Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm; June 10, 1922 – June 22, 1969) was an American singer, actress, dancer and vaudevillian.[1] She began performing as a child and her singing and acting abilities gained her international stardom, spanning the rest of her life as a performer in both musical and dramatic roles, and through many live concerts and acclaimed albums.[2][3]

Garland began performing in vaudeville with her two older sisters and was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a teenager. She made more than two dozen films with MGM, including nine with Mickey Rooney. Garland had several well-remembered film appearances. At age seventeen, she played her most famous role, that of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939). In the height of her film career, Garland was starring in three to four pictures every year for MGM, with roles in film classics including Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), The Harvey Girls (1946), Easter Parade (1948) and Summer Stock (1950). After 15 years, she was released from her contract with the studio and made record-breaking concert appearances, had a successful recording career and her own Emmy-nominated television series. Garland had fewer film appearances in the later years of her career, but she did appear in two Academy Award-nominated performances in A Star Is Born (1954) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961).

Garland received a Golden Globe Award, a Juvenile Academy Award, and a Special Tony Award. At age 39, she became the youngest and first female recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in the film industry. She was the first woman to win a Grammy for Album of the Year for her live recording of Judy at Carnegie Hall. In 1997, Garland was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Several of her recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1999, the American Film Institute placed her among the 10 greatest female stars of classic American cinema.[4]

Despite profound professional success, Garland struggled largely in her personal life from an early age. The pressures of adolescent stardom affected her physical and mental health from the time she was a teenager; her self-image was influenced and constantly criticized by film executives who believed that she was physically unattractive. Those same executives manipulated her onscreen physical appearance.[5] She was plagued into her adulthood by alcohol and substance abuse as well as financial instability; she often owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. Her lifelong addiction to drugs and alcohol ultimately led to her death in England from a barbiturate overdose at age 47.

Early life

Garland's birthplace in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, is now a museum

Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She was the youngest child of Ethel Marion (née Milne) and Francis Avent "Frank" Gumm. Her parents were vaudevillians who settled in Grand Rapids to run a movie theater that featured vaudeville acts. She was of Irish, English, and Scottish ancestry,[6][7] named after both of her parents and baptized at a local Episcopal church.[8]

"Baby" (as she was called by her parents and sisters)[9] shared her family's flair for song and dance. Her first appearance came at the age of two-and-a-half, when she joined her older sisters Mary Jane "Suzy/Suzanne" Gumm and Dorothy Virginia "Jimmie" Gumm on the stage of her father's movie theater during a Christmas show and sang a chorus of "Jingle Bells".[10] The Gumm Sisters performed there for the next few years, accompanied by their mother on piano.[9]

The family relocated to Lancaster, California, in June 1926, following rumors that Frank Gumm had made sexual advances towards male ushers.[11] Frank purchased and operated another theater in Lancaster, and Ethel began managing her daughters and working to get them into motion pictures. Garland attended Hollywood High School and later graduated from University High School.[12]

Early career

The Gumm Sisters

The Gumm Sisters, also known as the Garland Sisters, circa 1935: Top row: Mary Jane and Dorothy Virginia Gumm; bottom center: Frances Ethel (Judy Garland) Gumm

In 1928, the Gumm Sisters enrolled in a dance school run by Ethel Meglin, proprietress of the Meglin Kiddies dance troupe. They appeared with the troupe at its annual Christmas show.[13] Through the Meglin Kiddies, they made their film debut in a 1929 short subject called The Big Revue, where they performed a song-and-dance number called "That's the good old sunny south". This was followed by appearances in two Vitaphone shorts the following year: A Holiday in Storyland (featuring Garland's first on-screen solo) and The Wedding of Jack and Jill. They next appeared together in Bubbles. Their final on-screen appearance came in 1935, in an MGM Technicolor short entitled La Fiesta de Santa Barbara.[14]

The trio had been touring the vaudeville circuit as "The Gumm Sisters" for many years when they performed in Chicago at the Oriental Theater with George Jessel in 1934. He encouraged the group to choose a more appealing name after "Gumm" was met with laughter from the audience. According to theater legend, their act was once erroneously billed at a Chicago theater as "The Glum Sisters".[15]

Several stories persist regarding the origin of the name "Garland". One is that it was originated by Jessel after Carole Lombard's character Lily Garland in the film Twentieth Century, which was then playing at the Oriental; another is that the girls chose the surname after drama critic Robert Garland.[16] Garland's daughter Lorna Luft stated that her mother selected the name when Jessel announced that the trio "looked prettier than a garland of flowers".[17] A TV special was filmed in Hollywood at the Pantages Theatre premiere of A Star Is Born on September 29, 1954, in which Jessel stated:

I think that I ought to tell the folks that it was I who named Judy Garland, Judy Garland. Not that it would have made any difference – you couldn't have hid[den] that great talent if you'd called her "Tel Aviv Windsor Shell", you know, but her name when I first met her was Frances Gumm and it wasn't the kind of a name that so sensitive a great actress like that should have; ... and so we called her Judy Garland, and I think she's a combination of Helen Hayes and Al Jolson, and maybe Jenny Lind and Sarah Bernhardt.[18]

A later explanation surfaced when Jessel was a guest on Garland's television show in 1963. He said that he had sent actress Judith Anderson a telegram containing the word "garland" and it stuck in his mind.[19] However, Garland asked Jessel just moments later if this story was true, and he blithely replied "No".

By late 1934, the Gumm Sisters had changed their name to the Garland Sisters.[20] Frances changed her name to "Judy" soon after, inspired by a popular Hoagy Carmichael song.[21] The group broke up by August 1935, when Suzanne Garland flew to Reno, Nevada, and married musician Lee Kahn, a member of the Jimmy Davis orchestra playing at Cal-Neva Lodge, Lake Tahoe.[22]

Signed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Garland and Mickey Rooney in Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)

In September 1935, Louis B. Mayer asked songwriter Burton Lane to go to the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles to watch the Garland Sisters' vaudeville act and to report to him. A few days later, Judy and her father were brought for an impromptu audition at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in Culver City. Garland performed "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" and "Eli, Eli", a Yiddish song written in 1896 and very popular in vaudeville.[23] They immediately signed Garland to a contract with MGM, presumably without a screen test, though she had made a test for the studio several months earlier. The studio did not know what to do with her, as at age thirteen, she was older than the traditional child star, but too young for adult roles.[citation needed]

Her physical appearance was a dilemma for MGM. She was only 4 feet 11.5 inches (151.1 cm), and her "cute" or "girl-next-door" looks did not exemplify the most glamorous persona required of leading ladies of the time. She was self-conscious and anxious about her appearance. "Judy went to school at Metro with Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, real beauties", said Charles Walters, who directed her in a number of films. "Judy was the big money-maker at the time, a big success, but she was the ugly duckling ... I think it had a very damaging effect on her emotionally for a long time. I think it lasted forever, really."[24] Her insecurity was exacerbated by the attitude of studio chief Louis B. Mayer, who referred to her as his "little hunchback".[25]

During her early years at the studio, they photographed and dressed her in plain garments or frilly juvenile gowns and costumes to match the "girl-next-door" image created for her. They had her wear removable caps on her teeth and rubberized discs to reshape her nose.[26]

Garland performed at various studio functions and was eventually cast opposite Deanna Durbin in the musical-short Every Sunday. The film contrasted her vocal range and swing style with Durbin's operatic soprano and served as an extended screen test for the pair, as studio executives were questioning the wisdom of having two girl singers on the roster.[27] Mayer finally decided to keep both actresses, but by that time, Durbin's option had lapsed and she was signed by Universal Studios.[citation needed]

On November 16, 1935, Garland learned her father had been hospitalized with meningitis and had taken a turn for the worse while she was in the midst of preparing for a radio performance on the Shell Chateau Hour. Frank Gumm died the following morning at age forty-nine, leaving her devastated at age thirteen. Her song for the Shell Chateau Hour was her first professional rendition of "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart", a song which became a standard in many of her concerts.[28]

Garland next came to the attention of studio executives by singing a special arrangement of "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)" to Clark Gable at a birthday party held by the studio for the actor. Her rendition was so well regarded, she performed the song in the all-star extravaganza Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937), singing to a photograph of him.[29]

MGM hit on a winning formula when it paired Garland with Mickey Rooney in a string of what were known as "backyard musicals".[30] The duo first appeared together as supporting characters in the 1937 B movie Thoroughbreds Don't Cry. Garland was then put in the cast of the fourth of the Hardy Family movies as a literal girl-next-door to Rooney's character Andy Hardy, in Love Finds Andy Hardy, although Hardy's love interest was played by Lana Turner. They teamed as lead characters for the first time in Babes in Arms, ultimately appearing in five additional films, including Hardy films Andy Hardy Meets Debutante and Life Begins for Andy Hardy.

Garland stated Rooney, she, and other young performers were constantly prescribed amphetamines to stay awake to keep with the frantic pace of making one film after another, as well as barbiturates to take before going to bed so they could sleep.[31] This regular dose of drugs, she said, led to addiction and a lifelong struggle, and contributed to her eventual demise. She later resented the hectic schedule and felt MGM stole her youth.

Garland was of a healthy weight, but the studio demanded she diet constantly. They even went so far as to serve her only a bowl of soup and a plate of lettuce when she ordered a regular meal.[32] She was plagued with self-doubt throughout her life, despite successful film and recording careers, awards, critical praise, and her ability to fill concert halls worldwide, and she required constant reassurance she was talented and attractive.[33] Some sources[who?] claim Garland was taken advantage of by sexual predators in Hollywood during her initial period of success and that she was seduced by Spencer Tracy at the age of fourteen.[34][better source needed]

Rooney, however, denied their childhood studio was responsible for her addiction: "Judy Garland was never given any drugs by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Mr. Mayer didn't sanction anything for Judy. No one on that lot was responsible for Judy Garland's death. Unfortunately, Judy chose that path."[35]

The Wizard of Oz

Garland holding Terry (as Toto) in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

In 1938, she was cast in her most memorable role, 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 this film, she sang the song with which she would be identified, "Over the Rainbow". Although producers Arthur Freed and Mervyn LeRoy had wanted her from the start, studio chief Mayer first tried to borrow Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox, but they declined. Deanna Durbin was then asked, but was unavailable, resulting in Garland being cast.[36]

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.[37] Shooting commenced on October 13, 1938,[38] and was completed on March 16, 1939,[39] with a final cost of more than US$2 million.[40] With the conclusion of filming, MGM kept Garland busy with promotional tours and the shooting of Babes in Arms, directed by Busby Berkeley. Rooney and she 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.[41] Garland was forced into a strict diet during filming; she was given tobacco to suppress her appetite.[42]

The Wizard of Oz was a tremendous critical success, though its high budget and promotions costs of an estimated $4 million (equivalent to $70.4 million in 2018), coupled with the lower revenue generated by discounted children's tickets, meant that the film did not make a profit until it was rereleased in the 1940s and in subsequent rereleases.[43] At the 1939 Academy Awards ceremony, Garland received her only Academy Award, a Juvenile Award for her performances in 1939, including The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms.[44] Following this recognition, she became one of MGM's most bankable stars.[citation needed]

Adult stardom

Garland sings "The Trolley Song" in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

In 1940, she starred in three films: Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, Strike Up the Band, and Little Nellie Kelly. In the last, she played her first adult role, a dual role of both mother and daughter. Little Nellie Kelly was purchased from George M. Cohan as a vehicle for her to display both her audience appeal and her physical appearance. The role was a challenge for her, requiring the use of an accent, her first adult kiss, and the only death scene of her career.[45] The kiss was regarded as embarrassing by her costar, George Murphy. He said it felt like "a hillbilly with a child bride."[46] Nevertheless, the success of these three films and a further three films in 1941 secured her position at MGM as a major property.[citation needed]

During this time, Garland experienced her first serious adult romances. The first was with bandleader Artie Shaw. She was deeply devoted to him and was devastated in early 1940 when he eloped with Lana Turner.[47] Garland began a relationship with musician David Rose, and on her 18th birthday, he gave her an engagement ring. The studio intervened because at that time, he was still married to actress and singer Martha Raye. They agreed to wait a year to allow for his divorce to become final. During that time Garland had a brief affair with songwriter Johnny Mercer. After her break-up with Mercer, Garland and Rose were wed on July 27, 1941.[48] "A true rarity" is what media called it.[49] Garland, who had aborted her pregnancy by him in 1942, agreed to a trial separation in January 1943 and divorced in 1944.[50] She was noticeably thinner in her next film, For Me and My Gal, alongside Gene Kelly in his first screen appearance. She was top-billed in the credits for the first time and effectively made the transition from teenaged star to adult actress.[citation needed]

Promotional image for Presenting Lily Mars (1943)

At age 21, she was given the "glamor treatment" in Presenting Lily Mars, in which she was dressed in "grown-up" gowns. Her lightened hair was also pulled up in a stylish fashion. However, no matter how glamorous or beautiful she appeared on screen or in photographs, she was never confident in her appearance and never escaped the "girl-next-door" image which had been created for her.[51]

One of Garland's most successful films for MGM was Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), in which she introduced three standards: "The Trolley Song", "The Boy Next Door", and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". This was one of the first films in her career that gave her the opportunity to be the attractive leading lady, rather than the dowdy girl next door. Vincente Minnelli was assigned to direct, and he requested that makeup artist Dorothy Ponedel be assigned to Garland. Ponedel refined her appearance in several ways, including extending and reshaping her eyebrows, changing her hairline, modifying her lip line and removing her nose discs and dental caps. She appreciated the results so much that Ponedel was written into her contract for all her remaining pictures at MGM.[citation needed]

At this time, Garland had a brief affair with film director Orson Welles, who was then married to Rita Hayworth. The affair ended in early 1945, although they remained on good terms afterward.[52]

During the filming of Meet Me in St. Louis, after some initial conflict between them, Garland and Minnelli entered into a relationship. They were married June 15, 1945,[53] and on March 12, 1946, daughter Liza was born.[54] They were divorced by 1951.[55]

The Clock (1945) was Garland's first straight dramatic film, opposite Robert Walker. Though the film was critically praised and earned a profit, most movie fans expected her to sing. She did not act again in a nonsinging dramatic role for many years. Garland's other films of the 1940s include The Harvey Girls (1946), in which she introduced the Academy Award-winning song "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe", and Till the Clouds Roll By (1946).[citation needed]

Leaving MGM

During filming for The Pirate in April 1947, Garland suffered a nervous breakdown and was placed in a private sanitarium.[56] She was able to complete filming, but in July, she made her first suicide attempt, making minor cuts to her wrist with a broken glass.[57] During this period, she spent two weeks in treatment at the Austen Riggs Center, a psychiatric hospital in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.[58] The Pirate was released in 1948 and was the first film in which Garland had starred since The Wizard of Oz to not make a profit. The main reasons for its failure was not only its cost, but also the increasing expense of the shooting delays while Garland was ill, as well because the general public was not yet willing to accept her in a sophisticated vehicle. Following her work on The Pirate, she co-starred for the first and only time with Fred Astaire (who replaced Gene Kelly after Kelly had broken his ankle) in Easter Parade, which became her top-grossing film at MGM and quickly re-established her as one of MGM's primary assets.[citation needed]

Garland in Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)

Thrilled by the huge box-office receipts of Easter Parade, MGM immediately teamed Garland and Astaire in The Barkleys of Broadway. During the initial filming, Garland was taking prescription sleeping medication along with illicitly obtained pills containing morphine. Around this time, she also developed a serious problem with alcohol. These, in combination with migraine headaches, led her to miss several shooting days in a row. After being advised by her doctor that she would only be able to work in four- to five-day increments with extended rest periods between, MGM executive Arthur Freed made the decision to suspend her on July 18, 1948. She was replaced in the film by Ginger Rogers.[59] When her suspension was over, she was summoned back to work and ultimately performed two songs as a guest in the Rodgers and Hart biopic Words and Music, which was her last appearance with Mickey Rooney. Despite the all-star cast, Words and Music barely broke even at the box office. Having regained her strength, as well as some needed weight during her suspension, Garland felt much better and in the fall of 1948, she returned to MGM to replace a pregnant June Allyson for the musical film In the Good Old Summertime co-starring Van Johnson. Although she was sometimes late arriving at the studio during the making of this picture, she managed to complete it five days ahead of schedule. Her daughter Liza made her film debut at the age of two and a half at the end of the film. In The Good Old Summertime was enormously successful at the box office.[60]

Garland was then cast in the film adaptation of Annie Get Your Gun in the title role of Annie Oakley. She was nervous at the prospect of taking on a role strongly identified with Ethel Merman, anxious about appearing in an unglamorous part after breaking from juvenile parts for several years, and disturbed by her treatment at the hands of director Busby Berkeley. Berkeley was staging all the musical numbers, and was severe with Garland's lack of effort, attitude, and enthusiasm. She complained to Mayer, trying to have Berkeley fired from the feature. She began arriving late to the set and sometimes failed to appear. At this time, she was also undergoing electroshock therapy for depression.[61][62][63] She was fired from the picture on May 10, 1949, and was replaced by Betty Hutton, who stepped in performing all the musical routines as staged by Berkeley.[64]

Garland underwent an extensive hospital stay at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, in which she was weaned off her medication, and after a while, was able to eat and sleep normally. Garland returned to Los Angeles heavier, and in the fall of 1949, was cast opposite Gene Kelly in Summer Stock. The film took six months to complete. To lose weight, Garland went back on the pills and the familiar pattern resurfaced. She began showing up late or not at all. When principal photography on Summer Stock was completed in the spring of 1950, it was decided that Garland needed an additional musical number. She agreed to do it provided the song should be "Get Happy". In addition, she insisted that director Charles Walters choreograph and stage the number. By that time, Garland had lost 15 pounds and looked more slender. "Get Happy" was the last segment of Summer Stock to be filmed. It was her final picture for MGM. When it was released in the fall of 1950, Summer Stock drew big crowds and racked up very respectable box-office receipts, but because of the costly shooting delays caused by Garland, the film posted a loss of $80,000 to the studio.[citation needed]

Garland was cast in the film Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire after June Allyson became pregnant in 1950. She failed to report to the set on multiple occasions, and the studio suspended her contract on June 17, 1950. She was replaced by Jane Powell.[65] Reputable biographies following her death stated that after this latest dismissal, she slightly grazed her neck with a broken glass, requiring only a band-aid, but at the time, the public was informed that a despondent Garland had slashed her throat.[66] "All I could see ahead was more confusion", Garland later said of this suicide attempt. "I wanted to black out the future as well as the past. I wanted to hurt myself and everyone who had hurt me."[67] In September 1950, after 15 years with the studio, Garland and MGM parted company.[68]

Later career

Appearances on Bing Crosby's radio show

Garland was a frequent guest on Kraft Music Hall, hosted by her friend Bing Crosby. Following Garland's second suicide attempt, Crosby, knowing that she was depressed and running out of money, invited her on to his radio show—the first of the new season—on October 11, 1950.

She was standing in the wings of it trembling with fear. She was almost hysterical. She said, "I cannot go out there because they're all gonna be looking to see if there are scars and it's gonna be terrible." Bing said "What's going on?" and I told him what happened and he walked out on stage and he said: "We got a friend here, she's had a little trouble recently. You probably heard about it – Everything is fine now, she needs our love. She needs our support. She's here – let's give it to her, OK? Here's Judy." And she came out and that place went crazy. And she just blossomed.

— Hal Kanter, Writer for Bing

Garland made eight appearances during the 1950–51 season of The Bing Crosby – Chesterfield Show, which immediately reinvigorated her career. Soon after, she toured for four months to sellout crowds in Europe.[69]

Renewed stardom on the stage

Garland in a publicity still (1954)

In 1951, Garland began a four-month concert tour of Britain and Ireland, where she played to sold-out audiences throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland.[70] The successful concert tour was the first of her many comebacks, with performances centered on songs by Al Jolson and revival of vaudevillian "tradition". Garland performed complete shows as tributes to Jolson in her concerts at the London Palladium in April and at New York's Palace Theater later that year. Garland said after the Palladium show: "I suddenly knew that this was the beginning of a new life ... Hollywood thought I was through; then came the wonderful opportunity to appear at the London Palladium, where I can truthfully say Judy Garland was reborn."[71] Her appearances at the Palladium lasted for four weeks, where she received rave reviews and an ovation described by the Palladium manager as the loudest he had ever heard.[72][73]

Garland's engagement at the Palace Theatre in Manhattan in October 1951 exceeded all previous records for the theater and for Garland, and was called "one of the greatest personal triumphs in show business history".[74] Garland was honored with a Special Tony Award for her contribution to the revival of vaudeville.[75]

Garland divorced Minnelli that same year.[76] On June 8, 1952, she married Sid Luft, her tour manager and producer, in Hollister, California.[77] Garland gave birth to Lorna Luft, herself a future actress and singer, on November 21, 1952, and to Joey Luft on March 29, 1955.[78]

Hollywood comeback

Garland in A Star Is Born (1954)

Garland filmed a musical remake of the film A Star Is Born for Warner Bros. in 1954. Garland and Sidney Luft, her then-husband, produced the film through their production company, Transcona Enterprises, while Warner Bros. supplied the funds, production facilities, and crew.[79] Directed by George Cukor and co-starring James Mason, it was a large undertaking to which she initially fully dedicated herself.[citation needed]

As shooting progressed, however, she began making the same pleas of illness that she had so often made during her final films at MGM. Production delays led to cost overruns and angry confrontations with Warner Bros. head Jack L. Warner. Principal photography wrapped on March 17, 1954. At Luft's suggestion, the "Born in a Trunk" medley was filmed as a showcase for her and inserted over director Cukor's objections, who feared the additional length would lead to cuts in other areas. It was completed on July 29.[80]

Upon its world premiere on September 29, 1954, the film was met with tremendous critical and popular acclaim. Before its release, it was edited at the instruction of Jack Warner; theater operators, concerned that they were losing money because they were only able to run the film for three or four shows per day instead of five or six, pressured the studio to make additional reductions. About 30 minutes of footage were cut, sparking outrage among critics and filmgoers. Although it was still popular, drawing huge crowds and grossing over $6,000,000 in its first release, A Star is Born did not make back its cost and ended up losing money. As a result, the secure financial position Garland had expected from the profits did not materialize.[81] Transcona made no more films with Warner.[82]

Garland was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and in the run-up to the 27th Academy Awards, was generally expected to win. She could not attend the ceremony because she had just given birth to her son, Joseph Luft, so a television crew was in her hospital room with cameras and wires to broadcast her anticipated acceptance speech. The Oscar was won, however, by Grace Kelly for The Country Girl (1954). The camera crew was packing up before Kelly could even reach the stage. Groucho Marx sent her a telegram after the awards ceremony, declaring her loss "the biggest robbery since Brinks." TIME labeled her performance as "just about the greatest one-woman show in modern movie history".[83] Garland won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical for the role.[84]

Garland's films after A Star Is Born included Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) (for which she was Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated for Best Supporting Actress), the animated feature Gay Purr-ee (1962), and A Child Is Waiting (1963) with Burt Lancaster. Her final film was I Could Go On Singing (1963), co-starring Dirk Bogarde.[85]

Television, concerts, and Carnegie Hall

Garland before a concert (1957)

Garland appeared in a number of television specials beginning in 1955. The first was the 1955 debut episode of Ford Star Jubilee; this was the first full-scale color broadcast ever on CBS and was a ratings triumph, scoring a 34.8 Nielsen rating. She signed a three-year, $300,000 contract with the network. Only one additional special was broadcast in 1956, a live concert-edition of General Electric Theater, before the relationship between the Lufts and CBS broke down in a dispute over the planned format of upcoming specials.[86]

In 1956, Garland performed for four weeks at the New Frontier Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip for a salary of $55,000 per week, making her the highest-paid entertainer to work in Las Vegas.[87] Despite a brief bout of laryngitis, her performances there were so successful that her run was extended an extra week.[88] Later that year, she returned to the Palace Theatre, site of her two-a-day triumph. She opened in September, once again to rave reviews and popular acclaim.[89]

In November 1959, Garland was hospitalized after she was diagnosed with acute hepatitis.[90] Over the next few weeks, several quarts of fluid were drained from her body until she was released from the hospital in January 1960, still in a weak condition. She was told by doctors that she likely had five years or less to live and that, even if she did survive, she would be a semi-invalid and would never sing again.[91] She initially felt "greatly relieved" at the diagnosis. "The pressure was off me for the first time in my life."[66] However, she recovered over the next several months, and in August of that year, returned to the stage of the Palladium. She felt so warmly embraced by the British that she announced her intention to move permanently to England.[92]

Her concert appearance at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 1961, was a considerable highlight, called by many "the greatest night in show business history".[93] The two-record album Judy at Carnegie Hall was certified gold, charting for 95 weeks on Billboard, including 13 weeks at number one. It won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Best Female Vocal of the Year,[94] and has never been out of print.[citation needed]

The Judy Garland Show

Dean Martin, Garland, and Frank Sinatra (1962)

In 1961, Garland and CBS settled their contract disputes with the help of her new agent, Freddie Fields, and negotiated a new round of specials. The first, entitled The Judy Garland Show, aired on February 25, 1962[95] and featured guests Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.[96] Following this success, CBS made a $24 million offer to her for a weekly television series of her own, also to be called The Judy Garland Show, which was deemed at the time in the press to be "the biggest talent deal in TV history". Although she had said as early as 1955 that she would never do a weekly television series,[97] in the early 1960s, she was in a financially precarious situation. She was several hundred thousand dollars in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, having failed to pay taxes in 1951 and 1952, and the failure of A Star is Born meant that she received nothing from that investment.[98] A successful run on television was intended to secure her financial future.[citation needed]

Following a third special, Judy Garland and Her Guests Phil Silvers and Robert Goulet, Garland's weekly series debuted September 29, 1963.[99] The Judy Garland Show was critically praised,[100][101] but for a variety of reasons (including being placed in the time slot opposite Bonanza on NBC), the show lasted only one season and was cancelled in 1964 after 26 episodes. Despite its short run, the series was nominated for four Emmy Awards, including Best Variety Series.[102] The demise of the program was personally and financially devastating for Garland.[citation needed]

Political views

Garland was a lifelong and relatively active Democrat. During her lifetime, she was a member of the Hollywood Democratic committee and a financial as well as moral supporter of various liberal causes, including the Civil Rights movement. She donated money to the campaigns of Democratic presidential candidates Franklin D. Roosevelt, Henry A. Wallace, Adlai Stevenson II, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy.[103][104][105][106]

Final years

In 1963, Garland sued Luft for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty. She also asserted that he had repeatedly struck her while he was drinking and that he had attempted to take their children from her by force.[107] She had filed for divorce from Luft on several previous occasions, even as early as 1956, but they had reconciled each time.[108]

Mickey Deans and Garland at their London wedding in March 1969, three months before her death

After her television series was cancelled, Garland returned to the stage. Most notably, she performed at the London Palladium with her 18-year-old daughter Liza Minnelli in November 1964. The concert was also shown on the British television network ITV and was one of her final appearances at the venue. She made guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. Garland guest-hosted an episode of The Hollywood Palace with Vic Damone. She was invited back for a second episode in 1966 with Van Johnson as her guest. Problems with Garland's behavior ended her Hollywood Palace guest appearances.[109]

A 1964 tour of Australia was largely disastrous. Garland's first concert in Sydney was held in the Sydney Stadium because no concert hall could accommodate the overflow crowds who wanted to see her. It went well and received positive reviews. Her second performance, in Melbourne, started an hour late. The crowd of 7,000 was angered by her tardiness and believed that she was drunk; they booed and heckled her, and she fled the stage after 45 minutes.[110] She later characterized the Melbourne crowd as "brutish".[111] A second concert in Sydney was uneventful, but the Melbourne appearance garnered her significant bad press.[112] Some of that bad press was deflected by the announcement of a near fatal episode of pleurisy.[citation needed]

Garland's tour promoter Mark Herron announced that they had married aboard a freighter off the coast of Hong Kong. However, she was not officially divorced from Luft at the time the ceremony was performed.[113] The divorce became final on May 19, 1965,[107] and Herron and she did not legally marry until November 14, 1965; they separated six months later.[114]

In February 1967, Garland was cast as Helen Lawson in Valley of the Dolls for 20th Century Fox.[115] During the filming, she missed rehearsals and was fired in April, replaced by Susan Hayward.[116] Her recording of the song "I'll Plant My Own Tree" survived, along with her stage clothes.[citation needed]

Returning to the stage, Garland made her last appearances at New York's Palace Theatre in July, a 27-show stand, performing with her children Lorna and Joey Luft. She wore a sequined pantsuit on stage for this tour, which was part of the original wardrobe for her character in Valley of the Dolls.[117]

By early 1969, Garland's health had deteriorated. She performed in London at the Talk of the Town nightclub for a five-week run[118] and made her last concert appearance in Copenhagen during March 1969.[119] She married her fifth and final husband, nightclub manager Mickey Deans, at Chelsea Register Office, London, on March 15, 1969,[120] her divorce from Herron having been finalized on February 11.[121]


On June 22, 1969, Deans found Garland dead in the bathroom of their rented mews house in Chelsea, London; she was 47 years old. 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 10 1.5-grain (97 mg) Seconal capsules.[122] Thurston stressed that the overdose had been unintentional and that no evidence suggested 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 had been "accidental".[123] Supporting the accidental cause, her doctor noted that a prescription of 25 barbiturate pills was found by her bedside half-empty and another bottle of 100 was still unopened.[124]

A British specialist who had attended her autopsy said she had nevertheless been living on borrowed time owing to cirrhosis, although a later autopsy showed no evidence of alcoholism or cirrhosis.[125][126] She died twelve days after her forty-seventh birthday. Her Wizard of Oz co-star Ray Bolger commented at her funeral, "She just plain wore out."[127] Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Hunter believed that Garland had an eating disorder, which contributed to her death.[128]

After her body had been embalmed by Desmond Henley,[129] Deans took Garland's 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 overflow crowd. On June 27, James Mason gave a eulogy at the funeral, an Episcopal service led by the Rev. Peter A. Delaney of St Marylebone Parish Church, London, who had officiated at her marriage to Deans, three months prior.[130] 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 north of midtown Manhattan.[131]

At the insistence of her children, Garland's remains were disinterred from Ferncliff Cemetery in January 2017 and re-interred 2,800 miles across the country at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.[132]


Garland possessed the vocal range of a contralto.[133][134] Her singing voice has been described as brassy,[15] powerful, effortless and resonant,[135] often demonstrating a tremulous,[136] powerful vibrato.[137] Although the octave range of her voice was comparatively limited, she was capable of alternating between female and male-sounding timbres at will with little effort.[138] The Richmond Times-Dispatch correspondent Tony Farrell wrote that Garland possessed "a deep, velvety contralto voice that could turn on a dime to belt out the high notes,"[139] while Ron O’Brien, producer of tribute album The Definitive Collection – Judy Garland (2006), wrote that the singer's combination of natural phrasing, elegant delivery, mature pathos "and powerful dramatic dynamics she brings to ... songs make her [renditions] the definitive interpretations.”[140] HuffPost writer Joan E. Dowlin called the period of Garland's musical career between 1937 and 1945 the "innocent years", during which the critic believes that the singer's "voice was vibrant and her musical expression exuberant", taking note of its resonance and distinct, "rich yet sweet" quality "that grabs you and pulls you in."[140] Garland's voice would often vary to suit the song she was interpreting, ranging from soft, engaging and tender during ballads to humorous on some of her duets with other artists.[140] Her more joyful, belted performances have been compared to entertainers Sophie Tucker, Ethel Merman and Al Jolson.[138] Although her musical repertoire consisted largely of cast recordings, show tunes and traditional pop standards,[141] Garland was also capable of singing soul, blues and jazz music, which Dowlin compared to singer Elvis Presley.[140]

Garland insists that her talent as a performer was inherited, claiming, "Nobody ever taught me what to do onstage."[142] Critics agree that, even when she debuted as a child,[141] Garland had always sounded mature for her age,[143] particularly on her earlier recordings.[140] From an early age, Garland had been billed as "the little girl with the leather lungs",[142] a designation the singer later admitted to having felt humiliated by because she would have much preferred to have been known to audiences as a "pretty" or "nice little girl".[144] Jessel recalled that, even at only 12 years-old, Garland's singing voice resembled that of "a woman with a heart that had been hurt."[142] The Kansas City Star contributor Robert Trussel cited Garland's singing voice among reasons why her role and performance in The Wizard of Oz remains memorable, writing that although "She might have been made up and costumed to look like a little girl ... she didn’t sing like one" due to her "powerful contralto command[ing] attention."[135] Camille Paglia, social critic for The New York Times, joked that even in Garland's adult life "her petite frame literally throbbed with her huge voice", making it appear as though she were "at war with her own body".[138] Theater actress and director Donna Thomason stated that Garland was an "effective" performer because she was capable of using her "singing voice [as] a natural extension of [her] speaking voice", a skill that Thomason believes all musical theater actors should at least strive to achieve.[135] Trussel agreed that "Garland’s singing voice sounded utterly natural. It never seemed forced or overly trained."[135]

Writing for Turner Classic Movies, biographer Jonathan Riggs observed that Garland had a tendency to imbue her vocals with a paradoxical combination of "fragility and resilience" that eventually became a signature trademark of hers.[136] Louis Bayard of The Washington Post described Garland's voice as "throbbing", believing it to be capable of "connect[ing] with [audiences] in a way no other voice does."[145] Bayard also believes that listeners "find it hard to disentwine the sorrow in her voice from the sorrow that dogged her life",[145] while Dowlin argued that "Listening to Judy sing ... makes me forget all of the angst and suffering she must have endured."[140] A journalist for The New York Times observed that Garland, whether intentionally or not, "brought with her ... all the well-publicized phantoms of her emotional breakdown, her career collapses and comebacks" on stage during later performances.[15] Critics noted that Garland's voice changed and lost some of its quality as she aged, although she retained much of her personality.[15] Contributing to the Irish Independent, Julia Molony observed Garland's voice, although "still rich with emotion", had finally begun to "creak with the weight of years of disappointment and hard-living" by the time she performed at Carnegie Hall in 1961.[146] Similarly, the live record's entry in the Library of Congress wrote that "while her voice was still strong, it had also gained a bit of heft and a bit of wear"; author Cary O'Dell believes Garland's rasp and "occasional quiver" only "upped the emotional quotient of many of her numbers", particularly on her signature songs "Over the Rainbow" and "The Man That Got Away".[147] Garland stated that she always felt most safe and at home while performing onstage, regardless of the condition of her voice.[148] Her musical talent has been commended by her peers; opera singer Maria Callas once said that Garland possessed "the most superb voice she had ever heard", while singer and actor Bing Crosby said that "no other singer could be compared to her" when Garland was rested.[143]

Garland was known for interacting with her audiences during live performances; a New York Times biographer wrote that Garland possessed "a seemingly unquenchable need for her audiences to respond with acclaim and affection. And often they did, screaming, 'We love you, Judy- we love you.'"[15] Garland explained in 1961, "A really great reception makes me feel like I have a great big warm heating pad all over me ... I truly have a great love for an audience, and I used to want to prove it to them by giving them blood. But I have a funny new thing now, a real determination to make people enjoy the show.”[149] The biographer went on to write that Garland's performance style resembled that of "a music hall performer in an era when music halls were obsolete."[15] Close friends of Garland's have insisted that she never truly wanted to be movie star and would have much rather devoted her career entirely to singing and recording records.[144] AllMusic biographer William Ruhlmann believes that Garland's ability to maintain a successful career as a recording artist even after her film appearances became less frequent was unusual for an artist at the time.[141] Garland has been identified as a triple threat due to her ability sing, act and dance,[1] arguably equally as well as each other.[150] Doug Strassler, a critic for the New York Press, described Garland as a "triple threat" who "bounced between family musicals and adult dramas with a precision and a talent that remains largely unmatched."[151] In terms of acting, a critic for The Guardian identified Garland as a "chameleon" due to her ability to alternate between comedic, musical and dramatic roles, citing The Wizard of Oz, The Clock, A Star is Born and I Could Go On Singing – her final film role – as prominent examples.[152] The New York Times described her as both "an instinctive actress and comedienne".[15] Michael Musto, a journalist for W magazine, wrote that in her film roles Garland "could project decency, vulnerability, and spunk like no other star, and she wrapped it up with a tremulously beautiful vocal delivery that could melt even the most hardened troll."[153]

Public image and reputation

Garland was nearly equally as famous for her personal struggles and everyday life as she was for her entertainment career,[138] although The New York Times argues that Garland's personal life eventually overshadowed her career and talent.[15] She has been closely associated with her carefully cultivated girl next door image.[146] Early in her career during the 1930s, Garland's public image had earned her the title "America's favorite kid sister",[142] as well as "Little Miss Showbusiness".[154][155] In a review for the Star Tribune, Graydon Royce wrote that Garland's public image remained that of "a Midwestern girl who couldn't believe where she was", despite having been a well-established celebrity for over 20 years.[148] Royce believes that fans and audiences insisted on preserving their memory of Garland as Dorothy no matter how much she matured, calling her "a captive not of her own desire to stay young, but the public's desire to preserve her that way."[148] Thus, the studio continued to cast Garland in roles that were significantly younger than her actual age.[148] According to Malony, Garland was one of Hollywood's hardest-working performers during the 1940s, which Malony claims she used as a coping mechanism after her first marriage imploded.[146] However, studio employees recall that Garland had a tendency to be quite intense, headstrong and volatile;[142] Judy Garland: The Secret Life of an American Legend author David Shipman claims that several individuals were frustrated with Garland's "narcissism" and "growing instability", while millions of fans found her public demeanor and psychological state to be "fragile",[154][146] appearing neurotic in interviews.[148] MGM reports that Garland was consistently tardy and demonstrated erratic behavior, resulting in several delays and disruptions to filming schedules until she was finally dismissed from the studio, who had deemed her unreliable and difficult to manage.[146] Farrell called Garland "A grab bag of contradictions" which "has always been a feast for the American imagination", describing her public persona as "awkward yet direct, bashful yet brash".[139] Describing the singer as "Tender and endearing yet savage and turbulent," Paglia wrote that Garland "cut a path of destruction through many lives. And out of that chaos she made art of still-searing intensity."[138] Calling her "a creature of extremes, greedy, sensual and demanding, gluttonous for pleasure and pain",[142] Paglia also compared Garland to entertainer Frank Sinatra due to their shared "emblematic personality ... into whom the mass audience projected its hopes and disappointments", while observing that she lacked Sinatra's survival skills.[138]

Despite her success as a performer, Garland suffered from low self esteem, particularly in regards to her weight which she constantly dieted to maintain at the behest of the studio and Mayer;[142][146][153] critics and historians believe this to be a result of having been told by studio executives that she was an "ugly duckling".[140] Entertainment Weekly columnist Gene Lyons observed that both audiences and fellow members of the entertainment industry "tended either to love her or to hate her."[154] At one point, Stevie Phillips, who had worked as an agent for Garland for four years, had described her client as "a demented, demanding, supremely talented drug-addict."[146] Royce argues that Garland maintained "astonishing strength and courage", even during difficult times.[148] English actor Dirk Bogarde once called Garland "the funniest woman I have ever met".[145] Ruhlmann wrote that the singer's personal life "contrasted so starkly with the exuberance and innocence of her film roles".[141] Despite her personal struggles, Garland disagreed with the public's opinion that she was a tragic figure.[148][152] Writer William Randall Beard, who wrote that play based on Garland's life entitled Beyond the Rainbow, believes that Garland possessed "a wicked sense of humor and a passion", to the point of which she would have questioned anyone who stated she had lived "a tragic life".[148] Her younger daughter Lorna agreed that Garland "hated" being referred to as a tragic figure, explaining, "We all have tragedies in our lives, but that does not make us tragic. She was funny and she was warm and she was wonderfully gifted. She had great highs and great moments in her career. She also had great moments in her personal life. Yes, we lost her at 47 years old. That was tragic. But she was not a tragic figure."[152] Ruhlmann argues that Garland actually used the public's opinion of her tragic image to her advantage towards the end of her career.[141]


Mickey Rooney watching Garland put her handprint into concrete at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, 1939
Star for recognition of film work at 1715 Vine Street on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: She has another for recording at 6764 Hollywood Boulevard.

By the time of her death in 1969, Garland had appeared in more than 35 films.[15] She has been called one of the greats of entertainment, and her reputation has endured.[156][157][158][159] In 1992, Gerald Clarke of Architectural Digest dubbed Garland "probably the greatest American entertainer of the twentieth century."[143] O'Brien believes that "No one in the history of Hollywood ever packed the musical wallop that Garland did", explaining, "She had the biggest, most versatile voice in movies. Her Technicolor musicals... defined the genre. The songs she introduced were Oscar gold. Her film career frames the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals.”[140] Turner Classic Movies dubbed Garland "history's most poignant voice".[136] Entertainment Weekly's Gene Lyons dubbed Garland "the Madonna of her generation."[154] The American Film Institute named her eighth among the Greatest female stars of Golden Age Hollywood cinema.[160] In June 1998, The New York Times social critic Camille Paglia wrote that "Garland was a personality on the grand scale who makes our current crop of pop stars look lightweight and evanescent."[138] In recent years, Garland's legacy has maintained fans of all different ages, both younger and older.[152] In 2010, HuffPost contributor Joan E. Dowlin concluded that Garland possessed a distinct "it" quality by "exemplif[ying] the star quality of charisma, musical talent, natural acting ability, and despite what the studio honchos said, good looks (even if they were the girl next door looks)."[140] AllMusic biographer William Ruhlmann "the core of her significance as an artist remains her amazing voice and emotional commitment to her songs", and believes that "her career is sometimes viewed more as an object lesson in Hollywood excess than as the remarkable string of multimedia accomplishments it was."[141] In 2012, Strassler described Garland as "more than an icon ... Like Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball, she created a template that the powers that be have forever been trying, with varied levels of success, to replicate."[151]

Garland's live performances towards the end of her career are still remembered by fans who attended them as "peak moments in 20th-century music."[142] Garland has been the subject of over two dozen biographies since her death, including the well-received Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir by her daughter, Lorna Luft, whose memoir was later adapted into the television miniseries Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, which won Emmy Awards for the two actresses portraying her (Tammy Blanchard and Judy Davis).[161] Strassler observed that Garland "created one of the most storied cautionary tales in the industry, thanks to her the many excesses and insecurities that led to her early death by overdose."[151]

Garland was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.[162] Several of her recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[163] These include "Over the Rainbow", which was ranked as the number one movie song of all time in the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Songs" list. Four more Garland songs are featured on the list: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (No. 76), "Get Happy" (No. 61), "The Trolley Song" (No. 26), and "The Man That Got Away" (No. 11).[164] She has twice been honored on U.S. postage stamps, in 1989 (as Dorothy)[165] and again in 2006 (as Vicki Lester from A Star Is Born).[166] While on tour In 1964, Garland identified "Over the Rainbow" as her favorite of all the songs she had ever recorded, to which Trussel observed that "Her career would remain inextricably linked".[135] Garland would frequently use an overture from "Over the Rainbow" as her entrance music during concerts and television appearances.[135] According to Paglia, the more Garland performed "Over the Rainbow" the more it "became her tragic anthem ... a dirge for artistic opportunities squandered and for personal happiness permanently deferred."[138] In 1998, Carnegie Hall hosted a two-concert tribute to Garland, which they promoted as "a tribute to the world's greatest entertainer".[138]

Subsequent celebrities who have suffered from personal struggles with drug addiction and substance abuse have been compared to Garland, particularly Michael Jackson.[140] Garland's older daughter Liza had a personal life that was almost parallel to that of her mother's, having struggled with substance abuse and several unsuccessful marriages.[146] Paglia observed that actress Marilyn Monroe would exhibit behavior similar to Garland a decade after Meet Me in St. Louis, particularly her tardiness.[142]

Gay icon

Garland had a large fan base in the gay community and became a gay icon.[167] Reasons given for her standing, especially among gay men, are the admiration of her ability as a performer, the way her personal struggles mirrored those of gay men in America during the height of her fame, and her value as a camp figure.[168] In the 1960s, a reporter asked how she felt about having a large gay following. She replied, "I couldn't care less. I sing to people."[169]

Portrayals in fiction

Garland has been portrayed on television by Andrea McArdle in Rainbow (1978),[170] Tammy Blanchard (young Judy) and Judy Davis (older Judy) in Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001),[171] and Sigrid Thornton in Peter Allen: Not The Boy Next Door (2015).[172] Renée Zellweger is set to portray Garland in the upcoming biopic Judy, which is expected to be released in 2018.[173]

On stage, Garland is a character in the musical The Boy from Oz (1998), portrayed by Chrissy Amphlett in the original Australian production[174] and by Isabel Keating on Broadway in 2003.[175] End of the Rainbow (2005) featured Caroline O'Connor as Garland and Paul Goddard as Garland's pianist.[176] Adrienne Barbeau played Garland in The Property Known as Garland (2006)[177] and The Judy Monologues (2010) initially featured male actors reciting Garland's words before it was revamped as a one-woman show.[178]

See also


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Further reading

External links