical (the youngest female to ever win it). An incredibly busy period saw her touring throughout the USA, performing in cabaret at New York's Plaza Hotel, appearing on TV in the musical The Dangerous Christmas Of Red Riding Hood, releasing her third and final album for Capitol There Is A Time. In 1967 she married for the first time, to Australian singer/songwriter Peter Allen although they would eventually divorce in 1974. Minnelli made her film debut in 1968 as a supporting character with Albert Finney in the movie Charlie Bubbles before recording a self-titled album for Herb Alpert's A&M Records. Her memorable starring role in The Sterile Cuckoo followed in 1969 for which she received nominations for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA.
Following the tragic death of her mother in June 1969 and the filming of Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon she released two more records for the A&M label, Come Saturday Morning and New Feelin' both in 1970. Despite having only made three significant film appearances, Minnelli was cast in the starring role of Bob Fosse's film version of Kander & Ebb's Broadway smash, Cabaret. Giving the performance of her life Minnelli was catapulted to fame and recognised in her own right rather than just as Judy Garland's daughter and she walked away with an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for Best Actress. On the back of their successful film partnership she teamed-up with Kander & Ebb and Bob Fosse to write the music and direct her TV special Liza With A 'Z'. A title that paraphrased her famous quoted irritiation about the spelling and pronunciation of her name. The TV show won an Emmy Award, the resulting soundtrack album Liza With A 'Z' was an unqualified hit and confirmed that Minnelli was at the height of her powers, her face was plastered all over magazines and newspapers and her live performances were complete sell-outs.
During recording the narration for the Hollywood documentary That's Entertainment she met film producer/director Jack Haley Jr. (the son of the actor who played the tin man opposite her mother in The Wizard Of Oz) and the two married in 1974 although the marriage would only last until 1979. Her next two big screen roles; 1975's Lucky Lady (opposite Gene Hackman and Burt Reynolds) and 1976's A Matter Of Time which was directed by her father Vincente Minnelli were met with poor reviews and although Martin Scorsese's 1977 musical New York, New York, featuring songs by Kander & Ebb and co-starring Robert De Niro was a box office failure, Minnelli's performance attracted much more positive reaction including a Golden Globe nomination. Scorsese and Minnelli also teamed-up for The Act, a highly successful 1977 Broadway musical that brought her another Tony Award. With the tabloids concentrating on her failed marriages (after divorcing Haley she was married to Marc Gerro between 1979 and 1992 and David Gest between 2002 and 2007) and her struggles with addiction, it would have been easy to think that her career was over. In truth, the 80s contained more positives than negatives; her role opposite Dudley Moore in Arthur (1981), her performance on Broadway in The Rink (1984), her Golden Globe winning role on American TV in A Time To Live (1984), a series of sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall (1987) and the record breaking The Ultimate Event tour with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jnr. combined to confound her detractors. 1989's Results paired her with the Pet Shop Boys who were fans, and they created a contemporary electronic album that put her in the charts and enjoyed particular success in the UK where the single 'Losing My Mind' peaked at No 6. Although her most successful albums have tended to be live recordings, in 1996 she released what was probably the best studio record of her career with Gently an eclectic collection of songs that also found her duetting with Johnny Mathis and Donna Summer.
While she has never bettered her early film successes and her recording career has been sporadic at best, Liza Minnelli's natural home has remained the stage where in concert and in dramatic musical roles she continued to break box office records around the world. Just as it was almost inevitable that her life would be spent in entertainment she was perhaps equally fated to have had to fight to break out of the immense shadow cast by her mother but her body of work and formidable successes unequivocally prove that she has surpassed all expectations.
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