Home Film Judy Garland At 98: Dorothy Star’s Career & Tragic Life

Judy Garland At 98: Dorothy Star’s Career & Tragic Life

by Conor O'Brien

Today, June 10, 2020, would have been the 98th birthday of Hollywood star Judy Garland. Read on to find out more about her legendary career and troubled personal life.

On June 10, 1922, a baby girl named Frances Ethel Gumm was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She would later become famous worldwide for generations, as Judy Garland, the iconic Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz. Her parents, Frank and Ethel Gumm, were vaudeville performers.

By modern standards, Judy Garland was a ‘triple threat’ – an actress, singer and dancer. In 1935, at the age of thirteen, she signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), the studio that went on to produce The Wizard Of Oz, among other films.

Before and after starring in The Wizard of Oz, Garland starred opposite Mickey Rooney (1920-2014) in several films for MGM. These included Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937), Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), Babes in Arms (1939) and two additional Andy Hardy films (1940, 1941).

However, despite achieving her level of stardom, Judy Garland suffered from low self esteem. This pertained to her weight and short stature, standing at four feet, eleven inches.

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland

As already mentioned, Garland’s best remembered role is Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale in The Wizard Of Oz, another film for MGM. Other candidates for the part included Shirley Temple and Deanna Durbin, before Garland was cast.

Starring alongside Judy Garland was an ensemble cast that included Ray Bolger (The Scarecrow/Hunk), Jack Haley (Tin Man/Hickory), Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion/Zeke), Frank Morgan (The Wizard/Professor Marvel/other roles) and Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch/Miss Gulch).

As reported by The Guardian, a posthumous memoir written by Sid Luft goes into detail about her experiences on the films. Luft, who was Garland’s third husband, wrote, “They would make Judy’s life miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress. The men were 40 or more years old. They thought they could get away with anything because they were so small.” In the same article, Garland was quoted as having said, “They were little drunks. They got smashed every night and the police used to scoop them up in butterfly nets.”

Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Judy Garland, Bert Lahr

Garland was married five times between 1941 and 1969. The first marriage was to musician David Rose, which ended after three years. Then came Vincente Minnelli from 1945 to 1951, with one child, Liza Minnelli. Following on was the aforementioned Luft from 1952 to 1965, with two children. Mark Herron was next, from 1965 to 1969.

Judy Garland and Mickey Deans

Garland’s fifth and final marriage was to musician Mickey Deans, with their wedding day falling on March 15, 1969. Just over three months later, on June 22, Judy Garland died at 47 years of age, in London, England.

She predeceased all five men that she had married. In addition to this, Garland left behind a total of three children – Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft. Interestingly, Liza was once married to Jack Haley Jr, son of the actor who played Tin Man in The Wizard Of Oz.

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In 2019, The Los Angeles Times honoured Garland on the 50th Anniversary of her death, by writing a piece on her “tragic journey from beloved teenage star to physically and mentally ravaged addict”.

Follow writer Conor O’Brien on Twitter: @CourageousConor

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