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"...if happy little bluebirds fly, beyond the rainbow...why oh why, can't I...? "
―Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Judy Garland (June 10, 1922 - June 22, 1969) played Dorothy Gale in the 1939 MGM film version of The Wizard of Oz.


Born Frances Ethel Gumm in Minnesota, the youngest daughter of vaudevillians Ethel Marion (Milne) and Francis Avent Gumm. She was of English, along with some Scottish and Irish, descent. Her mother, an ambitious woman gifted in playing various musical instruments, saw the potential in her daughter at the tender age of just 2 years old when Baby Frances repeatedly sang "Jingle Bells" until she was dragged from the stage kicking and screaming during one of their Christmas shows and immediately drafted her into a dance act, entitled "The Gumm Sisters", along with her older sisters Mary Jane Gumm and Virginia Gumm. However, knowing that her youngest daughter would eventually become the biggest star, Ethel soon took Frances out of the act and together they traveled across America where she would perform in nightclubs, cabarets, hotels and theaters solo.

The Gumm family would regularly be forced to leave town owing to her father's illicit affairs with other men, and from time to time they would be reduced to living out of their automobile. However, in September 1935 the Gumms', in particular Ethel's, prayers were answered when Frances was signed by Louis B. Mayer, mogul of leading film studio MGM, after hearing her sing. It was then that her name was changed from Frances Gumm to Judy Garland, after a popular '30s song "Judy" and film critic Robert Garland.

Judy's career did not officially kick off until she sang one of her most famous songs, "You Made Me Love You", at Clark Gable's birthday party in February 1937, during which Louis B. Mayer finally paid attention to the talented songstress.

Prior to this her film debut in Pigskin Parade (1936), in which she played a teenage hillbilly, had left her career hanging in the balance. However, following her rendition of "You Made Me Love You", MGM began working on various musicals which would keep Judy busy. She was given numerous pills by the studio doctors in order to combat her tiredness on set. Another problem was her weight fluctuation, but she was soon given amphetamines in order to give her the desired streamlined figure. This soon produced the downward spiral that resulted in her lifelong drug addiction.

Garland’s winning combination of youth, innocence, pluck, and emotional openness is seen to good advantage in two of her best-known films: The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). In the former, her heartfelt expression of vulnerability and youthful longing in what would become another signature song, “Over the Rainbow,” helped make the film one of the most beloved movie classics. It also brought Garland her first and only Academy Award, a special award with a miniature statuette for “outstanding performance by a screen juvenile.” She played her last juvenile role in Meet Me in St. Louis, directed by her future husband Vincente Minnelli (with whom she had a daughter, Liza). In it she sang such hits as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Boy Next Door.”

She soon made several more musicals, including Strike Up the Band (1940), Babes of Broadway (1942), with Rooney, and For Me and My Gal (1943), with Gene Kelly.

In 1951, Garland started to rebuild her career with help from producer Sid Luft. She starred in her own show on Broadway at the Palace Theater, which drew large crowds and ran for more than 20 weeks. More than simply showcasing her powerful and expressive voice, the revue also proved that Garland was a dedicated performer, helping to dispel the earlier negative stories about her. She earned a special Tony Award for her work on the show and her contributions to vaudeville in 1952.

Garland married Luft in 1952, which was a stormy relationship by some reports. They had two children together — daughter Lorna in 1952 and son Joey in 1955. Whatever personal difficulty Garland and Luft had, he had a positive impact on her career and was instrumental in putting together one of her greatest films. Starring opposite James Mason, Garland gave an outstanding performance as a woman who obtains stardom at the price of love in A Star Is Born (1954). Her rendition of "The Man That Got Away" is considered one of her best performances on film, and she was nominated for an Academy Award.

In the 1960s, Garland spent more time as a singer than an actress, but she still managed to earn another Academy Award nomination. She played a woman who had been persecuted by the Nazis in 1961's Judgment at Nuremberg. That same year, Garland won Grammy Awards for Best Solo Vocal Performance and Album of the Year, for Judy at Carnegie Hall. Despite all of her success as a singer, these were the only Grammy wins of her career.

Garland also tried her hand at series television. From 1963 to 1964, she starred in The Judy Garland Show. The program went through many changes in its short run, but its strongest moments featured Garland showcasing her singing ability. Her two daughters, Lorna and Liza, made appearances on the show, as did her old co-star, Rooney. Jazz and pop vocalist Mel Tormé served as the program's musical adviser. For her work on the show, Garland earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program in 1964.

Garland was still in demand as an entertainer, playing gigs around the world. But her personal life was as troubled as ever. After many separations, Garland divorced Luft in 1965 after a bitter battle over child custody. She quickly remarried — this time to actor Mark Herron. But that union lasted only a few months before dissolving. The pair officially divorced in 1967, the same year Garland made a critically acclaimed return to Broadway for At Home at the Palace.

The next year, Garland went to London. She was in personal and financial trouble by this time. During performances at London's Talk of the Town nightclub, Garland was clearly not in good shape on stage.

Garland wed former bandleader and club manager Mickey Deans in March 1969. However, just a few months later, on June 22, 1969, she died in London of what was reported to be an accidental overdose.

Judy as Dorothy[]

Sixteen-year-old Garland was near the start of her varied show-business career when she was cast as Dorothy by MGM. She was under contract to the studio, and had already appeared in half-a-dozen movies; the studio was grooming her for future stardom, and by 1938 was looking for vehicles specifically for her talents. A new movie version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was judged to be a suitable project by producers Mervyn LeRoy and Arthur Freed, both of whom were strong Garland backers against an undercurrent of doubt and dissent.

Despite beating out many other child stars for the role, (such as Shirley Temple) many executives felt Judy wasn't attractive enough to play Dorothy. But Arthur and Mervyn reminded Judy's doubters that Dorothy wasn't supposed to be an attractive bombshell, she is supposed to be just an ordinary little girl who was orphaned and lives on a Kansas farm. Nicholas Schenck, the president of MGM's parent company Loew's Inc., doubted the wisdom of the expensive Oz project, and questioned whether a relative newcomer like Garland should star in it. Schenck has been associated with longstanding reports that executives considered borrowing Shirley Temple from Fox to play Dorothy. That plan never advanced because they refused to loan her to MGM.


...just a little girl from Kansas...

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A Beautiful Judy Garland Hollywood glamour shot

Garland was the star of the picture, but also a relative beginner; she was paid $500 per week for her work on the film, significantly less than the veterans around her. (Bert Lahr earned five times as much.) Among the other principal cast members, only Terry the dog was paid less than her and the midgets who played the Munchkins were paid even less than Terry.

Despite being technically too old to play Dorothy, as Baum intended his character in the book to be a little girl, Garland did portray a very good Dorothy that captivated the world for decades to come. With her wide eyed expression of an adolescent girl, she was perfect for the role. Thanks to her talented singing voice, she beat many other young actresses for the lead role such as Shirley Temple who was a loyal fan of Baum's Oz books, and was more close to the look and age of his description of Dorothy. Therefore, Garland was put on a strict diet to become a believable Dorothy and was even given barbiturate drugs which would lead on to a life long battle of personal demons.

While production started for Oz, she also completed songs and scenes in-between for another MGM film called Listen, Darling that Charley Grapewin also appeared in which was released on October 21st. 1938 before moving onto Babes in Arms with Mickey Rooney a few months after filming ended.

During shooting, Garland was forced to wear a special type of corset under her costume. It flattened out her curves by painfully binding her breasts down flat against her chest to make her appear as a twelve-year-old girl who was more innocent, underdeveloped and younger than her real life age.

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A Judy Garland quote

On set, the young Garland had a problem with uncontrollable giggling: she would burst out in laughter at the mere sight of Bert Lahr in his Cowardly Lion costume that would make her laugh, mostly in the scene where Dorothy slaps the Lion on the nose for attempting to harm Toto. During filming, director Victor Fleming once took her aside and slapped her face hard to stop her giggling, (an act that embarrassed him deeply afterward). When they tried the scene again, she no longer giggled but was caught suppressing a slight smirk.

Interestingly, Garland also made another film the same year the film was made. She starred with Mickey Rooney in the movie Babes in Arms in 1939.

In 1940 Garland won a special miniature Academy Award for the best performance by a juvenile. It had been given sporadically, only a few times before 1940, and was later discontinued. She would never win another Oscar, though she was nominated as Best Actress for A Star is Born (1954) and as Best Supporting Actress for Judgement at Nuremberg (1961), a movie which costarred William Shatner.

A museum was built in her her honor in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, her childhood home. In 2006 the state named a special Judy Garland Day for her work in The Wizard of Oz.

Over her career, Garland shared various film credits with her Oz castmates. She played:


  • John Fricke, Jay Scarfone, William Stillman. The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History. Warner Books, 1989.
  • Tom Hendricks, Author of the State Minnesota: Judy Garland Day 2006, and volunteer for the Judy Garland Museum, http://www.judygarlandmuseum.com/