Most of us know her best as Dorothy Gale from the 1939 technicolor film *The Wizard of Oz* but Judy Garland’s life and career went far beyond Kansas and the land of Oz. Born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, on June 10, 1922 as Frances Ethel Gumm, she began training in vaudeville — variety entertainment featuring acts of song, dance, magic tricks, theater, and more — with her two older sisters. They were known as the Gumm Sisters but were encouraged to change their name to appeal to audiences. They decided on Garland by 1934. By 13, Judy was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) but the studio wasn’t quite sure what to do with her. As a teen, she was too old to play a child but still too young and wholesome in appearance to play any sultry, glamorous roles. Throughout her career, she faced body image and self-esteem issues, struggling to fit into the girl-next-door image the studio created for her. She was reportedly given amphetamines and tobacco to suppress her appetite and pills to stay up and keep her in line with hectic scheduling. The pressures of Hollywood reportedly led her to drug addiction, suicide attempts, and eventually to her tragic death from a barbiturate overdose on June 22, 1969 shortly after celebrating her 47th birthday. Despite her tragic departure, Garland remains a legend for her mastery in drama, contralto vocals, and dynamic live performances.Before she was Judy Garland, she was called ‘Baby’ and performed alongside her two older sisters, Mary Jane and Virginia, in a vaudeville trio called The Gumm Sisters.
Here’s a photo of Judy Garland at just 13 years old on the day that she signed with Metro Goldwyn Mayer, one of the most revered studios at the time.
After performing “You Made Me Love You” at Clark Gable’s surprise birthday party, she was immediately cast in projects with Mickey Rooney.
As aforementioned, Garland was at an awkward age from the studio’s perspective. When she was cast in The Wizard of Oz, there were a number of things done to make her appear younger than her age (16 at the time). For example, she wore a brace to make her bust appear like that of a younger girl.
At the 1939 Academy Awards, Garland received a Juvenile Award for her performance in her signature role as Dorothy and also for her performance in Babes in Arms
The star was married a total of five times. She wed musician David Rose, director Vincente Minnelli (together they had a daughter Liza Minnelli), producer Michael Sidney Luft, actor Mark Herron (who later revealed that he was homosexual), and musician and entrepreneur Mickey Deans, who stayed with her until her death in 1969.
At 21, Garland appeared before her fans in new light in Presenting Lily Mars. In contrast to her girl-next-door image, she was now stylish and sophisticated.
Here she is in Vincente Minnelli’s 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis. For this project, she received the services of makeup artist Dorothy Ponedel who further transformed her appearance. Notice the changes in the shape of her brow, hairline, and lip line.
Even though she was famous by the time she was offered a role in Easter Parade, she hadn’t yet met her co-star Fred Astaire. One of their first scenes to shoot was a kissing scene, and she reportedly felt very nervous.
You can spot a three-year-old Liza Minnelli in the final scene of In the Good Old Summertime. This film was the second to last that Garland made with MGM. After a series of personal issues, she left the studio in 1950 after having worked with them for 15 years.
Garland fought for a comeback and wowed audiences in George Cukor’s A Star is Born for Warner Bros. She was said to have been the victim of the ‘biggest robbery’ when the 1954 Oscar for Best Actress went to Grace Kelly. The votes were said to have been just six votes apart.
Did you know that she was the first woman to win a Grammy for Album of the Year? She received this honor for her live recording of Judy at Carnegie Hall.
It is widely known that many of Garland’s fans were men. They admired her abilities as a performer and related her personal struggles in the industry with their own. She was dubbed by the American LGBT-interest magazine as ‘The Elvis of homosexuals.’ When an interviewer asked her about her fans, she responded that she had been mistreated by the press and would ‘be darned if [she’d] have [her] audience mistreated.’