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Judy Garland

Judy Garland was a American film actress who is considered one of the greatest singing stars of Hollywood's Golden Era of musical film.

Child Star

Born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, she was born into a family of vaudeville players. One year, her parents and her two older sisters were performing in a Christmas show. Young Frances got on the stage and stole the show with a rendition of Jingle Bells; she was two and a half years old. The family soon moved to Lancaster, California and the Gumm Sisters began work on stage and in short films. Frances was soon known as Baby Gumm.

In 1934, the Gumm Sisters were performing in Chicago with George Jessel. Jessel encouraged the group to choose a less humorous name. They settled on the the Garland Sisters, and young Frances chose the name Judy.

Garland was signed at the age of 13 by Louis B. Mayer to a contract with MGM without a screen test in 1935. At the age of 16 (and after a string of unsuccessful films), she got the role of Dorothy in the film of The Wizard of Oz (1939), and was forever afterwards associated with the song, Over the Rainbow. After Oz, Garland became one of MGM's most bankable stars, proving particularly popular when teamed with Mickey Rooney in a string of let's put on a show! musicals.

Movie Star

Throughout the 1940s her films increased in popularity, the most critically and financially successful being the 1944 classic Meet Me in St. Louis, in which she introduced three standards: The Trolley Song, The Boy Next Door, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Her other famous films include The Harvey Girls (1946) (in which she introduced On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe), Easter Parade (1948), A Star Is Born (1954) (considered by many to be her best dramatic performance), and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). She received an honorary Academy Award for her performance in The Wizard of Oz, and was nominated for Best Actress in A Star is Born, and Best Supporting Actress for Judgment at Nuremberg.

Renewed stardom in television

When her MGM contract was terminated in 1950 (depending upon the source she either asked to be released from the contract, or she was fired due her unreliability on the set of the musical Royal Wedding), Garland turned to television and live concert appearances. Throughout the 1950s and most notably in the early 1960s she made enormously successful appearances in both media. Her appearance at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 1961, was a considerable highlight, called by many the greatest single night in show business, and the live recording made of the event was a best seller and won Grammy Awards as the Album of the Year and Best Female Vocal of the Year. She had a critically praised if short-lived television series in 1963-64.

Untimely death

The shortcomings of her childhood years became more apparent as Garland struggled to overcome various personal problems, including weight gain, heavy drinking, and drug addiction. Her children are Liza Minnelli (who is now a legendary singer and actress in her own right), Lorna Luft (who is also an acclaimed singer), and Joey Luft (who is now a scenic photographer). Of Garland's five marriages, the first four marriages all ended in divorce. She died in 1969 at the age of 47 in London from an accidental overdose of barbiturates. Garland was interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York.

Legacy in gay rights

A gay icon, Garland always had a large fan base in the gay community. Her funeral in Manhattan resulted in an outpouring of New York City fans, with more than 20,000 coming to view her body - including hundreds of gay men. Five days after her death, mourning gay fans fought back against police during a routine police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, which set off several days of gay liberation riots. Garland's death is often noted as a cause of one of the key events of the modern gay rights movement.

According to a book of David Shipman, Judy Garland: The Secret Life of an American Legend she was bisexual herself, and was in intimate relationship with her (female) secretary; however, Shipman's tale has not been corroborated, and much of his scholarship has been questioned.


  • David Rose (1910-1990; married 1941-1945)
  • Vincente Minnelli (1903-1986, married 1945-1951)
  • Sidney Luft (1951-1964)
  • Mark Herron (1928-1996, married 1964-1967) (might not have been a legal marriage, as it is unsure whether the divorce from Luft was yet effective and the marriage was under dubious circumstances)
  • Mickey Deans (nĂ© Michael DeVinko, 1934-2003) (married 1967-1969)

Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.
Read earlier biographies on this page.

Judy Garland Facts

Birth NameFrances Ethel Gumm
BirthdayJune 10, 1922
BirthplaceGrand Rapids, Minnesota, USA
Date of deathJune 22, 1969 (age 47)
Height4' 11½" (1m51)  How tall is Judy Garland compared to you?
Awards1962 Golden Globe Awards: Cecil B. DeMille Award
1955 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical (for A Star is Born)

Selected Filmography

The Wizard of Oz
Problem Child
Wizard of Oz
Great Entertainers: The Show Stoppers
TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: American Musicals
Meet Me in St. Louis
Till The Clouds Roll By
TCM Greatest Classics Legends: Judy Garland
Meet Me in St Louis
Continue » Find more details on the Judy Garland Movies page