Birthday: November 2, 1915
Died At Age: 89
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Michael Sidney Luft
Born in: New York City, New York
Famous as: Show Business Figure
Spouse/Ex-: Camille Keaton (m. 1993), Judy Garland (m. 1952 - div. 1965), Lynn Bari (m. 1943 - div. 1950), MaryLou Simpson (m. 1940 - div. 1942), Patti Hemingway (m. 1970 - div. 1971)
father: Norbert Luft
mother: Leonora (Meyers)
children: Andrew Luft, Joey Luft, John Luft, Lorna Luft
Died on: September 15, 2005
place of death: Santa Monica, California
City: New York City
U.S. State: New Yorkers
Who was Sidney Luft?
Michael Sidney Luft was a renowned American producer, best known for reviving his third wife’s (Judy Garland) career by producing the film ‘A Star Is Born.’ He was born in New York and later moved to Los Angeles to start a custom car business. Before entering the entertainment industry, Sidney was an amateur boxer and a bar-room brawler, which earned him the nickname “One-Punch Luft.” Sidney Luft had been both a pilot and a test pilot in the Second World War era. He was known for his temper and a personality of not quite fitting in, since he changed many professions.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on November 2, 1915, in New Rochelle, New York, US, to Leonora (née Meyers) and Norbert Luft, both Jewish immigrants, from Russia and Germany, respectively, Sidney was the couple’s second child. He grew up with her older sister, Pol Luft, in the upscale Westchester County, where his family moved during his childhood.
He was known to be belligerent throughout his childhood and youth and claimed to have broken noses of four people in separate altercations. The local newspaper in Westchester County dedicated the headline “Boy, 12, Walking Arsenal” to him at the age of 12.
Sidney’s neighborhood was initially hostile toward Jews, and he was occasionally bullied. He enrolled himself at the ‘Charles Atlas’ correspondence school for bodybuilding, and it is believed he could climb stairs with his hands at the age of 16.
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Sidney Luft had a brief success as an amateur boxer. Working with the production staff of an aquacade at the age of 19 gave Sidney his first appetite for the entertainment industry.
After moving to California in the late 1930s, he launched ‘Custom Motors,’ a car modification shop, on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. He joined the ‘Royal Canadian Air Force’ in 1940 and later served as a Second World War test pilot for ‘Douglas Aircraft.’ He once survived a fatal crash, which caused severe burns on his legs and hands.
After his stint with the ‘Royal Canadian Air Force,’ he moved to Los Angeles to become a personal manager/secretary of his old friend of youth, Eleanor Powell, an ‘MGM’ star dancer. This job was his first in Hollywood.
Due to his experience as a pilot, Sidney Luft was hired as a consultant by ‘Century Fox’ for the aviation film ‘Charter Pilot’ (1940), starring Lloyd Nolan and Lynn Bari (his future wife). Sidney Luft later became a film producer by making a low-grade movie named ‘Kilroy Was Here’ (1947) with the studio ‘Monogram.’ Its cast of former child stars Jackie Cooper and Jackie Coogan prompted the studio to produce the sequel, ‘French Leave’ (1948), with the same stars.
In 1953, the production company formed by Luft, ‘Transcona,’ collaborated with the Warners, to begin the production of 'A Star Is Born.' This film was a musical remake of the 1937 film of the same name. This film proved to be a major critical success and was admired by general audiences. However, it failed to perform at the box office.
Sidney Luft worked as a producer for 'Kilroy Was Here' (1947), 'French Leave' (1948), 'A Star Is Born' (1954), 'Ford Star Jubilee' (TV series, 1955), 'General Electric Theater' (TV series, 1956), and 'Judy Garland's Hollywood’ (video documentary, 1997).
He appeared as himself in 'A Star Is Born World Premiere' (TV short, 1954), '60 Minutes' (TV series documentary, 1975), 'Hollywood Greats' (TV series documentary, 1978), 'Great Performances' (TV series, 1985), and 'American Masters’ (TV documentary, 2004).
Family & Personal Life
Sidney Luft had married five times. He married MaryLou Simpson in 1940. They divorced in 1942.
Sidney married actor Lynn Bari on November 28, 1943. They couple had a stillborn daughter and a son named John Michael Luft (born in 1948). They divorced on December 26, 1950.
Sidney married Judy Garland on June 8, 1952. They had two children, Joey Luft (a scenic photographer, born on March 29, 1955 in Los Angeles, California) and Lorna Luft (actor and singer, born on November 21, 1952 in Santa Monica, California). They filed for divorce in 1964, but it was not finalized until 1965. Sidney's dark descent into drugs and the rumors of abuse related to him were considered as the primary reasons for his divorce.
Sidney married Patti Hemingway in 1972, and they divorced in 1980.
Sidney married Camille Keaton on March 20, 1993, and they remained married until his death.
With the release of Lorna’s autobiography, 'Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir,' in 1998 and its subsequent miniseries adaption, 'Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,' Sidney’s relationship with her soured. Following this, the two were not on speaking terms with each other.
On September 15, 2005, Sidney Luft breathed his last due to an apparent heart attack in Santa Monica, California. He was 89 years old at that time.
In 1993, Sidney Luft's attempt to auction off the ‘Academy Award’ that Judy Garland had received in 1939 for her work in 'The Wizard of Oz' was thwarted by a Los Angeles US district judge. He was ordered to pay $60,000 as fine.
Famous actor Victor Garber played Sidney Luft in the miniseries ‘Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows’ (2001).