“Judy Garland to Visit Hong Kong” reported the South China Morning Post on April 28, 1964, describing the American singer and actress, most famous for starring in 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, as “the highest paid woman entertainer in the world”.
Garland’s visit followed a stormy tour of Australia. In Melbourne, the Post reported on May 23, the audience had “booed and slow-handclapped” the singer when she arrived more than an hour late for a concert.
The 42-year-old star had then apparently been “dragged struggling on to a plane” (high winds were later blamed) departing Melbourne for Sydney before “spending her last 25 hours in Australia accompanied by three bodyguards in her luxury hotel suite”.
Garland arrived in Hong Kong on May 23, breaking her silence on May 28 in a radio interview reported in the following day’s Post. She said: “I will sing anywhere in the world, but Melbourne […] The town, the press in Melbourne were absolutely beastly to me.
“I shall have some rest here. I shall go shopping tomorrow. I am interested in jades, jewellery and some dresses.”
However, things did not turn out as Garland had hoped.
On the same day, the Post reported: “Miss Judy Garland […] was rushed unconscious with a suspected heart attack to Canossa Hospital […] at about 4pm yesterday”.
Mark Herron, an American actor accompanying Garland – he would later become her husband – said doctors had worked for two hours to save her life. Garland’s recovery was documented in the newspaper over the days that followed. Her private physician flew into Hong Kong and told the Post: “Miss Garland did not, as far as I know, have a heart attack.”
Having recovered from what turned out to be an attack of bronchial pneumonia, Garland departed Hong Kong for Japan on June 12, saying, “The people of Hong Kong looked after me very well.”
Lions, Typhoons and Judy, Oh My!, a show about Garland’s tumultuous time in Hong Kong, runs at the Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central from June 27 to 30.