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Garland, Judy (originally, Gumm, Frances Ethel)

Garland, Judy (originally, Gumm, Frances Ethel)

Garland, Judy (originally, Gumm, Frances Ethel), vibrant American singer and actress; b. Grand Rapids, Minn., June 10, 1922; d. London, June 22, 1969. Garland was an outstanding star of movie musicals who also enjoyed an extensive career as a concert singer. Her vitality and showmanship were apparent in the 32 feature films in which she appeared between 1936 and 1963, most of them musicals, notably The Wizard of Oz (in which she sang “Over the Rainbow”) and A Star Is Born (in which she sang “The Man That Got Away”). She was the recipient of an Academy Award for her film work, a Tony Award for her stage work, two Grammy Awards for her chart-topping, gold-selling album Judy at Carnegie Hall, and several Emmy nominations for her television work, which included her own series.

Garland’s parents, Frank Avent Gumm and Ethel Marion Milne Gumm, were former vaudevillians who were running a theater at the time of her birth. She made her stage debut at the age of two on Dec. 26, 1924, in her parents’ theater, and thereafter was part of an act with her two older sisters. In the fall of 1926 the family moved to southern Calif., where Garland and her sisters performed locally and on radio. They studied at the Meglin School of Dance starting in 1927, and in 1929 made their first film appearance in the short The Meglin Kiddie Revue. In the summer of 1934 they toured the Midwest.

In 1935 one of Garland’s older sisters got married, breaking up the act, and Garland successfully auditioned for the MGM film studio, signing a contract on Sept. 27, 1935. There, songwriter/producer Roger Edens became her vocal coach. She performed on the network radio series The Shell Chateau Hour on October 26, the first of nearly 200 radio appearances over the next 20 years, though she never had time to host her own show. In November she did a test recording session for Decca Records, but the label did not sign her to her first recording contract until the following year. Her first contracted recording session came on June 12, 1936; it consisted of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” (music by Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, and Edgar Sampson, lyrics by Andy Razaf) and “Swing Mister Charlie” (music and lyrics by J. Russel Robinson, Irving Taylor, and Harry Brooks), which were released on either side of Decca 848 in July.

Garland was loaned out to 20th Century-Fox for her first film, making her feature debut in Pigskin Parade in November 1936. She appeared for 16 consecutive weeks on the radio series Jack Oakie’s College from March to June 1937 while filming her first MGM feature, Broadway Melody of 1938, in which she sang a version of “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It)” (music by James V. Monaco, lyrics by Joseph McCarthy) with special lyrics by Roger Edens concerning MGM star Clark Gable. The film began to establish her as a juvenile star upon its release in August. In November she had top billing in Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry, in which she was paired for the first time with juvenile star Mickey Rooney.

Garland appeared in three films released in 1938 while also continuing to record and to make appearances on such radio shows as Good News of 1938. But it was not until the release of her seventh feature, The Wizard ofOz, on Aug. 17, 1939, that she achieved major stardom. The film itself was not a commercial success at first, but Garland’s Decca recording of “Over the Rainbow” (music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg) competed with Glenn Miller’s as the song topped the hit parade in September; it became her signature song, and her initial recording of it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1981. Her stardom was consolidated by the release of Babes in Arms, in which she co-starred with Mickey Rooney, in October; in February 1940 she was given a special Academy Award “for her outstanding performance as a screen juvenile during the past year.”

The first of the three MGM films in which Garland appeared during 1940 was Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, released in July, in which she sang the 1921 song “I’m Nobody’s Baby” (music and lyrics by Benny Davis, Milton Ager, and Lester Sandy); her Decca recording of the song peaked in the Top Ten in September. She appeared in another three MGM films in 1941, along with her radio and recording activities. On July 28, 1941, she married composer, arranger, and orchestra leader David Rose, from whom she was divorced in June 1945. She was in only one MGM feature in 1942, the October release For Me and My Gal, in which she co-starred with Gene Kelly. Kelly joined her on a Decca recording of the 1917 song “For Me and My Gal” (music by George W Meyer, lyrics by Edgar Leslie and E. Ray Goetz), and it peaked in the Top Ten in April 1943.

Garland appeared in three more films during 1943 but thereafter tended to star in only one each year. In 1944 that one was the November release Meet Me in St. Louis, in which she sang “The Trolley Song” (music and lyrics by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane); her Decca recording of the song peaked in the Top Ten in December, and Decca’s album of songs from the film, in which she was featured, also became a Top Ten hit.

Meet Me in St. Louis was directed by Vincente Minnelli, as was The Clock, released in May 1945, in which Garland appeared in a non-singing dramatic role for the first time. On June 15, 1945, Garland married Minnelli. In June she scored a rare hit with a song not featured in one of her films when her duet with Bing Crosby, “Yah-Ta-Ta Yah-Ta-Ta (Talk, Talk, Talk)” (music by James Van Heusen, lyrics by Johnny Burke) reached the Top Ten. She returned to the Top Ten in September with “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” (music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Johnny Mercer), from her forthcoming film The Harvey Girls, which was released in January 1946.

Garland gave birth to a daughter, future entertainer Liza May Minnelli, on March 12, 1946. Then she was a guest star in the film biography of Jerome Kern, Till the Clouds Roll By, released in December, performing two songs. MGM launched its own record label by releasing a soundtrack album from the film, and it became a Top Ten hit. Garland remained nominally contracted to Decca until 1951, but she did not record for the label after 1947, more frequently being represented by MGM soundtracks of her film performances.

Garland appeared in three MGM films released in 1948, starring in The Pirate, with songs by Cole Porter, in May, and in Easter Parade, with songs by Irving Berlin, in June, and making a guest appearance in the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart film biography Words and Music, released in December, her two songs turning up on the MGM soundtrack album that hit #1 in February 1949. She completed two more films at MGM, In the Good Old Summertime, released in August 1949, and Summer Stock, released in August 1950 and featuring a Top Ten soundtrack album. But she had become increasingly unreliable due to illness, and she was released from her MGM contract on Sept. 29, 1950. On March 22, 1951, she and Vincente Minnelli divorced.

Garland turned to concert performing with a month-long engagement at the London Palladium beginning April 9, 1951. On Oct. 16, 1951, she reopened the premiere American vaudeville theater, the Palace in N.Y., playing there for 19 weeks, an achievement that earned her a special Tony Award “for an important contribution to the revival of vaudeville.” On June 2, 1952, she married Sid (Michael Sidney) Luft, a film producer who had become her manager; their daughter Lorna Luft was born on Nov. 21, 1952, and grew up to become a professional singer.

Garland’s triumph as a concert singer led to renewed interest from record and film companies. In 1953 she signed to Columbia Records and began filming a musical remake of A Star Is Born at Warner Bros. Released in September 1954, the film had one of the highest grosses of the year; Columbia’s A Star Is Born album reached the Top Ten; and Garland was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. On March 29, 1955, Garland gave birth to a son, Joey Luft. She toured the western United States and western Canada in July. She signed to Capitol Records and recorded her debut album for the label, Miss Show Business, in late August and early September. On Sept. 24 she made her television debut with the live 90-minute special Ford Star Jubilee, performing many of the songs from Mz’ss Show Business, which was released two days later and became a Top Ten hit. The show earned her an Emmy nomination for Best Female Singer.

Garland repeated many of her recent accomplishments in 1956. She starred in a television special, The Judy Garland Show, in April, played in Las Vegas in July, opened an eight-week return engagement at the Palace on Sept. 26, and released a second Capitol album, Judy, arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, that made the charts in November. In February 1957 she recorded her third Capitol LP, Alone, a concept album in the tradition of Frank Sinatra’s thematic records, devoted to ballads and arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins. Released in May, it made the charts, and she toured around the country for the rest of the year. She continued to record and perform through 1958 and 1959 until November 1959, when she was hospitalized with hepatitis. After a period of convalescence she returned to performing, touring Europe in the last quarter of 1960 and undertaking an extensive American tour that took up all of 1961.

Garland appeared at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 1961, and her performance was recorded for an album, Judy at Carnegie Hall. The two-LP set, released in June, hit #1 in September and went gold. It won the Grammy for Album of the Year, and Garland won the Grammy for Best Solo Vocal Performance, Female. In December 1961 she made her first film appearance in seven years in a non-singing role in the film Judgment at Nuremberg and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

In 1962, in addition to performing and recording, Garland taped another television special, The Judy Gar-land Show, which was broadcast on Feb. 25 and earned Emmy nominations for the Program of the Year and for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Variety. She starred in two films released in 1963, the drama A Child Is Waiting, released in February, and I Could Go on Singing, released in May, in which she portrayed a concert singer. Another television special, Judy Garland, broadcast on March 19, 1963, earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music and led CBS to offer her a musical variety series. The weekly hour-long program, The Judy Garland Show, ran on Sunday nights for 26 weeks from Sept. 29, 1963, to March 30, 1964, and earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series.

Garland returned to concert work after the demise of her television series, touring Australia in May 1964, returning to the London Palladium in November, and spending 1965 on the road in the U.S. On May 20, 1965, she divorced Sid Luft, and on Nov. 14 she married actor Mark Herron. They divorced on April 11, 1967. She did relatively little performing in 1966 but returned to frequent appearances in June 1967. On July 31 she opened a month-long engagement at the Palace recorded by ABC Records for the chart album Judy Garland at Home at the PalaceOpening Night, and she continued to tour the U.S. extensively through December and from February to July 1968. She opened an engagement at the Talk of the Town club in London on Dec. 30, 1968. On March 15, 1969, she married Mickey Deans, a nightclub manager. She gave her final performances during a Scandinavian tour in March. She died at 47 in June 1969 of an accidental overdose of barbitu-rates.


Easter Parade (1950); Summer Stock (1950); Till the Clouds Roll By (1950); Words and Music (soundtrack; 1950); Pirate/Summer Stock (1951); Judy at the Palace (1952); Girl Crazy (1953); // You Feel Like Singing, Sing (1955); In the Good Old Summertime (1955); Miss Show Business (1955); Judy (1956); Judy Garland with the MGM Orchestra (1956); The Wizard of Oz (soundtrack; 1956); Alone (1957); Harvey Girls (1957); Meet Me in St. Louis (1957); In Love (1958); Garland at the Grove (1958); A Star is Born (1958); The Letter (1959); Judy! That’s Entertainment (1960); The Magic of Judy Garland (1961); Judy at Carnegie Hall (1961); The Garland Touch (1962); Gay Purr-ee (1962); I Could Go on Singing (1963); Our Love Letter (1963); Just for Openers (1964); Live at the London Palladium (1965); At Home at the Palace (1967); Deluxe Set (1967).


J. Morella and E. Epstein, Judy: The Films and Career of Judy Garland (Secaucus, N.J., 1969); M. Torme, The Other Side of the Rainbow with Judy Garland and the Dawn Patrol (N.Y., 1970);M. Deans and A. Pinchot, Weep No More, My Lady: Judy Garland by Her Last Husband (London, 1972); D. Melton, Judy: A Remembrance (Hollywood, 1972); A. DiOrio Jr., Little Girl Lost: The Life and Hard Times of Judy Garland (New Rochelle, N.Y., 1973); B. Baxter, The Films of Judy Garland (Bembridge, Iowa, 1974); A. Edwards, Judy Garland: A Mortgaged Life (N.Y., 1974); J. Juneau, Judy Garland (1974); D. Dahl and B. Kehoe, Young J. (N.Y., 1975);C. Finch, Rainbow: The Stormy Life of Judy Garland (N.Y., 1975); G. Frank, /. (N.Y, 1975); H. Harnne, edv The Judy Garland Souvenir Songbook (N.Y, 1975); L. Smith, /., with Love: The Story of Miss Show Business (London, 1975); J. Meyer, Heartbreaker: Two Months with Judy Garland (Garden City, N.Y, 1983); J. Spada with K. Swerison, Judy and Liza (Garden City, N.Y, 1983); T. Watson and B. Chapman, Judy, Portrait of an American Legend(N.Y, 1986); L. Smith, My Life over the Rainbow (1983); E. Coleman, The Complete Judy Garland (1990); C. Sanders, Rain-bow’s End: The Judy Garland Show (N.Y, 1990); J. Fricke, Judy Garland: World’s Greatest Entertainer: A Pictorial History of Her Career (N.Y, 1992); D. Shipman, Judy Garland: The Secret Life of an American Legend (N.Y, 1992); B. Nestor, /.: A Life in Pictures (1997); L. Luft (her daughter), Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir (N.Y, 1998); R. Piro, Zing: The Early Life and Career of Judy Garland: A Loving Scrapbook (1998); E. Vare, ed., Rainbow: A Star-Studded Tribute to Judy Garland (1998).

—William Ruhlmann

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