10 June 2011

The Little Girl with the Great Big Voice

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of quite possibly the most famous entertainer in history. Eighty eight years ago today, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Francis and Ethel Gumm welcomed their third daughter, Frances Ethel Gumm. Being the youngest of the family's children, she was immediately nicknamed Baby. Almost as soon as she could walk and talk, she could sing and dance.

At the age of thirteen, she signed a contract with MGM, the biggest studio with the greatest stars. At first they weren't sure what to do with her, and so she spent her first three years at the studio in forgettable movies. Then, in 1939, she was chosen to star in what would become her most well known film, one that would immortalize her and make her known to people all over the world: The Wizard of Oz.

She would stay at MGM until 1950, where her films were hugely popular and successful: Meet Me in St Louis, The Clock, Easter Parade, For Me and My Gal. Well liked by audiences, hers was a regular voice on the radio, singing and cracking jokes with the likes of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. She toured the country entertaining troops during World War II along with Lucille Ball, Greer Garson, James Cagney, and Mickey Rooney among others.

In 1950, she left MGM to embark on a series of concert tours. This was quite a risky venture. Concerts were considered old fashioned and dull and nobody knew how Garland would be received. They needn't have worried though; the concerts were highly successful and Judy was once again on top. In 1954, she took yet another big risk: She decided to make another movie: a musical version of the 1937 film A Star is Born. Directed by George Cukor, the film ran almost three hours. It was extremely successful and, yet again, Judy was back. She was nominated for a Best actress Academy Award but lost out to Grace Kelly. Groucho Marx called it "The biggest robbery since Brinks".

In 1961Judy made yet another "comeback" when she appeared at New York City's Carnegie Hall. Garland sang, danced, talked with the audience and cracked jokes for two hours. It stayed at number one on the Billboard chart and won four Grammys.

But success wasn't without its price. Since childhood, Judy, along with many others in the industry, were on a steady diet of pills. She was taking Benzedrine during the day to give her increased energy to be able to cope with a long day of filming. Because of these, she couldn't sleep, and so she was prescribed Barbiturates to help her sleep. She soon developed a very serious addiction, to the point where she could no longer function without the aid of pills. Although she had tried on numerous occasions to overcome her addiction, she never could, and on June 22, 1969, Judy Garland died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. She was 47 years old.

It's tough for me to talk about Judy Garland and stay neutral. I've loved her since I was in the fifth grade. She is one of my favorite actresses and one of my favorite singers.  Listening to her sing really puts me in a better mood and helps a bad day brighten up. I'm not sure what I can say about her that hasn't been said before, but, I really am glad that she was around, if only for a short while. She gave so much and touched more people than she could ever know, and continues to inspire people years after her death.

Happy Birthday, Judy


  1. A star is born was made in 1954. c'mon you know film. girl.