Was an American actress, singer, vaudevillian, and dancer. With a career spanning 45 years, she attained international stardom as an actress in both musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist, and on the concert stage. Renowned for her versatility, she received an Academy Juvenile Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Special Tony Award. Garland was the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, which she won for her 1961 live recording titled Judy at Carnegie Hall.
Garland began performing in vaudeville as a child with her two older sisters and was later signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a teenager. She appeared in more than two dozen films for MGM and is remembered for portraying Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Garland was a frequent on-screen partner of both Mickey Rooney and Gene Kelly and regularly collaborated with director and second husband Vincente Minnelli. Other starring roles during this period included Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), The Harvey Girls (1946), Easter Parade (1948), and Summer Stock (1950). In 1950, after 15 years with MGM, the studio released her amid a series of personal struggles that prevented her from fulfilling the terms of her contract.
Although her film career became intermittent thereafter, two of Garland’s most critically acclaimed roles came later in her career: she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in A Star Is Born (1954) and a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). She also made record-breaking concert appearances, released eight studio albums, and hosted her own Emmy-nominated television series, The Judy Garland Show (1963–1964). At age 39, Garland became the youngest and first female recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in the film industry. In 1997, Garland was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Several of her recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and in 1999, the American Film Institute ranked her as the eighth-greatest female screen legend of classic Hollywood cinema.
Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
Garland struggled in her personal life from an early age. The pressures of early stardom affected her physical and mental health from the time she was a teenager; her self-image was influenced by constant criticism from film executives who believed that she was physically unattractive and who manipulated her on-screen physical appearance. Throughout her adulthood she was plagued by alcohol and substance use disorders, as well as financial instability, often owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. Her lifelong struggle with substance use disorder ultimately led to her death in London from an accidental barbiturate overdose at age 47 in 1969.
Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She was the youngest child of Ethel Marion (née Milne; 1893–1953) and Francis Avent “Frank” Gumm (1886–1935). Her parents were vaudevillians who settled in Grand Rapids to run a movie theater that featured vaudeville acts. She was of Irish, English, Scottish, and French Huguenot ancestry, named after both of her parents and baptized at a local Episcopal church.
“Baby” (as she was called by her parents and sisters) shared her family’s flair for song and dance. Her first appearance came at the age of two, when she joined her elder sisters Mary Jane “Suzy/Suzanne” Gumm (1915–64) and Dorothy Virginia “Jimmie” Gumm (1917–77) on the stage of her father’s movie theater during a Christmas show and sang a chorus of “Jingle Bells”. The Gumm Sisters performed there for the next few years, accompanied by their mother on piano.
The family relocated to Lancaster, California, in June 1926, following rumors that her father had homosexual inclinations. Frank purchased and operated another theater in Lancaster, and Ethel began managing her daughters and working to get them into motion pictures.
The Wizard of Oz
In 1938 when she was sixteen, Garland was cast as the young Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939), a film based on the 1900 children’s book by L. Frank Baum. In the film, she sang the song with which she would be constantly identified afterward, “Over the Rainbow”. Although producers Arthur Freed and Mervyn LeRoy had wanted to cast her in the role from the beginning, studio chief Mayer first tried to borrow Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox, but they declined. Deanna Durbin was then asked, but was unavailable; this resulted in Garland being cast.
Garland was initially outfitted in a blonde wig for the part, but Freed and LeRoy decided against it shortly into filming. Her blue gingham dress was chosen for its blurring effect on her figure, which made her look younger. Shooting commenced on October 13, 1938, and was completed on March 16, 1939, with a final cost of more than US$2 million. With the conclusion of filming, MGM kept Garland busy with promotional tours and the shooting of Babes in Arms (also 1939), directed by Busby Berkeley. She and Rooney were sent on a cross-country promotional tour, culminating in the August 17 New York City premiere at the Capitol Theater, which included a five-show-a-day appearance schedule for the two stars. Reports of Garland being put on a diet consisting of cigarettes, chicken soup, and coffee are erroneous; as clarified in the book The Road to Oz: The Evolution, Creation, and Legacy of a Motion Picture Masterpiece by Oz historians Jay Scarfone and William Stillman, at that time in her life Garland was an anti-smoker, and she was allowed solid food, just not as much as a growing teen would prefer to eat. In a further attempt to minimize her curves, her diet was accompanied by swimming and hiking outings, plus games of tennis and badminton, with her stunt double Bobbie Koshay.
The Wizard of Oz was a tremendous critical success, though its high budget and promotions costs of an estimated $4 million (equivalent to $58.8 million in 2019), coupled with the lower revenue that was generated by discounted children’s tickets, meant that the film did not return a profit until it was re-released in the 1940s and on subsequent occasions. At the 1939 Academy Awards ceremony, Garland received her only Academy Award, an Academy Juvenile Award for her performances in 1939, including The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms. She was the fourth person to receive the award as well as only one of twelve in history to ever be presented with one.
On June 22, 1969, 12 days after her 47th birthday, Garland was found dead in the bathroom of her rented house in Cadogan Lane, Belgravia, London. At the inquest, Coroner Gavin Thurston stated that the cause of death was “an incautious self-overdosage” of barbiturates; her blood contained the equivalent of ten 1.5-grain (97 mg) Seconal capsules. Thurston stressed that the overdose had been unintentional and no evidence suggested that she had committed suicide. Garland’s autopsy showed no inflammation of her stomach lining and no drug residue in her stomach, which indicated that the drug had been ingested over a long period of time, rather than in a single dose. Her death certificate stated that her death was “accidental”. Supporting the accidental cause, Garland’s physician noted that a prescription of 25 barbiturate pills was found by her bedside half-empty and another bottle of 100 barbiturate pills was still unopened.
A British specialist who had attended Garland’s autopsy stated that she had nevertheless been living on borrowed time owing to cirrhosis, although a second autopsy conducted later reported no evidence of alcoholism or cirrhosis. Her Wizard of Oz co-star Ray Bolger commented at her funeral, “She just plain wore out.” Forensic pathologist Jason Payne-James believed that Garland had an eating disorder (psychologist Linda Papadopoulos asserted that it was likely bulimia), which contributed to her death.
After Garland’s body had been embalmed, Deans traveled with her remains to New York City on June 26, where an estimated 20,000 people lined up to pay their respects at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan, which remained open all night long to accommodate the overflowing crowd. On June 27, James Mason gave a eulogy at the funeral, an Episcopal service led by the Rev. Peter Delaney of St Marylebone Parish Church, London, who had officiated at her marriage to Deans, three months earlier. “Judy’s great gift”, Mason said in his eulogy, “was that she could wring tears out of hearts of rock…. She gave so richly and so generously, that there was no currency in which to repay her.” The public and press were barred. She was interred in a crypt in the community mausoleum at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, a small town 24 miles (39 km) north of midtown Manhattan.
Upon Garland’s death, despite having earned millions during her career, her estate came to US$40,000 (equivalent to $282,287 in 2020). Years of mismanagement of her financial affairs by her representatives and staff along with her generosity toward her family and various causes resulted in her poor financial situation at the end of her life. In her last will, signed and sealed in early 1961, Garland made many generous bequests that could not be fulfilled because her estate had been in debt for many years. Her daughter, Liza Minnelli, worked to pay off her mother’s debts with the help of family friend Frank Sinatra. In 1978, a selection of Garland’s personal items was auctioned off by her ex-husband Sidney Luft with the support of their daughter Lorna and their son Joe. Almost 500 items, ranging from copper cookware to musical arrangements, were offered for sale. The auction raised US$250,000 (equivalent to $991,964 in 2020) for her heirs.
At the request of her children, Garland’s remains were disinterred from Ferncliff Cemetery in January 2017 and re-interred 2,800 miles (4,500 km) across the country at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Relationship: sixth cousin twice removed descending
Pearson Raymond Smith
Margaret Alice Woods
Samuel Castleman O’Dell
Mary Polly Castleman
Johannes David Castleman
Andreas Ludwig Casselmann
Hugh Samuel Fitzpatrick
Eva M Fitzpatrick
Ethel Marion Milne
Frances Ethel Gumm