Judy Garland was a notable actress, singer, dancer and vaudevillian. Over the course of her forty-five years in show business, Judy Garland had reached the stardom as a performer. She had also won several various awards for her versatile and stunning performances. Some of these awards she had received were Academy Juvenile Award, Special Tony Award, Golden Globe Award, Grammy Lifetime Award, and Academy Awards for Best Actress.
Interestingly, in addition to her achievements, Garland was the first woman to ever won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1961’s live recording of Judy at Carnegie Hall. This two-record live recording concert was one of Garland’s wonderful performances and was even dubbed as the greatest night in the history of show business. As well as that, Judy Garland was well-known for her role as Dorothy Gale in the first American fairytale’s movie adaptation, The Wizard of Ozin 1939.
Judy Garland and Her Early Performances
Frances Ethel Gumm, also known as Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota on June 10, 1922. She was the youngest among the daughters of former vaudevillians Francis Gumm and Ethel Marion. At an early age, Judy had shared her family’s talent in singing and dancing. In fact, when she was two years old, she joined her sisters, Dorothy and Mary Jane, on singing Jingle Bells in Grand Rapids movie theatre on a Christmas show. Since then, for the next couple of years, Judy and her sisters performed at the movie theatre that their parents managed.
However, after the rumor that their father was had homosexual inclinations, the Gumm family relocated to Lancaster, California, in 1926. They left the movie theatre in Grand Rapids and purchased another movie theatre in Lancaster. Following that, Ethel Gumm had begun to working her daughters’ way to motion pictures. In 1928, the Gumm sisters also enrolled at a dance school managed by Ethel Meglin, who owned the well-known troupe of children performers called Meglin Kiddies. Together with the troupe, the Gumm sisters performed annually during Christmas shows.
In 1929, the Gumm sisters had their debut in a short musical film, The Big Revue. In there, they have performed a song and dance number with the song, That’s the Good Old Sunny South. In the following year, they also appeared in two Vitaphone short films, The Wedding of Jack and Jill and A Holiday in Storyland.In addition to that, the trio also performed in MGM’s comedy short film La Fiesta de Santa Barbara.
Subsequently, the three traveled the vaudevillian circuit using the name “The Gumm Sisters.” However, the name had later on earned laughter from the audiences and often dubbed them as “The Glum Sisters.” With that,actor and film producer, George Jessel, encouraged the group to choose a more appealing name. Although it wasn’t clear where the name Garland came from, the Gumm sisters soon changed their name to The Garland Sisters in 1934. Soon after, Frances Ethel changed her name to Judy, inspired by a song of Hoagy Carmichael. A year after that, when Judy’s older sister married and flew to Nevada, The Garland Sisters broke up in August.
Judy Garland at the Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer
In September 1935, the co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Louis Burton Mayer, asked Burton Lane to watch the Garland sister’s vaudeville act in Orpheum Theatre. Days following that, Judy and her father were summoned for an impromptu audition in MGM’s Studios in Culver City. Garland then performed the song ‘Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart’ and ‘Eli, Eli.’After that, Garland was signed to a contract with MGM.
However, Judy’s physical appearance has deemed a difficulty for MGM. In comparison to actresses like Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, and Lana Turner, Garland’s looks did not exemplify the persona needed for female lead characters. With her height of only 4 feet and 11.5 inches, and her Girl-Next-Door persona, the MGM studios did not know what to do with her since she’s too young for adult roles yet was older than a traditional child star. Moreover, during her MGM’s career, Garland had to wear a rubberized discfor her nose and removable caps for teeth.
When she was twenty-one, on the set of the musical film, Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland met a make-up artist named Dotty Ponedel. After the artist reviewed Garland’s looks, Ponedel told Garland that she doesn’t need the discs and caps since she was already a pretty girl. Since Ponedel’s work in Meet Me in St. Louis made Garland happy, the make-up artist then became Garland’s advisor on every MGM’s film.
Aside from the film Meet Me in St. Louis, Garland also appeared in the following MGM’s films, including Every Sunday, Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry, Love Finds Andy Hardy, Babes in Arms, Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, and Life Begins for Andy Hardy. She also starred in the musical films Till the Clouds Roll By, The Harvey Girls, Easter Parade, Me and My Gal, and Presenting Lily Mars.
In 1947, during the filming of the musical film, The Pirate, Garland had suffered from a nervous breakdown. Because of that, she was placed in a private medical facility. Subsequently, in July of the same year, Judy Garland made her first suicide attempt. Following the event, she was placed in the Austen Riggs Center to receive two weeks of psychiatric treatment.
Although she was able to finish the filming of The Pirate, the film did not make a profit. The major reason for this was the production delay that Garland had a cause. Fortunately, in 1948, when Garland has co-starred with Fred Astaire in Easter Parade, the film then became the top-grossing film of MGM. With this, Garland and Astaire were again teamed-up in the film The Barkleys of Broadway.
During these years, she had several enormous successful films. However,Garland suffered from depression and had undergone electroshock therapy. She also spent an on-off time in the hospital, while at the same time appearing at some films. In the 1950s, Garland had begun to appear in a number of TV specials.
Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz
At the age of sixteen, Garland was cast as the Dorothy Gale in the film, The Wizard of Oz. Originally, the chief Mayer wanted to borrow Shirley Temple of the 20th Century Fox for the role. However, producers Mervyn Leroy and Arthur Freed wanted Judy Garland for the role.
In the film, Garland’s outfit was initially matched with a blonde wig, but the producers decided against it shortly. As well as that, Garland’s blue gingham dress was chosen to make her look younger. The film then started in October 1938 and finished in March 1939. At the time the film was released, it had received critical success. But since its budget and promotions had cost about $4M and the tickets have discounts for children, the film did not return the profit until it was released again in the 1940s.
On the 1939 Academy Awards ceremony, Garland had received an Academy Award and Academy Juvenile Awardin her performances in The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms.
Final Years and Death
In the 1960s, Garland has starred in her own TV Show called The Judy Garland Show on CBS. The show became successful and was called as the biggest talent deal in TV history. Nevertheless, despite her constant success, Garland has several hundred dollars debts in Internal Revenue Services, after failing to pay her taxes 1951 and 1952. Furthermore, in 1963, Garland had divorced and sued her former husband, Sidney Luft, for mental cruelty. After that, she also returned to stage performing with her daughter Liza Minnelli,when her show was canceled a year after it was established.
In 1965, Judy Garland married Mark Herron, his fourth husband, whom she had divorced five months later. Following her divorce with Herron, Garland had married Mickey Deans, her fifth husband, in 1969.
On June 22, 1969, three months after her marriage to her fifth husband, Garland was found dead in her bathroom. According to the autopsy conducted, her death was caused by barbiturate overdose. Her funeral was held at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel. Following that, her body was interred at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.