Judy Garland

Judy Garland was a little Mozart of song and dance who led a dazzling and extraordinary life. Though forever remembered as the wistful little Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz going up The Yellow Brick Road and singing ‘Over the Rainbow’, it was her plaintive quality, her humour, her ability to be dramatic and send herself up that made her a unique artist.
Tender love songs, torrid torch songs, quiet songs, noisy songs, songs with a swing to them, songs with a sentimental strain to them, she could do them all. She hoofed it with Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire whilst belting out some of Hollywood’s greatest songs.
She was a natural. Her abilities came so easily, so naturally, that she came to doubt them. Suffering from stage-fright and emotional problems, she exasperated everyone around her with her absences and lateness, but she needed little rehearsal time and all would be forgiven when she produced a moment of magic.
On stage she was a tiny, stocky figure, so where-in lay the magic? Innocent of any artful management, she sang directly to her audience, able to convey the joy and heartrending pathos of human existence: “She sang, not to your ears, but to your tear ducts.” And with her gift for self-mockery and sense of the ridiculous, she had an ability to rise above adversity and carry on.
Her highly-publicised life of suicide attempts, broken marriages and neurotic battles with weight and sleep seemed to draw affection from her audiences, yet it was her gaiety, passion, and huge, warm dramatic voice that seized her audiences and filled theatres around the world. She never gave an audience short measure.
Often compared with Al Jolson, she was known as ‘Little Miss Show Business’ but stand-up comic Alan King generously opined: “I saw Jolson . . . he would have opened for Judy Garland.”

 

The Career of Judy Garland

Judy Garland, whilst not actually born in a trunk, made her first appearance on stage as Francis ‘Baby’ Gumm at two years of age. For the next 11 years she played with her two elder sisters as ‘The Gumm Sisters’ in vaudeville before signing a contract with M-G-M. Her playing of wistful Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz with her loveable friends, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, won her a special Oscar and the film skipped into several generations of hearts.
Overdosed, overworked and underfed for stardom, she starred in films with Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire before, at the age of 28, her contract was scrapped by M-G-M because of her health problems and unreliability. During the fifties and sixties she forged a new career on the concert stage, appearing at the London Palladium and playing a record-breaking run at New York’s Palace Theater.
After starring in the film A Star Is Born, for which she was nominated for an Oscar, she played Carnegie Hall in what was described as the greatest night in show business history. A two-record album of the show sold two million copies and received five Grammy awards. She starred in her own series of TV shows for CBS.
Though she knew how to hold an audience, she could not hold a husband. Married five times, she always felt she was a failure in her private life, and in debt during the latter half of her career, she had to sing for her supper, playing theatres, night clubs and giving concert performances.
Her career spanned nearly five decades and when she died in 1969 from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, there were huge demonstrations of public affection. She had worked for nearly 45 of her 47 years, made 32 feature films, received a special Academy Award and nominated for two others.
The Gumm Sisters
 
Over the Rainbow
 
Meet Me In St. Louis
 
Playing the Palace
Judy Garland

Judy Garland

A Star Is Born
 
Judy at Carnegie Hall
 
The Judy Garland Show