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Judy Garland, Complete Entertainment

Updated on October 24, 2011

The Complete Entertainer

Born and raised in show business, little Frances Gumm changed her name to Judy Garland and became one of classic Hollywood's most popular musical entertainers and actresses. Judy was only 47 when she died in 1969 but she had already had a varied career that began in vaudeville and extended into movies, records, radio, television, and personal appearances. She was famous for her emotional, high-energy live performances and she had already created for herself a legendary status which has increased over time.

The Gumm Sisters
The Gumm Sisters

Early Years

Judy Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, began her show business career before she was three years old. By age six she was a veteran performer, appearing with her two older sisters in a vaudeville act. She was billed as 'Baby' Gumm but with her surprisingly mature voice and lively personality she soon began doing solo numbers and stealing the show.

After being mistakenly billed as "The Glum Sisters" in 1931, the sisters changed their stage name to Garland (the name of a then-prominent drama critic). Shortly thereafter, at her own insistence, Judy changed her first name from Frances to Judy (after a popular song of the day).

Judy was signed by Louis B. Mayer to an MGM contract at age 13. Her first film (a short) was Every Sunday (1936) in which she played opposite the other rising child vocal star of the time, Deanna Durbin, but it was her portrayal of a young Clark Gable admirer in Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937) that brought her prominently into the public eye.

In her early career Judy made a series of films with Mickey Rooney, including Love finds Andy Hardy (1938) and Babes in Arms (1939). She performs beautifully and for many will always be remembered as Betsy the girl next door. She was type cast in this character for years but it was her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939) that made her famous. She even won an honorary Oscar for her outstanding performance as a screen juvenile and the film also provided her with the song ("Over the Rainbow") with which she was identified until her death.

With Mickey Rooney on the The Wizard of Oz promo tour, 1939.
With Mickey Rooney on the The Wizard of Oz promo tour, 1939.

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Stardom, marriages and problems

Stardom had a price for Garland however, as she began to be plagued by a weight problem and stress. These led to drug and eventually to alcohol problems as well, due to the pills the doctors were giving her to suppress her appetite and to help her sleep when the strain of work became too much.

The glamorous early MGM image
The glamorous early MGM image | Source
With Tom Drake and Margaret O'Brien for Meet Me In St Louis
With Tom Drake and Margaret O'Brien for Meet Me In St Louis

During the 1940s she graced a number of outstanding musicals, including Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), in which she introduced Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, The Harvey Girls (1946), and Easter Parade (1948). She was superb in a non-singing role in The Clock, a sentimental drama about a young girl and a serviceman on leave. Though the film was critically praised and did earn a profit, most movie fans expected her to sing. Therefore, it would be many years before she acted again in a non-singing dramatic role.

During filming for The Pirate, in April 1947, Garland suffered a nervous breakdown and had to be led away from the set. After this, Garland had a number of other breakdowns that would lead to her departure from MGM for turning up for work late or not at all; it would also reveal the emotional turmoil that Garland suffered. Two months later, Garland made her first suicide attempt.

In 1944 she married the film director Vincente Minnelli, and in 1946 had their daughter Liza Minnelli. This was the second of Garland's five marriages, and it ended in divorce in 1951.

Over The Rainbow - 1943 Performance

Easter Parade with Fred Astaire
Easter Parade with Fred Astaire

She began her comeback with the help of third husband, Sid Luft, through a number of live concert performances including an incredible 19-week engagement at the Palace Theater in New York. Finally in 1954, she returned to the screen in A Star Is Born with James Mason-- a performance which earned her a Best Actress nomination.

Although she made no other films in the 1950s, Garland's films after A Star Is Born include Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) (for which she was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role), the animated feature Gay Purr-ee (1962), A Child Is Waiting (1963, co-starring Burt Lancaster), and her final film, I Could Go On Singing (1963, co-starring Dirk Bogarde), which mirrored her own life in the story of a world famous singing star.

Judy's concert appearance at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 1961, was a considerable highlight, called by many "the greatest night in show business history." The 2-record live recording made of the concert was a best-seller (certified gold), charting for 73 weeks on Billboard (13 weeks at number one), and won five Grammy Awards including Album of the Year and Best Female Vocal of the Year. The album has never been out of print.

With Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra

Marriages and Children

Of Garland's five marriages, the first four ended in divorce. Her children are Liza Minnelli (singer and actress) born March 1946, Lorna Luft (also an acclaimed singer), born November 21, 1952, and Joey Luft (a scenic photographer), born March 29, 1955 in Los Angeles, California.

David Rose; married 1941-1945

Vincente Minnelli; married 1945-1952; one daughter, Liza Minnelli

Sidney Luft; married 1952-1965; one daughter, Lorna Luft, and one son, Joey Luft

Mark Herron; married 1965-1967

Mickey Deans; married March 1969-June 1969

Final Years

The Judy Garland Show premiered on US TV on Sunday, September 29, 1963, programmed directly opposite NBC's Western drama Bonanza, the second-highest rated show on television. As such, it never had a chance to become a success, but it ran for 26 weeks, through March 30, 1964, and earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series. Capitol released Just for Openers, an album of performances drawn from the series, on the day of the final broadcast.

By 1965, she had divorced Luft. Later in 1969, she married again, this time to London nightclub owner Mickey Deans. During a three week live engagement at The Talk Of The Town club in London, her erratic performances received catcalls from the audiences that expected better. On June 22, 1969 she was found dead in her London apartment, apparently of an accidental overdose of barbiturates and alcohol. The roller coaster life of a legend had prematurely ended at age 47.

Judy At a Glance

Birth name Frances Ethel Gumm Born June 10, 1922

Grand Rapids, Minnesota, U.S.A. Died June 22, 1969, aged 47 (Overdose)

Chelsea, London, England, UK

Years active 1929 - 1969


David Rose (1941 - 1945) (divorced)

Vincente Minnelli (1945 - 1952) (divorced) 1 daughter

Sidney Luft (1952 - 1965) (divorced) 1 daughter, 1 son

Mark Herron (1965 - 1967) (divorced)

Mickey Deans (1969) (her death)

Academy Awards Nominated: Best Supporting Actress

1961 Judgment at Nuremberg

Nominated: Best Actress

1954 A Star Is Born

Academy Juvenile Award (1939)Tony Awards Special Tony Award (1952)Golden Globe Awards Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy

1955 A Star Is Born

Cecil B. DeMille Award (1962)


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    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Nice bio on Judy. Linking this to my Toto hub and voting it Up and Useful.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      9 years ago from United States

      This is a really great hub on Judy Garland! Rated up for sure. :) I am making a link to my celebrity death hub! Great job!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      One of her biggest fans, great hub to a Legend !

    • profile image

      picky po 

      10 years ago

      this was cool

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I am doing an reprt on judy garland. love all her movies and songs.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I am doing a report on Judy Garland

    • profile image

      JL lover 

      11 years ago

      I could be in the kitchen, singing Over The Rainbow, trying to sound just like her. I wish I could've met her

    • profile image

      JL lover 

      11 years ago

      I think she was really beautiful. I'm a fan

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Great clip of Judy. She was one of a kind.


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