Judy Garland

Biography

Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922 and was an actress, singer and vaudeville stage entertainer. Garland's career spanned over forty years, and during that time she amassed a strong and loyal fan base, in addition to earning respect from her peers, such as the famed Fred Astaire who described Garland as “the greatest entertainer who ever lived.” Garland is most well-known for her role in the international hit film, “The Wizard of OZ,” now a classic throughout the world. Garland's performances have earned her a Juvenile Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Grammy Award and a Special Tony Award. Garland was the youngest recipient, at the age of 39, to receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award for a 'Lifetime achievement in the motion picture industry.'

Garland was born into a musical family of entertainers, with her parents being supporters of vaudeville entertainers and running a movie theatre that featured vaudeville acts, and her older sisters already singing and dancing by the time Judy came along. Garland's first public appearance as an entertainer arrived when she was just two-and-a-half years old; she joined her two older sisters on the stage of her father's movie theater during a Christmas show and sang “Jingle Bells.” This began a regular tradition of the Gumm sisters performing, accompanied by their mother on piano, for the next few years, until the family moved to Lancaster, California, in 1926. Garland's father purchased and operated another theater in Lancaster, while her mother took on the role of manager for their three daughters and began to work on getting the girls into motion pictures.

1928 saw the Gumm sisters enrolled in a touring dance school, which led to their first film role in 1929 called “The Big Revue.” The trio went on to perform in a number of short films together, singing and dancing, and by 1934 the Gumm sisters had changed their name to the Garland Sisters. However, by 1935 the trio was broken up when Suzanne Garland got married. Judy went on to audition for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and was signed at the age of thirteen. A little on the older side for a child star, the studio wasn't sure how to market Garland but hit on a winning streak when they paired Garland with child actor, Mickey Rooney in a string of musicals. The duo first appeared together in the 1937 film, “Thoroughbreds Don't Cry” which proved to be a winning success for audiences. Garland went on to work with Rooney in five more feature films as “the girl next door” character. Garland's big break, however, came in 1938, at age 16, when she was cast as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” The movie went on to be a runaway success internationally and at the 1940 Academy Awards ceremony, Garland received a Juvenile Academy Award. Garland went on to become one of MGM's most profitable stars, and as such the studio kept her working, filming, promoting, and touring year round.

On the heels of the success of The Wizard of Oz, Garland began to take on adult roles throughout the 1940's as her teenage years came to an end and the studio tried to reinvent her as an “adult” star with sex appeal as opposed to the girl next door. However, Garland was plagued with insecurities about the way she looked, her height, and her 'girl next-door' image. One of Garland's most successful films, “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944), introduced Garland to her second husband, director Vincente Minnelli, and the father of her daughter, Liza. Garland's exhaustion, excessive filming schedule, and reliance on prescription medicine lead to a nervous breakdown in 1947 while filming, “The Pirate in April.” Garland was hospitalized for treatment, however upon completion of the film, Garland attempted suicide for the first time. By 1948, Garland's mental instability and dependence on alcohol lead to her replacement on “The Barkleys of Broadway” by Ginger Rodgers. By 1950, Garland was let go from her contract with MGM Studios.

Garland turned her attention to the stage, and in 1951 she performed in a vaudeville-style production on Broadway at the Palace Theatre. Her 19-week engagement broke box-office records for the theater and earned Garland a special Tony Award for her contribution to the revival of vaudeville. 1954 saw Garland film a musical remake of the film “A Star is Born” for Warner Bros. Her performance generated an Academy Award nomination for 'Best Actress,' however, the Oscar was won by Grace Kelly, which sent Garland into a depression based on self-induced criticism. TIME magazine labeled Garland's performance as “just about the greatest one-woman show in modern movie history.” Garland went on to win a Golden Globe Award for 'Best Actress in a Musical' for the role, but it was widely understood in Hollywood circles that Garland was robbed of the Oscar, with prominent actors going on record to say Garland should have won the academy award that year.

To console herself, Garland turned to the West End theatre community in London and began to perform there, in addition to maintaining television work back in the states. 1959 saw Garland hospitalized, and diagnosed with acute hepatitis. Garland was informed that she had five years to live and would never sing again, however, within a year, Garland returned to the stage in the summer of 1960 at the London Palladium and felt so warmly embraced by the British public that she announced her intention to move permanently to England. 1964 marked a notable performance at the London Palladium for Garland, with her 18-year-old daughter Liza Minnelli. The performance was televised on the British television network ITV, and became one of Garland's final appearances at the venue. She made guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, and The Hollywood Palace. Garland made her last appearance at New York's Palace Theatre performing with her other two children, Lorna and Joey Luft. By 1969, Garland's health had deteriorated, though she still performed in London at the 'Talk of the Town' nightclub for a five-week run. She married her fifth and final husband, musician Mickey Deans at a Chelsea Register Office in London in 1969, and three months later, Deans found his wife dead at their home in London from an apparent unintentional overdose of barbiturates.

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