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Frances Ethel Gumm

b. 10 June 1922, Grand Rapids, Minnesota, USA 
d. 22 June 1969, London, England, United Kingdom

Co-starred with Fred in Easter Parade

Was scheduled to co-star with Fred in The Belle Of New York, The Barkleys of Broadway, and Royal Wedding.


Quite simply one of the most talented actresses ever, blessed with a phenomenal voice, incredible feet, wonderful acting talent and simply presence. If it's possible to have too much talent, she did, and she is a true "victim" of the Hollywood studio system, if there ever was one.

Judy began her performing career at the age of three. While she and two older sisters were performing as the "Gumm Sisters Kiddie Act," showman George Jessel suggested the change of stage name to Garland; a few years later MGM boss Louis B. Mayer signed her to a contract after a personal audition. Her ability to steal hearts was revealed in Broadway Melody of 1938 in which she trilled "You Made Me Love You" to a photo of Clark Gable. Her distinctive voice and disarming sincerity made a big impression, and a year later she starred in the classic The Wizard of Oz for which she won a special juvenile Oscar.

Garland's initial teaming with fellow teen star Mickey Rooney was in Thoroughbreds Don't Cry, and they went on to work together in a series of Busby Berkley directed MGM musicals. All the movies had identical plots, but it didn't matter. Berkley's groundbreaking choreography and the charm and talent of the two stars carried every movie. She starred in For Me and My Gal  which introduced movie audiences to Gene Kelly. All was not sweetness and light behind the scenes, however; Garland, like so many child stars, did not enjoy good relations with her driven stage mother, and even worse, her grueling schedule at the studio led to a dependency on pep and sleeping pills that was to dog her for the rest of her life and eventually end it.

Over the course of 28 years she was married five times- first to bandleader David Rose, then director Vincente Minnelli, with whom she had daughter Liza-and was involved in many well-publicized lawsuits, breakdowns, and suicide attempts. But it took quite a while before her spectacular unhappiness actually showed itself onscreen. She may have needed multiple takes, and cost the studios in both time and money, but when she turned it on, the results were magical. Onscreen, she was never anything less than spectacular.

Judy was originally supposed to appear with Fred in The Belle Of New York, but Fred's retirement scuppered plans for that movie (Fred later made the movie was Vera-Ellen, and the results are spectacular). When Gene Kelly broke his ankle in 1948, Fred was lured out of retirement to replace him in Easter Parade. The movie was tremendously successful. M-G-M scheduled her to appear with Fred again in The Barkleys of Broadway, but Judy's erratic behaviour forced her out of that movie, creating the opportunity for Fred to reunite with Ginger Rogers. One last attempt was made for them to appear together again in Royal Wedding after June Allyson had to drop out of that movie due to her pregnancy, but again Judy's erratic behaviour and illness forced the studio to remove her. It was the last straw for M-G-M, which fired her.

After the firing, she hit rock bottom with a series of breakdowns. But a short while later she bounced back. She married Sidney Luft and appeared in a wildly successful, sold out, Grammy nominated series of concerts, and then appeared, all vibrant and vulnerable, as aspiring actress Vicki Lester in Cukor's 1954 remake of A Star Is Born, a hand-tailored comeback vehicle she produced with her husband. It earned her an Oscar nomination, but sadly, there were no follow-ups. She was excellent in later straight dramatic roles in Judgment at Nuremberg (also Oscar-nominated) and A Child Is Waiting, but her own state of inner turmoil was clear.

For the rest of her life she went on an emotional rollercoaster ride: A phenomenal success would be interspersed with numerous disappointments: While a highly acclaimed and popular TV variety show gave her one last burst of glory in 1963-64, she also lost film roles, helplessly turned in shoddy live performances, married younger actor Mark Herron and divorced him six months later, married again to disco manager Mickey Deans and so on.

Throughout this time, however, she still continued her dependency on prescription drugs, and finally the inevitable happened: on the night of June 22, 1969, she overdosed on barbiturates and died. Her entire life had been under the spotlights, under great pressure, and in the end all the overwhelming forces got to her. As her Wizard of Oz costar Ray Bolger commented sadly, "She just plain wore out."

For more information:
The Judy Garland Database

The Internet Movie Database

Last Updated on Sunday, 01 November 2009 16:12