The Judy Room
Judy Garland
Judy Garland Biography
"Miss Show Business"
"The World's Greatest Entertainer"
"Living Legend"

Judy GarlandThese are just some of the phrases used to describe Judy Garland while she was still alive and in the prime of her career. Now, more than 30 years after her death, she is still considered "Miss Show Business", "The World's Greatest Entertainer", a legend, and an icon. More than simply "Dorothy" in The Wizard Of Oz, Judy Garland has come to exemplify both the good and the bad of show business. With the passage of time, most of the bad press, rumors, and notoriety have subsided so now her immense body of work speaks for itself. And that's as it should be, for Judy Garland's lasting legacy is her work. Her incredible, natural, one-of-a-kind talent. She performed almost non-stop for 45 years of her 47-year life. During that time, she mastered every venue of show business: Vaudeville, Radio, Film, Recordings, Television, and The Concert Stage. She received a special Oscar for her performance in The Wizard of Oz and was nominated for two more. She received a Tony for her record-breaking legend making comeback at the Palace Theater in New York in 1951. She received a Grammy for her record-breaking live concert album "Judy At Carnegie Hall" 1961 (still considered the greatest one woman show on record), among other awards and nominations.

In the years since her untimely death on June 22nd, 1969, Judy Garland's popularity continues to increase, thanks to most of her work being preserved on CD and DVD for the public to enjoy. She will always be remembered as the greatest female film musical star of the 20th Century, as well as the greatest female concert performer. And to most, she'll also be remembered has having one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, voices of the century.

Below are the hi-lights of her all too short life (click on the menu below to jump to specific eras of Judy's life and career).

THE EARLY YEARS  |  THE MGM YEARS  |  THE CONCERT YEARS
MISCELLANEOUS  |  RECOMMENDED READING

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THE EARLY YEARS
Judy and her sisters
Judy and her sisters in 1934

Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922 in Grand Rapids Minnesota. She was the youngest daughter of Frank and Ethel Gumm (she was named for both of them) and had two older sisters: Mary Jane (nicknamed Susie or Suzy) born in 1915 and Dorothy Virginia (nicknamed Jimmie) born in 1917.

"Baby" Frances (as Judy Garland was called until she changed her name to Judy in 1934) made her stage debut at the age of 2 1/2 years old in December 1924 at her father's movie house/theater "The New Grand Theater." "Baby" sang "Jingle Bells" and was so enthusiastically received that she had to literally be carried off the stage. Judy would later remark that this was the beginning of her love affair with audiences. Judy's parents were small time Vaudevillians who had settled in Grand Rapids to start a family, and they and their daughters would perform almost nightly in between showings of the current films.

The family moved to Lancaster, California in 1926 (after a working tour across the western US) where Frank purchased the local movie house/theater. Ethel enrolled the girls (now an act as "The Gumm Sisters") in Los Angeles in the Meglin Kiddies show business "school" (really more of a casting center for the current wave of wanna-be child stars). "Baby" and her sisters would perform up and down the West Coast as "The Gumm Sisters" for the next 9 years - with "Baby" usually stopping the show.

Judy Garland's film debut occurred when the sisters appeared in 4 short subjects in 1929 - 1930 with the Meglin Kiddies (see the 1922 - 1939 Timeline page for details), all four exist in audio form and two are known to exist in both film and audio (see the MGM Recordings page for details).

In 1934, Ethel took the sisters on a working trip to the Chicago World's Fair. During their booking at the Oriental Theater, Comedian George Jessel renamed the girls "The Garland Sisters" after getting laughs introducing them as "The Gumm Sisters" (legend has it that he chose the name after speaking on the phone with theater critic Robert Garland).

"Baby" (or "Frances" as she was commonly called at this time) changed her first name herself to "Judy" after the popular Hoagy Carmichael song of the same name.

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THE MGM YEARS
Judy Garland
1945 MGM Studio Portrait

By 1935, is was clear that Judy was the real star of the act. With older sister Susie getting married and Jimmie losing interest as well, Ethel began concentrating on Judy's career. Judy auditioned at several movie studios (including Warner Bros, Fox, and MGM) but it wasn't until she had another audition with MGM in September of 1935 that luck was with her. With Roger Edens at the piano (replacing Frank who admittedly was not the best pianist), Judy sang "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart." Roger Edens became her musical mentor and it is he, more than anyone, who shaped and refined her talent into what it would become. At the audition, she electrified the small group of executives (including staunch studio head Louis B. Mayer) and was signed to a contract without a screen test (supposedly the only MGM star to do so). The contract began on October 1, 1935 and would be paid $100 per week with the standard "seven years option":

6 months $100.00 per week, 20 week guarantee
6 months 200.00 per week, 20 week guarantee
1 year 300.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
1 year 400.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
1 year 500.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
1 year 600.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
1 year 750.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
1 year 1000.00 per week, 40 week guarantee

Judy's first assignment was on the studio's radio program "The Shell Chateau Hour" with MGM star Wallace Beery. Judy sang "Broadway Rhythm" and was a hit. She came back two weeks later to sing "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart" (both performances have survived and can be heard on the MP3 Page). This performance is noteworthy as that night her beloved father had come down with an ear infection (that turned into Spinal Meningitis) and was listening from his hospital room. He died later that night - never seeing her future successes. It was a tragedy that the 13 year old Judy Garland would never really get over (she was closer to her father than anyone in her life).

Judy's career at MGM was slow to start - she made her "official" film debut on loan out to 20th-Century Fox in Pigskin Parade (1936), then made her MGM Feature Film debut in The Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937) singing her first signature song "(Dear Mr. Gable) You Made Me Love You." She stole the show. MGM slowly began grooming her for stardom. For the next 13 years she would work practically non-stop. Aside from The Wizard Of Oz, Judy would star or guest star in 26 feature films and 4 short subjects becoming the biggest female film musical star of the 1940's.

Some hi-lights:

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)
Babes In Arms (1939)
Strike Up The Band (1940)
Ziegfeld Girl (1941)
Babes On Broadway (1941)
For Me And My Gal (1942)
Girl Crazy (1943)
Presenting Lily Mars (1943)
Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)
The Clock (1945)
The Harvey Girls (1946)
The Pirate (1948)
Easter Parade (1948)
In The Good Old Summertime (1949)
Summer Stock (1950)


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THE CONCERT YEARS

Judy In Concert
JUDY IN CONCERT

After 15 years at MGM and over 30 films, the strain of making movies was more than her fragile nervous system could handle. At her request, MGM mutually agreed to terminate her contract in 1950.

Judy then embarked on her legendary concert years. She re-opened the Palace Theater in her record-breaking run there in 1951. This revitalized her career, and seeing Judy Garland live became "an event." She practically invented the "one woman show" format in the late 50's when she moved from having opening acts and chorus boys to simply Judy, the orchestra, and her audience. The most jaded and caustic critics found themselves searching for new objectives to describe what it was like to see Judy Garland perform live.

In 1954 Warner Bros released Judy's much anticipated film comeback A Star Is Born. The film, cut after previews by Jack Warner to shorten the time, nevertheless became a stellar film comeback and is regarded as a masterpiece (it has since been restored "as-close-as-possible" to director George Cukor's original vision). Judy was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress of the year. The fact that she barely lost has gone down in Hollywood and Oscar history as the greatest injustice of the Oscars. The restored version is available in a beautifully clear looking and sounding DVD (see the DVD page).

After her film comeback, Judy returned to the concert stage (she loved performing live, and obviously preferred it to the grind of making films). She made her TV debut on CBS in 1955 - basically a re-hash of her Palace act. To coincide with the TV special, Capitol Records released "Miss Show Business" the first of many albums Judy would record for the label.

In 1958 it seemed that Judy's career would come to an end. Dangerously overweight, she checked into a hospital and it was discovered that she was suffering from Hepatitis - she almost died and was told she would never perform again. She made a remarkable recovery and embarked on her next legendary 10 years - her voice stronger and more powerful than before.

This is the time she truly became a living legend. She would make 3 films (and give her voice to one animated film), give literally hundreds of live concerts all over the US and Europe, make several TV specials, and star in her now classic one-season TV Series "The Judy Garland Show." All within the span of 5 years.

Some highlights:

  • Judy At Carnegie Hall (live 1961) - At this event, film and stage greats (including Rock Hudson, Julie Andrews, Hedda Hopper among others) and the rest of the packed house, found themselves on their feet clapping and screaming and "reaching out to touch" Judy Garland.
    The two-record LP of this event has never been out of release, and won FIVE Grammy awards (Best Solo Vocal Performance, Female; Album of the Year; Best Album Cover; Best Engineering Contribution; Best Popular Recording; and a special "Artists and Repertoire" Award given to the producer of the two-disc album, Andy Wiswell).   Click here to go to the CD page.

  • I Could Go On Singing (final film performance 1963) - Available on DVD.

  • The Judy Garland Show (TV 1963 - 1964) - All of the episodes of the series, as well as rare outtakes, have been restored and released on DVD.

  • Judy & Liza Live At The London Palladium (1964) - Mother and Daughter's only concert appearance together. The two-record LP has long been out of print, but many tracks can be found on various CDs.

After the cancellation of her TV show in 1964, Judy returned to the concert stage. She also made several TV guest appearances, and almost appeared in the film version of Valley Of The Dolls (1967) going so far as prerecording her solo, making costume tests, and filming a few scenes. Luckily, she left the film, so her GOOD film I Could Go On Singing (1963) is her final film.

Sadly, the seemingly limitless well of energy that she had run on for so long began to slow down. Judy would have a final Palace appearance in 1967 and continue touring and making TV appearances until her death in 1969.

Judy Garland passed away in London, England on June 22, 1969 from an accidental overdose of barbituates. She was 47 years old. Her body was brought back to New York, and she was laid to rest at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, NY. The crowds waiting to pay their final respects to her at the Frank Campbell Mortuary in New York City were said to be the biggest since Rudolph Valentino's death in 1926.


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MISC INFORMATION

RECORDINGS:  From her early years at MGM throughout the end of her life, Judy Garland was a popular recording artist.

From 1936 - 1947, Judy enjoyed a lucrative recording contract with Decca Records. Her first single "Stompin' At The Savoy" (flip side "Swing Mr. Charlie, Swing") was released in 1936. Her recordings would become some of the most popular of the day, including the charting "Over The Rainbow," "I'm Nobody's Baby," "How About You," "The Trolley Song," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe".

In 1955 Judy released her first album for Capitol Records titled "Miss Show Business" (she had released 4 singles under a short-lived Columbia Records contract in 1953). Capitol would release all of her studio and live albums (including the legendary, still best-selling "Judy At Carnegie Hall" in 1961) throughout the end of her life.

Judy's last "official" new album would be the Capitol LP "Judy Garland Live At The Palace" (her 1967 third and final Palace appearance).

1968: Judy's last single (and last original song written for her) was "I'd Like To Hate Myself In The Morning".

January 19, 1969:
Judy's final television appearance: "Sunday Night At The London Palladium" live on British television. This was also her last appearance at the Palladium.

March 25, 1969: Judy's final concert at The Falkoner Centre, Copenhagen.

Approximately June 12, 1969: The final known recordings ever made of Judy signing. These were recording in her friend Johnny Green's apartment around this date. Judy sang "When Sunny Gets Blue" and "I Love A Piano".

June 15, 1969: Judy's final appearance performing for an audience at the Half Note nightclub, Greenwich Village, NYC.

HUSBANDS:
Judy had 5 husbands:
David Rose (married 1941 - 1945)
Vincente Minnelli (married 1945 - 1951)
Sidney Luft (married 1952 - 1965)
Mark Herron (married 1965 - 1967)
Mickey Deans (married 1968 - 1969)
--- All of Judy's husbands have since passed away.

CHILDREN:
Judy had three children all still living:
Liza May Minnelli (born March 12, 1946)
Lorna Luft (born November 21, 1952)
Joseph "Joey" Wiley Luft (born March 29, 1955)

--- Liza and Lorna have followed in their Mother's footsteps and made careers for themselves in show business. Joey has stayed behind the scenes and concentrates on still photography. Only Lorna has given Judy grandchildren: A boy Jesse and a girl Vanessa.

Judy Garland Rose
The Judy Garland Rose - commissioned in 1977, and still available today.
Go to heirloomroses.com to purchase.
Description: "A floribunda of outstanding fragrance.
In fact I can think of only one floribunda to compare to it in strength of perfume.
It's color is a bright yellow edged tith orange-red.
A bushy plant with shiny mid-green foliage.
Continuous bloom, very disease resistant, z 5-10, 24+ petals.
"


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To learn more about the life and career of Judy Garland, I recommend the following:

Click here to purchase
JUDY GARLAND THE DAY-BY-DAY CHRONICLE OF A LEGEND
By Scott Schechter

For even more detailed timelines than you'll find here in The Judy Room, check out Scott Schechter's fantastic book "Judy Garland The Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Legend." This book is not a "biography" but exactly what the title says: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of Judy's life. With access to the Arthur Freed archives in the UCLA Library, as well as a multitude of other sources, Scott picks up where The Judy Room timelines leave off - and provides even more detailed information than you'll find here. Nice pictures too. For people who enjoy raw data this is the book for you!
- CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO PURCHASE.


"Judy" by Gerold Frank  "Judy" by Gerold Frank
JUDY
By Gerold Frank

The first (and many say the best) comprehensive biography written about Judy. This book really gets into Judy's personality and psyche. Although it's overlooked by Garland fans today, it's still a wonderfully written biography, and Mr. Frank was granted interviews with many of Judy's contemporaries and family members who hadn't previously granted interviews.


The Judy Garland Show
RAINBOW'S END - THE JUDY GARLAND SHOW
By Coyne Steven Sanders

Judy's failed TV series (now regarded as a classic) is detailed here with stunning accuracy.
Tons of information and a neat peek into the world of television in the early 1960's.


World's Greatest Entertainer
JUDY GARLAND - WORLD'S GREATEST ENTERTAINER
By John Fricke

A wonderfully done biography. Mr. Fricke gives tons of facts (and pictures) about Judy's entire career. This book doesn't delve into Judy's personality (get RAINBOW listed above), but it is a good source for factual information.

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