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Biography

Singer, actress, born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the youngest of three daughters of a movie theater operator. Best known for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, for her emotional singing voice, and as the mother of singers Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft.

The Gumm family moved to California in 1927. Between the ages of three and thirteen, Garland and her two older siblings, Mary Jane and Virginia, performed as “The Gumm Sisters Kiddie Act” in vaudeville and at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933-34. At age nine, she changed her name to Judy Garland at the suggestion of performer George Jessel. After appearing uncredited in several films starting in 1930, she was awarded an MGM film contract in 1936 by Louis B. Mayer, who was impressed with her singing voice. Her first credited film was Every Sunday (1936) with Deanna Durbin. Garland was cast as Betsy Booth in three Andy Hardy films (1938-1941), which co-starred Mickey Rooney and Ann Rutherford. As a result of the popularity of the Andy Hardy series, Garland was paired with Rooney in seven other films between 1938 and 1948. Standing just four-feet-eleven, the studios found Garland a good match for the diminutive Rooney.

At seventeen she shot to stardom in her most memorable role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939), for which she received a special Academy Award for Best Juvenile Performance. The vivacious and multi-talented Garland appeared in thirty-two feature films in her career, including Broadway Melody (1938), Babes in Arms (1939), For Me and My Gal (1942), and Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). She was nominated for an Academy Award twice: as Best Actress for A Star is Born (1955), and as Best Supporting Actress in Judgement at Nuremberg (1961).

Garland enjoyed a close friendship with the Hollywood entertainers known as the “Rat Pack,” which included Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. In his 1980 book Hollywood in a Suitcase, Sammy Davis, Jr. dubbed her an “honorary member” of the group. She appeared with several of the Rat Pack and their friends in the film Pepe (1960) and worked with them to raise money for John F. Kennedy’s bid for President in 1960.

She starred in thirty television specials and had her own television variety program, The Judy Garland Show (1963-64). She appeared as a guest star in dozens of other television variety shows, and starred in countless night club and concert engagements, winning a special Tony Award for one of three record-breaking Broadway concerts at the Palace. Garland recorded nearly one hundred singles and over a dozen albums, including Judy at Carnegie Hall (1961), which received five Grammy awards, including Album of the Year. Even several decades after her death, Garland is considered to be one of the greatest twentieth century entertainers, having reached cult status in her popularity.

Garland was married five times, first to orchestra leader David Rose (1941-45). Her second was to director Vincente Minnelli (1945-51), with whom she had a daughter Liza (born 1946). With third husband Sid Luft (1951-65), she had a daughter Lorna (born 1952) and a son Joey (born 1955). Her fourth husband was actor Mark Herron (1965-67) and her fifth was Mickey Deans (1968-69).

Despite her many successes, Garland was troubled in her personal life starting at a young age. She had developed an early dependency on amphetamines, which were originally prescribed to help keep her weight down, and to barbiturates, which counteracted the diet pills so she could sleep. Her drug problem was exacerbated by a growing dependency on alcohol. Garland was said to have attempted suicide several times in her life. She died at age 47 on June 22, 1969, of an accidental overdose of barbiturates in her London apartment.

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