The Three Belters : Broadway Belters

  Richard Skipper as Carol Channing   Julie Sheppard as Judy Garland   Hollie Vest as Ethel Merman  
Richard Skipper as Carol Channing Julie Sheppard as Judy Garland Hollie Vest as Ethel Merman
 

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JUDY 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 Capitol.

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.

The following 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.

In 1960 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.

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.

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