GARLAND - Biography Continued
Born: June 10, 1922
in Grand Rapids, Minnesota
Died: June 22, 1969 in London, England
Judy Garland, a performer who charmed audiences and inspired
emotion, was a tortured soul whose excesses led to an untimely
end. She was America's girl next door. She was the rags to-to-riches
story. She was also a hard dose of reality in her later years,
in contrast to the wholesome screen image of her younger years.
She was born Frances
Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Her
parents and her two older sisters traveled as a vaudeville act,
touring as the "Four Gumms." At the tender age of
two, "Baby Frances" joined the group and soon after
became it's star attraction. The family soon migrated west into
the Los Angeles area and renamed the act "The Gumm Sisters."
In 1934, the sister act caught the eye of comedian George Jessel
and he suggested a name change to "The Garland Sisters".
After a successful engagement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in
Hollywood, the 12-year-old Frances "Garland" was auditioned
by MGM chief, Louis B. Mayer. Even before she had a screen test,
Mayer signed her to an exclusive contract. It was also Mayer
who gave her the name "Judy" to go with Jessel's "Garland."
In 1936, she made her screen debut in a musical short called
"Every Sunday" co-starring Deanna Durbin. Also that
year, at age 14, she cut her first record, "Stompin' At
The Savoy" with Bob Crosby and his Orchestra. This would
be the first of over 90 records with Decca and 12 albums with
In 1938, she had
her first taste of real stardom with her third film, "Broadway
Melody Of 1938" with Clark Gable, where she tugged at the
audiences heartstrings with "You Made Me Love You."
Her Andy Hardy movies with Mickey Rooney followed. In 1939 she
was chosen for the lead of "Dorothy", over Shirley
Temple, in "The Wizard Of Oz". It was a role that
would put her among the elite actresses in Hollywood. The film
went on to achieve legendary cinematic status as well defining
a lasting image of Judy Garland.
She still was only
17 when she was propelled into the Hollywood fast lane, making
fast friends, and working a fast-paced film and recording schedule.
At this point that she was given amphetamines and barbiturates
by studio people to keep her weight in check and her energy
level high. Soon after, she became a full-blown drug addict.
Numerous rehearsals and recording sessions were juggled amongst
problems with her parents' stormy relationship, her skyrocketing
fame, and maintaining a rigorous shooting schedule.
In 1941, at age 19
and against the advice of her family, she married composer David
Rose, and became pregnant. Her mother and MGM brass convinced
her to have an abortion. In spite of all this going on, her
career continued to soar. On radio she had a hit with "I'm
Nobody's Baby" (1940), among others. In 1942 she co-starred
with Gene Kelly in Busby Berkeley's "For Me And My Gal",
and its title track was also a hit recording. In 1943, she went
on to star in "Presenting Lily Mars", "Thousands
Cheer" and "Girl Crazy". In 1944, she had another
hit movie "Meet Me In St. Louis", directed by Vincente
Minnelli. Also another hit recording, "The Trolley Song""
came from that film.
year, 1946, she divorced Rose to enter into a marriage of convenience
with Minnelli. Soon after, in 1946, she gave birth to her first
child, daughter Liza. Liza was so named because the best man
at the Minnelli's wedding was lyricist and friend, Ira Gershwin,
who had a hit song, (sung by Al Jolson) "Liza". Later
on that year she starred in "Till' The Clouds Roll By"
and "The Harvey Girls", the latter yielding another
hit recording with Johnny Mercer's "On The Atchison, Topeka
And The Santa Fe". In 1948, Garland starred with Fred Astaire
in yet another film classic "Easter Parade", then
in 1949, she made "In The Good Old Summertime".
To the casual
film goer, it appeared that all was well, but in reality her
marriage to Minnelli was on thin ice. Her problems with drugs
and alcohol continued and MGM was looking for a way to get out
of her contract. By 1950 she was becoming moody and unreliable,
often absent on the set when needed. After barely completing
"Summer Stock", MGM terminated her contract. Her emotional
turmoil also caused her to bow out of the Broadway Musical "Annie
Get Your Gun". Her marriage on the rocks, she split with
Minnelli, and soon after attempted suicide.
It was Sid Luft who
came to her emotional rescue, whom she married, and helped put
her career back on track. It was also with Luft that her second
daughter, Lorna was born. Luft put together a pair of triumph-
ant live concerts at The London Palladium and at The Palace
Theatre in New York. In 1954, Luft convinced Warner Bros. to
finance "A Star Is Born" which got Garland an Academy
Award nomination. The film's soundtrack album, as well as her
next album "Miss Show Business" (1955), were hits.
But sadly she fell prey to depression, suffered a nervous breakdown
and slipped from the public eye, except for a few recording
sessions. In 1956 she did the album "Judy", and in
1957, "Alone" and stayed away from the show business
spotlight for the remainder of the decade.
she began a comeback in the recording studio and with a cameo
role in the movie "Pepe". In 1961, she delivered a
moving performance in the movie in "Judgment At Nuremberg",
which earned her an Oscar nomination. On April 23 of that year
she sang to a sold- out Carnegie Hall, which was made into a
hit live album that topped the charts for 13 weeks and earned
5 Grammy Awards. In 1963 she starred in a television movie "A
Child Is Waiting", and also hosted her own TV variety show,
"The Judy Garland Show" (1963-64.) The show gave her
a chance to try out new material as well as do newer versions
of her standard tunes. In 1963, she appeared in "I Could
Go On Singing" which turned out to be her final film.
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.