Born of a showbiz marriage between Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli, Liza Minnelli has entertainment in her blood. She is a star with her own unique appeal, with amazing vocals and emotional gravitas that ignites its own special magic. She is famous for her huge acting choices, widened eyes, and spiky jazz-hand gestures. She’s also a member of the prestigious list of EGOT awardees (entertainment legends who won the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards).
Minnelli made her Broadway debut in 1965 and won a Tony Award when she was just 19 years old. Besides theatre, she is also known for her renditions of pop standards, major movie hits, and television appearances. She also enjoyed an impressive concert career, many of which were performed on Broadway.
Liza May Minnelli (March 12, 1946) was born in Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles. She is the daughter of singer and actress Judy Garland, and stage and film director Vincente Minnelli. While her first appearances were with her superstar mother, Liza Minnelli has been able to step up out of her mother’s shadow to establish a career of her own.
Minnelli began appearing on screen at a young age. She made her film debut as a toddler in the musical comedy In The Good Old Summertime (1949), which starred Garland and Van Johnson. While she made other appearances in her mother’s concert productions, her career in entertainment did not really start until later.
Minnelli’s parents divorced in 1951, and she divided her time between them. As she grew older, Minnelli had a problematic relationship with her mother as she tried to care for Garland, who suffered from depression and addiction to pills. Meanwhile, she remained close to her father throughout the rest of his life.
In 1961, Minnelli moved to New York City to attend High School of Performing Arts and later, Chadwick School. However, she gave up on school and pursued a stage career. She performed in three theater productions at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Massachusetts in 1961 as an apprentice. In 1963, she landed a role in an off-Broadway revival of the musical Best Foot Forward.
Around that time, Minnelli also appeared on her mother’s short-lived TV series, The Judy Garland Show. She also performed with her mother during Garland’s stint at the Palladium in London, which impressed audiences with her vocal prowess.
Theatre and Film Career
At age 19 in 1965, Minnelli starred as the title character in Flora, the Red Menace, the first musical written by the songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb. The light musical poked fun at the communist movement in the 1930s. While the show only ran for a few weeks, the musical won her a Tony Award for best actress in a musical, making her the youngest winner of this award up to this day.
Two months after the closing of Flora, Minnelli began her first solo concert tour. Like Garland, she drew a strong audience response, and she was highly comfortable with the concert stage. She went on to co-star in the dramatic comedy Charlie Bubbles (1968). The following year. She played an offbeat misfit named Pookie in The Sterile Cuckoo (1969), where she received her first Academy Award nomination for best actress. She then starred in Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon in 1970. During the production of this film, Minnelli suffered a great loss as her mother, Julie Garland, died from an accidental drug overdose.
After a personal loss, Minnelli went on to rise to international stardom with Cabaret in 1972. Her role as Sally Bowles brought her to her greatest screen success, as she garnered an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA Award for her performance. The musical showcased Minnelli’s singing and acting talents, featuring lyrics and music by Kander and Ebb. The year after that, she starred in an Emmy Award-winning TV special Liza with a “Z.”
At this point in her career, Minnelli was the only two “bankable” female movie stars in Hollywood, along with Barbra Streisand. However, she returned to Broadway and performed a one-woman show Liza in 1974 at the Winter Garden Theatre. She also starred in Chicago as a replacement for Gwen Verdon’s role Roxie Hart while Verdon was recovering from surgery on her throat.
When Minnelli went back to film acting, the projects did not match her earlier success. She appeared in three expensive flops in three years. First was Lucky Lady (1975), which huge budget demands cut deeply into profits and A Matter of Time (1976), which fell victim to studio tampering. With the latter film, Minnelli worked with her father, as this is the last film he directed. The other movie was the musical New York, New York (1977), which gave her a chance to work with Martin Scorsese and actor Robert de Niro. However, the film lost money at the box office and received mostly negative reviews. On the brighter side, the film provided Minnelli with two trademark songs, “Theme from New York, New York” and “But the World Goes ‘Round.”
Minnelli had no more major movie hits except the blockbuster comedy Arthur (1981), where she starred as Dudley Moore’s true love Linda Marolla.
Minnelli returned to Broadway on different occasions, including The Act (1977), where she won a Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical, and The Rink (1984), where she was nominated for a Tony. She also appeared in Victor/Victoria (1997) as a replacement for Julie Andrews when she was on vacation. She also appeared on Minnelli on Minnelli from 1999 to 2000, with music from Ebb. Her Broadway show Liza’s at the Palace… (2008-2009) won the Tony Award for the best special theatrical event.
By the mid-1980s, Minnelli was battling her own problems with drugs and alcohol. She went to rehab, and after getting sober, she toured extensively and acted in several forgettable films, including A Time to Live (1985) where she won a Golden Globe Award, Rent-a-Cop (1988), and Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988), which failed to follow the success of the 1981 hit.
In the recent years, her acting career perked up with humorous appearances on Sex and the City 2 (2010) and played the role of Lucille Austero on Arrested Development for 21 episodes. For the most part, she focused on live performances, giving numerous concerts each year around the world.
Theatre Career Awards
Liza Minnelli is most known for her performance in the film Cabaret, but she won the most awards for theatre, such as:
- Best Leading Actress in a Musical, Tony Awards (1965) – Flora the Red Menace
- Special Tony Award (1974) – Liza at the Winter Garden
- Best Leading Actress in a Musical, Tony Awards (1978) – The Act
- Best Special Theatrical Event, Tony Awards (2009) – Liza’s at The Palace…!
- Honorary Drama Desk Special Award (2009) – Her Enduring Career of Sustained Excellence