Liza May Minnelli in Los Angeles, California, 12 March 1946; daughter of
the director Vincente Minnelli and the actress Judy Garland; sister of the
actress Lorna Luft.
Attended public and private schools.
Married 1) Peter Allen, 1967 (divorced); 2) Jack Haley Jr., 1974
(divorced 1979); 3) Mark Gero, 1979 (divorced 1992).
Appeared as a small child in her mother's film
In the Good Old Summertime
, 1949, and on stage with her mother at the Palace Theatre, New York,
1953; 1960—toured with her school production of
The Diary of Anne Frank
; 1963—in Broadway production of
Best Foot Forward
; 1964—made first recording, and appeared as singer with her mother
at London Palladium; 1965—cabaret debut; 1968—dramatic role
; 1972—successful television special
Liza with a Z
; 1978–80—with the Martha Graham Dance Co., New York.
Best Actress, Academy Award and Best Actress, British Academy, for
c/o PMK Public Relations, 1776 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, U.S.A.
In the Good Old Summertime (Leonard) (as herself)
Charlie Bubbles (Finney) (as Eliza)
The Sterile Cuckoo ( Pookie ) (Pakula) (as "Pookie" Adams); Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (Preminger) (title role)
Cabaret (Fosse) (as Sally Bowles)
That's Entertainment! (Haley Jr.—compilation) (as host); Journey Back to Oz (Sutherland—animation, produced in 1964) (as voice of Dorothy)
Lucky Lady (Donen) (as Claire)
A Matter of Time (Vincente Minnelli) (as Nina); Silent Movie (Mel Brooks) (as herself)
New York, New York (Scorsese) (as Francine Evans)
Arthur (Gordon) (as Linda Marolla)
The King of Comedy (Scorsese) (as herself)
A Great Wind Cometh (Golan); The Muppets Take Manhattan (Oz) (cameo)
That's Dancing! (Haley Jr.—compilation) (as host); A Time to Live (Wallace—for TV) (as Mary-Lou Weisman)
Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (Sutherland—animation) (voice only); Minnelli on Minnelli: Liza Remembers Vincente (Schickel—doc for TV)
Rent-a-Cop (London) (as Della Roberts); Arthur 2: On the Rocks (Yorkin) (as Linda Marolla Bach)
Stepping Out (Lewis Gilbert) (as Mavis Turner)
Parallel Lives (Yellen—for TV) (as Stevie Merrill); Unzipped (as herself)
West Side Waltz (for TV)
Jackie's Back! (Robert Townsend—for TV) (as herself)
"At the Deli with Liza Minnelli," interview with M. Peterson, in Inter/View (New York), May 1972.
"Brève rencontre . . . avec Liza Minnelli et Vincente Minnelli," interview with G. Braucourt, in Ecran (Paris), December 1975.
Interview, in Photoplay (London), September 1981.
"Liza Minnelli," interview with K. D. Lang, in Interview (New York), March 1991.
D'Arcy, Susan, The Films of Liza Minnelli , London, 1973; 2nd ed., Bembridge, England, 1977.
Parish, James Robert, and Jack Ano, Liza: Her Cinderella Nightmare , New York, 1975.
Petrucelli, Alan W., Liza! Liza!: An Unauthorized Biography of Liza Minnelli , London, 1983.
Spada, James, with Karen Swenson, Judy and Liza , New York, 1983.
Freedland, Michael, Liza with a 'Z': A Biography of Liza Minnelli , London, 1988.
Carrick, Peter, Liza Minnelli , London, 1993.
Leigh, Wendy, and Stephen Karten, Liza: Born a Star , New York, 1993.
Mair, George, Under the Rainbow: The Real Liza Minnelli , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1995.
Vallance T., "Liza Minnelli," in Focus on Film (London), Summer 1972.
Ecran (Paris), January 1978.
Current Biography 1988 , New York, 1988.
"Liza!," in Harper's Bazaar (New York), August 1988.
Servin, James, "Liza," in Harper's Bazaar (New York), August 1990.
Clark, John, filmography in Premiere (New York), May 1991.
Scott, Jay, "Liza's Buffalo Shuffle," in Premiere (New York), May 1991.
"We Try Harder," in Art Forum , Summer, 1993.
Stars (Mariembourg), Winter 1993.
Mead, R., "Liza," in New York Magazine , 13 January, 1997.
* * *
Liza Minnelli has not had much of a film career since New York, New York and her output, including the telefilms, is slight. Nevertheless, she has appeared in works that have been important in illustrating that she remains a major talent who continues to evolve. Most striking in this regard is A Time to Live , Minnelli's first telefilm, in which she plays the role of a middle-class suburban woman whose son has muscular dystrophy. Playing a wife/mother who, in addition to fulfilling the caretaker role, struggles to accept the fact that her son will die young, Minnelli's role represents a radical departure. While she brings her familiar emotional intensity to the characterization, Minnelli tempers the character's emotionalism by emphasizing her innate intelligence, determination, and discipline. Minnelli's performance is deeply felt, she is given strong support by her co-stars and the script has an integrity which lifts it above the inherent melodramatics of the subject matter.
In contrast to the unrelenting dramatics of A Time to Live , Stepping Out is a musical that makes wonderful use of Minnelli's identity as a dancer, singer, and theatrical personality: an ideal Minnelli project allowing her to integrate her musical talents into a comedy/drama narrative. Unlike her previous musicals, the film has a contemporary setting and gives her a character who interacts with other women. It should have revived Minnelli's film career but both the critics and the public were indifferent. Perhaps the film lacked sufficient star power and Minnelli, while surrounded by a strong supporting cast, did not have a name co-star; in any case, Stepping Out is Minnelli's sole theatrical feature of quality and substance since New York, New York . The low point of the more recent projects is Rent-a-Cop , a film which clumsily tries to combine the genres of the action film and the romantic comedy. Minnelli's flamboyant performance as a brassy prostitute is a disaster and in great part because the film's writers and director give her no help whatsoever in integrating the character into what is clearly a Burt Reynolds vehicle.
Aside from their being strong projects and the opportunities they afford Minnelli as an actor, A Time to Live and Stepping Out are of interest in that both films present Minnelli as a person who accepts responsibility and makes a commitment to those who need help. Clearly, Minnelli's screen persona has grown considerably from the early 1970s. The image of a mature and caring person is present as early as Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon but it was obscured by the unstable characters she played in The Sterile Cuckoo and Cabaret . New York, New York presents Minnelli as the responsible person in a relationship and in Stepping Out , Minnelli, playing a dance teacher, makes a professional and personal commitment to her students.
Minnelli's on-screen image as a more mature person is reinforced by her offscreen identity. From early on in her career, Minnelli publicly acknowledged her parents, their talent and creativity. Minnelli on Minnelli: Liza Remembers Vincente is an intelligent and affectionate documentary on her father's films; and Minnelli in concert and print has repeatedly honored her mother as a singer and actor. From another perspective, Minnelli has shown herself to be a caring person giving of her time and energy to the raising of money for AIDS victims. She has also been a high profile supporter of gay and lesbian rights.
There is no obvious explanation as to why Minnelli's film career has not fully succeeded. Possibly, she chose to make live performance work her priority and channeled her efforts to that end; or, it may be that her persona is a bit at odds with a popular image of the contemporary woman. Minnelli tends to display a highly emotional sensibility which counters the notion that today's women are in control of their feelings. Also, Minnelli has cultivated, through the ties to her parents, an identity that connects her image to the classical Hollywood cinema. The reference to Hollywood's past may cause some confusion in the public's mind as to what era Minnelli's presence personifies.
Minnelli keeps active doing live performances. She maintains an enthusiasm and energy and has managed not to be locked into playing the diva. In her most recent film project, the telefilm West Side Waltz , she undertakes a character part enacting the role of a naive and insecure middle-aged woman who discovers that she is capable of taking on responsibilities and, in doing so, begins to value herself. While Minnelli provides a charming and distinctive characterization in West Side Waltz , she should not be relegated to older women character parts. Minnelli is a vibrant and attractive woman and what she deserves is the opportunity to fully utilize her talents on-screen and grow as a person and artist.