Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
A warning letter in the morning for Judy Garland, dated on May 10, 1949, was signed by Louis K. Sidney (Vice President of MGM), and it read in part:
DEAR MISS GARLAND:
You must be aware of the fact that your contract with us requires you to be prompt in complying with our instructions and to perform your services conscientiously and to the full extent of your ability and as instructed by us.
We desire to call your attention to the fact that on a great many occasions since the commencement of your services in "ANNIE GET YOUR GUN," you were either late in arriving on the set in the morning, late in arriving on the set after lunch, or were otherwise responsible for substantial delays or curtailed production, all without our consent. The damage to us due to these infractions of your obligations under your contract with us is very substantial....
The letter concluded that if without proper cause she was absent from this point on, or tardy in reporting as instructed, they would do whatever they were entitled to, "including, but not limited to, the right to remove you from "ANNIE GET YOUR GUN," to cast someone else in the role of "ANNIE" and to refuse to pay you compensation until the completion of such role by such other person."
Judy Garland was in tears. She is a star who had earned millions for MGM since she was a teenager, now being warned not to be late or she would be fired. She turned to Dottie Ponedel, who was her make-up artist, friend and confidant.
"Dottie, they can't do that to me, can they? If I can't go to work?"
Dottie said, "Yes, they can if you say you won't go to work."
Judy replied, "I'm not going to do it. I can't."
Dottie tried to encourage her, "Come on, do it, Judy, go out and work or they'll fire you."
But Judy persisted: "I won't. I won't. They can't do anything to me. I've got a contract."
Dottie warned her, "But your contract has a clause that says if you won't go to work, they'll fire you."
"Not me," said Judy.
Dottie gave up. "O.K. Don't go. If you don't want to go, don't go."
Judy Garland made up her mind and did not return to the set after lunch on May 10, 1949. A short time later, she received another letter the same day, like the one earlier that morning, May 10, 1949, and signed again by the Vice President of MGM.
DEAR MISS GARLAND:
You have refused to comply with our instructions to report on the set of "ANNIE GET YOUR GUN" after lunch today and you have also advised us that you do not intend to render your service in said photoplay.
This is to notify you that for good and sufficient cause and in accordance with the rights granted to us under the provisions of Paragraph 12 of your contract of employment with us dated November 21, 1946, we shall refuse to pay you any compensation commencing as of May 10, 1949, and continuing until the expiration of the time which would have been reasonably required to complete the role of "ANNIE" in the photoplay "ANNIE GET YOUR GUN" or (should another person engaged to portray such role) until the completion of such role by such other person....
That was the fact. Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz darling, and the greatest singing star in films, had been fired from Metro's property, "Annie Get Your Gun", a $3 million musical with songs by Irving Berlin, bought for her and tailored for her. Her salary of nearly $6,000 a week was stopped that day. Judy Garland was only 27 years old at the time.
She was taken home, and a few days later she read that Betty Hutton had been borrowed from Paramount Pictures Studios to replace her and play the title role of Annie.
Judy Garland who was angry and upset, later told director Chuck Walters "I don't believe it! After the money I made for these sons of bitches! These bastards! These lousy bastards! God damn them!"
This didn't spell the end of Judy Garland's association with MGM, however she was suspended yet again. Told by the doctors that Judy Garland needed several months rest, studio head Louis B. Mayer stated: "I've got millions tied up in this girl, I need her to work", and Judy was put right back into her final film for MGM entitled Summer Stock (1950). At 28 years old, Judy Garland received her third suspension and Judy and MGM terminated their working relationship for good in 1950. Hollywood called her "irresponsible, unreliable and unemployable."
She went on to make a few more movies with other studios (Roxlom Films and Warner Bros) including A Star Is Born (1954) which many believe she was unlucky not to win an Oscar for "Best Actress". It's fair to say that it was maybe Hollywood's way of paying her back for the trouble they figured she'd caused them. She returned to performing on stage after her film career was over.