It's been 45 years since Judy Garland passed away. Instead of focusing on her tragic end, I want to celebrate the joy she brought to Old Hollywood and to millions of people throughout the decades.
Judy was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She was the youngest of three girls, and her family nicknamed her "Baby". The three Gumm sisters started performing song and dance routines as young girls in their Episcopal Church and in their father's movie theater. In 1926, the Gumm family moved to California, where it didn't take long for the girls to get started in motion pictures. In 1934, the sisters changed their name to Garland, and they appeared together until 1935 when oldest sister Mary Jane was married.
Mary Jane, Dorothy Virginia, and Frances Ethel,
The Gumm Sisters
Judy eventually signed a contract at age 13 with Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Judy would soon garner attention by singing her rendition of You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want To Do It) to Clark Gable at his birthday party. It would lead to a part in Broadway Melody of 1938 where she would sing the same song to a photo of Gable.
Judy, age 13. Judy always felt out of place & not as beautiful
as the girls she went to school with at MGM, including Ava Gardner, Elizabeth
Taylor, and Lana Turner.
Judy c. 1935
Judy would soon start her series of musicals with fellow MGM star and lifelong friend, Mickey Rooney, in 1937, starting with Love Finds Andy Hardy. The pair would go on to appear in 13 films together. However popular the Andy Hardy series was, Judy's life would change when she was cast as the lead character, Dorothy, in 1939's The Wizard of Oz. It's one of the all time greats, a film every child has seen. I was born and raised in Kansas, just like Dorothy, so The Wizard of Oz means a great deal to me.
Mickey and Judy in Love Finds Andy Hardy.
"I'm not a witch at all! I'm Dorothy Gale, from Kansas."
The 1940s were a plethora of musicals for Judy Garland. Standing under 5 feet tall, the little girl with the big voice delighted audiences in musical films such as For Me and My Gal (with Gene Kelly), Babes on Broadway (with Rooney), Meet Me In St Louis, and Easter Parade (with Fred Astaire), among many others.
"I was born at the age of twelve on the MGM lot."
Judy was so gorgeous in the 1940s.
"I made all these great musicals with Judy Garland. It was all
about me going into a barn and saying, 'Let's put
on a show.' That's what me and Judy did."
Gene Kelly and Judy in For Me and My Gal, 1942
Presenting Lily Mars, 1943
Publicity still as Esther Smith in Meet Me In St. Louis, 1944
With Meet Me In St. Louis co-star Tom Drake
Judy and friend Frank Sinatra. Frank would be Judy's
daughter Lorna Luft's godfather.
With Easter Parade (1948) co-star, Fred Astaire
Judy met her first husband, Vincente Minnelli, on the set of her 1944 picture Meet Me In St. Louis. Vincente was the director, and they began a romantic relationship during filming. The couple married on June 15, 1945. Their only daughter, Liza, was born in March 1946. The pair divorced in 1951.
Vincente and Judy married in her mother's backyard.
Judy and baby Liza.
“It was no great tragedy being Judy Garland's daughter.
I had tremendously interesting childhood
years -- except they had little to do with being a child.”
Judy and Vincente divorced in 1951. Soon after, Judy employed Sid Luft as her manager, and would soon begin a relationship. They were married in 1952. Sid and Judy had two children together, Lorna and Joey. They divorced in 1963 after a seemingly rocky relationship. Judy would marry three more times in her life.
"When we got married in the early '50s, Judy was still very beautiful.
She was only 5-foot tall -- just a shrimp of a girl, really -- but she
had a very sensuous body, and up close, her skin was
like porcelain, pure white. I was crazy about her.
She had incredibly kissable lips."
Judy and Sid with Liza, Joey, and Lorna, 1960s
Unfortunately, Judy succumbed to pill addiction while living in London in 1969. She died in the early morning hours of June 22. It is said that there was a tornado around the same time she died near Salina, Kansas (which is right near my hometown) late at night on June 21. Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't, but I like to believe it is. Judy was a tornado of a woman, in a good way, and her presence and voice are missed terribly.