Judy Garland biographer John Fricke sums it up:
"Judy Garland worked for nearly forty-five of her forty-seven years. She made thirty-two feature films, did voice-over work for two more, and appeared in at least a
half dozen short subjects. She received a special Academy Award and was nominated for two others. She starred in thirty of her own television shows (the programs and Garland herself garnering a total
of ten Emmy Award nominations) and appeared as a guest on nearly thirty more. Between 1951 and 1969, she fulfilled over eleven hundred theatre, nightclub and concert performances, winning a special
Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for the first of three record-breaking Broadway engagements at the Palace. She recorded nearly one hundred singles and over a dozen record albums; Judy at Carnegie
Hall received an unprecedented five Grammys in 1962 (including Album of the Year) and has never been out of print. Her radio work encompassed several hundred broadcasts, and she sang at countless
benefits and personal appearances for the military. Earlier, between the ages of two and thirteen - and prior to signing her MGM contract in 1935 - she fulfilled hundreds of live vaudeville and radio
dates with her two older sisters."
- John Fricke,
Judy Garland: World's Greatest Entertainer,
Holt, 1992, 1997
Visit the here on JGDB
When and where was Judy born?
Frances Ethel Gumm was born on June 10, 1922 in . Early MGM
publicity material indicated she was born in Murfeesboro, Tennessee and that she was a year younger than she actually was. Why this misinformation was distributed by MGM is not clear, though
the publicity department at MGM seemed to follow this practice with most of their actresses in an attempt to make them seem younger than they actually were.
Frances Ethel was named after her father (Francis "Frank" Gumm) and mother (Ethel Milne), former vaudeville performers who bought a theater and settled in Grand Rapids. She was the third of three
girls: Mary Jane (nicknamed Susie, variously spelled "Suzy") was born in 1915, and Dorothy Virginia (nicknamed Jimmie) was born in 1917. Frances was nicknamed "Baby", and was known as Baby Gumm until
1934 when she changed her name to Judy.
How did Judy get her start in show business?
There are a number of variations on the story, but apparently Judy made her show business "debut" during a Christmas show at her parents' theater in Grand Rapids on
December 26, 1924 (she was 2½ years old). She sang numerous verses of "Jingle Bells" and thoroughly enchanted the audience. Susie and Jimmie were already performing as a song and dance duo at
the time. The sisters became a trio shortly after Baby's debut. They were billed as The Gumm Sisters, and appeared at theaters and social functions in and around Grand Rapids.
In 1926 the Gumm family moved to Lancaster, California where Frank bought the local theater. The girls were soon taking dancing and acting lessons at various schools in the Los Angeles area. Ethel
was the girls' agent and manager, and began finding bookings for the girls in theaters, night clubs and on radio. Within a few short years, the girls had a following of fans in the Southern
California area, and were appearing regularly on local radio shows.
When did Judy make her film debut?
The Gumm Sisters appeared in a Meglin / Associated Films short subject entitled (aka The Big
Revue) in 1929. Judy was seven years old. The girls also appeared in three short subjects in 1929 (A Holiday in Storyland,
The Wedding of Jack and Jill, and Bubbles). In 1935, they appeared in an MGM short subject, , billed as The
Garland Sisters. Judy was hired by MGM in 1935, and her first feature film appearance was in the 20th Century-Fox hit in 1936 -
the only time MGM ever loaned her out to another studio.
When did Baby Gumm change her name to Judy Garland?
The Gumm Sisters traveled with their mother to Chicago in 1934 to perform at the World's Fair. While in Chicago, they appeared at the Oriental Theatre where George
Jessel (a well-known comedian of the era) was headlining the bill. When Jessel introduced the Gumm Sisters to the audience, he noticed some quiet laughter, and later suggested to the girls that they
change their name to Garland. Frances took the name some time later because she liked the peppy sound of it, and she liked the Hoagy Carmichael
song of the same name. The rendition of the song heard here is from the Judy Garland biodrama .
(©1975 Ten Four Productions/NBC, taped off-air).
When did Judy sign with MGM?
In 1935 Susie married, breaking up the act. Ethel began pushing Judy toward a movie career, arranging for auditions at nearly every studio in Hollywood. In September
1935, thirteen-year-old Judy auditioned for MGM and was signed immediately. She sang "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart," accompanied by Roger Edens of the MGM music department at the piano. He
would become the most influential person of her career (artistically), and would be closely associated with Judy throughout her tenure at MGM and beyond. Judy was said to be the only person ever
contracted at MGM without a screen test, though the same claim has been made with reference to several other stars. Judy's contract officially started on October 1, 1935. Her starting salary was
$100.00 per week with options for seven years:
6 months $100.00 per week, 20 week guarantee
6 months 200.00 per week, 20 week guarantee
1 year 300.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
1 year 400.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
1 year 500.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
1 year 600.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
1 year 750.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
1 year 1000.00 per week, 40 week guarantee
How many movies did Judy make?
Judy was in a total of 43 films by my count. Five of these were short subjects she appeared in prior to signing with MGM. At MGM she was in a total of 31 movies, 27 of
which were full-length feature films. Between 1939 and 1950 she made 22 feature films; an average of two a year. She was the reigning "queen of the musicals" during that period, appearing in more
musicals than any other actress, though Alice Faye starred in more musicals. After leaving MGM, she made two films for Warner Brothers and several for United Artists. Her can be found here on the Judy Garland Database, as well as extensive reviews of all of her films.
It is certainly true that many Hollywood stars made more movies than Judy did, but it must be remembered that nearly all of Judy's movies were musicals, which are the most demanding of movies -
requiring not only acting but also singing and dancing. And most of her movies were made in the relatively short 13 year period from 1937 to 1950. In fact, movies were only a small part of Judy's
career. In addition to making movies Judy also cut records, made many public appearances, toured scores of army camps during WWII, appeared on hundreds of radio shows, appeared on dozens of
television shows, and performed at over 1000 concert and nightclub engagements! But her films were an important part of her career. Nearly all of Judy's movies at MGM were major hits, and nearly all
of them broke all box office attendance records (including her own).
Was it The Wizard of Oz that made Judy a star?
Well, not exactly. Judy was officially elevated to star status by MGM in December 1938 while she was filming Oz. She had just completed her sixth feature film,
. Judy emerged from Oz as a superstar. After Oz was released, Judy was just about the most popular young actress
on earth, receiving more fan mail than any star at MGM, and she was on the box office top ten actors/actresses list that year and had two films in the top ten: and . Oz is certainly Judy's best remembered film today (it has been seen by more people than any other film
ever made), but many of her films have become classics and now rank among the best movie musicals ever made, including , , , , and .
Ethel, Frank, Jimmie and Susie
before Judy was born (ca. 1919)
The Gumm Sisters
(Susie, Jimmie, Baby), ca. 1924
Baby Gumm in her first film, 1929
The Gumm Sisters
(Susie, Baby, Jimmie), ca. 1934
First publicity photo of Baby Gumm
as "Judy Garland," Chicago, 1934
Early MGM promotion, 1937/38
Judy placed her handprints in Grauman's forecourt during a ceremony on October 10, 1939.
The ceremony coincided with the premiere of Babes in Arms, Judy's second big hit in 1939.
[slab photo by Jim Johnson, 1995; Judy/Mickey photo from collection of the author]
Visit the official
Judy later commented: "What promised to be the most exciting night of my life turned out to be the most embarrassing. It was the premiere of Babes in Arms, and the night I placed my hand and
footprints in the forecourt of the Chinese Theatre. I wanted to look more glamorous than ever before. Now I must confess I had the habit of biting my fingernails. I was just sick that I couldn't have
long, glittering fingertips. But the manicurist fixed that. She gave me false nails. After I placed my hands in the cement we went inside to see the picture. Suddenly I thought creeping paralysis had
set in, beginning at my fingertips. I was in a cold sweat before we left the theatre - then I realized some of the cement had crept under my nails and hardened. The next day I had to have my
'glamour' chipped off."
When did Judy record her first record?
Less than a year after signing with MGM, Judy signed a recording contract with Decca Records. On June 12, 1936, just two days after her 14th birthday, she recorded
"Stompin' at the Savoy" / "Swing Mr. Charlie" with Bob Crosby and His Orchestra for Decca in New York. This was the first Judy Garland record to be released. She would go on to record over 90 sides
for , and about a dozen albums for .
When and why did Judy leave MGM?
Judy left MGM in 1950, after filming . She was working on a new film, MGM's screen version of Irving
Berlin's . Her illness had become steadily worse since about 1947, and she was no longer able to function at the pace that MGM demanded
of her. She was nearly constantly under medical supervision, but MGM executives were not overly sympathetic with her plight. She was suspended several times in 1950, and finally both MGM and Judy had
all they could handle. L.B. Mayer and Judy both agreed it would be best to terminate her contract at that time. Judy's problems with MGM were front-page news. Judy wrote an open letter to her fans,
which was published by Modern Screen Magazine. The can be found right here on the Judy Garland Database.
What did Judy do after leaving MGM?
After leaving MGM, Judy began her concert career under the management of Sid Luft, soon to become her third husband. In October 1951 she reopened the Palace Theater on
Broadway and broke all attendance records with a one-woman show, which was held over for 21 weeks. In 1954 she returned to movies by way of a co-production contract with Warner Brothers to film a
musical remake of , her personal masterpiece of film work and certainly one of her best films.
During the remainder of the 1950s, she recorded albums for Capitol Records and continued her concert touring with many very successful tours in the US, England and Europe. She also appeared in
In 1960, she renewed her film career, appearing in another series of films including for which she received another Academy
Award nomination. In 1963/64 she co-produced her own television series on CBS: . The show was a critical success but did not score
well in the ratings, primarily because CBS refused to move her spot which was across from "Bonanza" on NBC - one of the most popular series of all time.
After her TV series was cancelled by CBS, Judy found herself financially in ruins with her health failing rapidly. She continued to perform in concerts, at nightclubs, and on an occasional TV
program. But her life seemed to spiral out of control as she married and remarried within a period of three years, broke many concert and night club engagements, and was often in court battling over
lawsuits with night club owners and producers. Most of the money she did make was seized by the IRS for back taxes. Finally, her home was seized by the IRS, and she found herself homeless. She had to
work just to survive, but she was really too ill to perform.
Judy finally found the ultimate peace on June 22, 1969, less than two weeks after her 47th birthday. She was found dead in her bathroom by her latest husband, Mickey Deans. Judy made one last
"comeback" as more than 22,000 people paid their respects at her final appearance at Campbell's Funeral Chapel in New York on June 27, 1969. She was laid to rest at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale,
One of the world's most beloved personalities had come and gone in less than a lifetime of most of her fans, but she had left an indelible mark on show business history. There would never be another
Judy's first record, 1936
Judy at the Palladium, 1951
Judy at Carnegie Hall, 1961
The Judy Garland Show, 1963/64
Photo of Judy's vault at Ferncliff Cemetary in Hartsdale, New York.
Contributed by Lawrence Schulman and Alain Falasse
Judy's stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame®. The one on the left is for recording and is located at 6764 Hollywood Blvd.,
just under the Guiness marquee. The one on the right is for film and is located at 1715 Vine Street, just across the street from the Capitol Records building.
[photos by Jim Johnson and Krista Pugsley, August 1996]
Judy's Gold Record display in the lobby of the Capitol Records Building in Hollywood. Awarded for the album "Judy at Carnegie Hall," 1961
[photo by Krista Pugsley, August 1996]
The Garland Legend
By the 1960s Judy Garland had become a true living legend. When she was working on at CBS during
the 1963/1964 season, the sign on her dressing room door read, "The Legend." She was one of the most loved and most popular personalities of all time. A legend has grown around Judy which shrouds
much of the truth about her, especially with respect to her personal life. Below are some of the questions I have often been asked with regard to her personal life. My answers to these questions are
not necessarily fact - just my own personal opinion. It is doubtful that we will ever know the answers to these questions with absolute certainty.
When and how did Judy die?
Judy died on June 22, 1969, less than two weeks after her 47th birthday. The official cause of death was listed as an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. However,
some people maintain that Judy died of anorexia. She did have a bad case of hepatitis in 1959, and it is also possible that the resultant liver damage led to her demise. She was apparently quite ill
during the last years of her life.
Judy's memorial service was at Campbell's Funeral Chapel in New York on June 27, 1969, and she was laid to rest at
in Hartsdale, New York (see photo above).
Judy Garland death passed away die died buried dead
Did Judy have any children?
Yes, she had three children:
(by , her second husband) and Lorna and Joey Luft (by her third husband, Sid Luft). Liza was born in 1946, Lorna in 1952 and
Joey in 1955. Liza is, of course, a legendary actress and concert singer. Lorna is an actress and concert singer, though she is not as well known to the general public as Liza. Joe is currently
working as a freelance photographer. Check the page for links to Liza and Lorna's web sites.
Is it true that Judy was a drug addict?
It is apparently true that Judy used Benzedrine and sleeping pills at various times throughout her life. She used Benzedrine to help her maintain her weight, and also
to help her through her busy schedule. The Benzedrine kept her awake at night, so she used sleeping pills to help her sleep. Exactly when this practice began is not certain (and is a very
controversial subject), but it was apparently during her tenure at MGM. She did manage to break her habit many times, but often started up again when the pressures of a new film came along. It should
be noted that Benzedrine was considered to be the new miracle appetite suppressor of the period, and that these drugs were prescribed by doctors. It should also be noted that many actors and
actresses of Judy's era used these drugs as well. The vision of Judy standing in a dark alley late at night to "score a fix" is hardly appropriate.
Is it true that Judy was an alcoholic?
I don't think so, though there are certainly many who do. She did drink some, but seldom to excess. She did seem to drink more in her final years, but apparently just
to calm her nerves. However, combined with the Benzedrine she used, the alcohol was often more than she could handle. But there is no hard evidence that she was an acloholic. There is evidence to the
contrary however - many of her friends and associates have stated that she did not drink very much and was not alcoholic.
Is it true that Judy was mentally ill?
No. It is apparently true that Judy had emotional problems, possibly including depression (much has been written on this subject). Such is often the case with truly
gifted people. Judy was a genius in every sense of the word. She was extremely intelligent and extremely gifted. Depression and other emotional instabilities are quite common among the truly gifted.
However, it may be that Judy's emotional problems were caused by the drugs that she used. This is a very controversial subject, and we will probably never know the truth.
How many times was Judy married?
Five. In chronological order, her husbands were David Rose (1910-1990), Vincente Minnelli (1903-1986), Sid Luft (1915 - 2005), Mark Herron (1928 - 1996) and Mickey Deans (1934 -
David Rose was a successful composer and orchestra leader, best remembered for his hits "Holiday for Strings" (1943) and "The Stripper" (1962). Vincente Minnelli was a legendary director during the
1940s, '50s and '60s. He directed many first-rate films, including "Cabin in the Sky" (1942), "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944), "Father of the Bride" (1950), "An American in Paris" (1951), "Gigi"
(1957), "The Sandpiper" (1964) and many more. Sid Luft was a producer, Mark Herron was an actor, and Mickey Deans was a nightclub owner.
How tall was Judy? How much did she weigh? (etc.)
Judy was about 4 feet 11 inches tall ("...just a smidgen under five feet," as Mickey Rooney says). Her weight varied from around 85 pounds to about 155 pounds, but she
was "officially" 4'11" and 98 pounds, according to various sources I've seen.
"Esquire" Magazine had this to say in the June 1944 issue:
Vital Statistics: Hair: red-brown; Height: 5'3"; Weight: 110 lbs; Bust: 33¼; Waist: 22½; Hips: 34
These were, I assume, MGM-supplied statistics. MGM was always trying to make Judy appear to be taller than she really was (because they thought that would make her more
glamorous, I guess). So, anyway, we must take these stats with a grain of salt.
Judy and David Rose
Judy and Vincente Minnelli
with Baby Liza
Judy and Sid Luft with Lorna and Joey
(far left foreground is Johnny Luft,
Sid's son by previous marriage)
Judy and Mark Herron
Judy and Mickey Deans
Some significant dates in the life of Judy Garland:
February 28, 1903 - Vincente Minnelli born
June 15, 1910 - David Rose born
September 24, 1915 - Mary Jane Gumm born (Judy's sister, aka Janie, aka Susie or Suzy)
November 2, 1915 - Sid Luft born
July 4, 1917 - Dorothy Virginia Gumm born (Judy's sister, aka Jimmie)
June 10, 1922 - Frances Ethel "Baby" Gumm (Judy) born
July 8, 1928 - Mark Herron born
September 24, 1934 - Mickey Deans born
October 1, 1935 - Judy started work at MGM
November 17, 1935 - Judy's father, Frank Gumm, died of meningitis
May, 1938 - Judy's only niece, Judy Gail Sherwood ("Judalein") born (Jimmie's daughter)
July 28, 1941 - Judy married David Rose
June 7, 1944 - Judy filed for divorce from David Rose
June 15, 1945 - Judy married Vincente Minnelli
March 12, 1946 - Liza Minnelli born (Judy's first daughter)
1950 - Judy's contract at MGM terminated
March 1951 - Judy began divorce proceedings against Vincente Minnelli
June 8, 1952 - Judy married Sid Luft
November 21, 1952 - Lorna Luft born (Judy's second daughter)
January 5, 1953 - Ethel Gumm (Judy's mother) died
March 29, 1955 - Joey Luft born (Judy's son)
September 28, 1962 - Judy filed for divorce from Sid Luft
May 1964 - Mary Jane (Susie) Gumm died
November 14, 1965 - Judy married Mark Herron (they separated within 6 months)
March 15, 1969 - Judy married Mickey Deans
June 22, 1969 - Judy died
May 25, 1977 - Virginia "Jimmie" Thompson (Dorothy Virginia Gumm) died
July 25, 1986 - Vincente Minnelli died
August 23, 1990 - David Rose died
January 13, 1996 - Mark Herron died
July 11, 2003 - Mickey Deans died
September 15, 2005 - Sid Luft died
Some good books to read about Judy
There have been many biographies written about Judy Garland. There are probably more books about Judy than just about anyone (though I've heard the record goes to
Marilyn Monroe). But beware! Judy was one of the most exploited persons of all time. Many "biographies" were written soon after she passed away in order to capitalize on the surrounding publicity.
Others have been written to capitalize on publicity generated by Judy-related events since her death. Many of these books contain nearly as much fiction as fact. In my opinion, the books listed below
are some of the best. For a more complete list, see the page right here on the Judy Garland Database.
Judy Garland: World's Greatest Entertainer
by John Fricke
ISBN 1567312047 (0.8" x 11.1" x 8.7" hard cover, 192pp.)
(various cover art, hard- and soft-cover)
An excellent book focusing on Judy's career, along with many facts about her personal life. Mr. Fricke sets out to demonstrate why many have referred to Judy as the "World's Greatest Entertainer",
and he certainly makes his point. Lavishly illustrated, it is one of the best researched books, and takes a very rational look at Judy, focusing primarily on her works.
The Complete Judy Garland:
The Ultimate Guide to her career in films, records, concerts, radio and television 1935-69
by Emily R. Coleman, Harper & Row, 1990
Probably the best single source for details concerning Judy's career accomplishments. The book lists each movie, each radio program, each television program, and each record with fascinating facts
and figures and many rare pictures. There are some errors and omissions, but overall it's a good guide.
David Dahl and Barry Kehoe, Mason/Charter, 1975
An interesting book focusing on Judy's life before she signed with MGM. The premise of the book was to discover what caused Judy's emotional problems later in life by examining her childhood. It may
not be the definitive psycho-analysis that it sets out to be, but it paints a vivid picture of Judy's early life, and is food for thought.
(The Stormy Life of Judy Garland)
Christopher Finch, Grossett & Dunlap 1975
Also released by Balantine, see the Page
This book has been in and out of print over the years, and was one of the best for some time. It was well researched, though still containing a certain amount of mythology. Jackie Cooper produced a
movie based on the book in the mid-1970s. The movie, like the book, is called .
(The Judy Garland Show)
Coyne Steven Sanders, Zebra 1992 (reprint edition, soft cover)
An excellent book which delves deeply into the mystery surrounding the ultimate demise of the Judy Garland Show on CBS in 1963/64. One of those rare books written by someone who obviously was an
admirer. It takes a close look at Judy during the years 1963 and 1964, and at her TV series, in an attempt to determine why a show which earned so much critical acclaim and so many awards was
cancelled by the network.
A Star Is Born
The Making of the 1954 Movie and Its 1983 Restoration
Ronald Haver, Alfred A. Knopf, 1988
An excellent book by Haver who was the force behind the restoration of the movie that Judy considered to be her masterpiece. Haver not only goes into detail about the movie, but also takes a look at
Judy's personal life during this turbulent phase of her career.
Refer to the section here on JGDB
for a more complete list of Judy Garland biographies.
Some good books to read about The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz
The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History
John Fricke, Jay Scarfone and William Stillman, Puck Productions, 1989
ISBN 0-446-51446-2 (hard cover)
ISBN 0-446-39186-7 (soft cover)
The best researched and illustrated book ever written about the movie. A must for any true fan of the movie!
The Making of The Wizard of Oz
Aljean Harmetz, A.A. Knopf, 1977
Dell Publishing, 1989
Another interesting book. Well researched, and packed with interesting facts and anecdotes. This was the only authoritative book before the Fricke/Scarfone/Stillman book was published. Recently updated.
The Ruby Slippers of Oz
Rhys Thomas, Tale Weaver Publishing, 1989
This book is not about the movie, but is a fascinating tale of Thomas' search for the genuine Ruby Slippers used in the movie. It is an eye-opening look at the world of memorabilia collecting, with
some interesting insights into the movie industry in general.
The Wizard of Oz Collector's Treasury
Jay Scarfone and William Stillman, Schiffer Publishing, 1992
This book is not about the movie per se, but is the best book available to assist in identification of Oz memorabilia.
For a more complete list of The Wizard of Oz books,
see the page.