Judy Garland is one of those movie stars that everyone is aware of, even if it’s just becaue they watch The Wizard of Oz every Christmas (surely everyone has seen that movie, haven’t they?). Everyone remembers the happy, talented girl on screen, but not so many are aware of the tragedy of her life which was filled with insecurities, addictions and depression. Her are some facts that you might not know about the fabulous Judy Garland.
- She was born Frances Ethel Gumm Gumm in 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
- Her career started at a young age performing a singing and dancing act on stage with her two older sisters as ‘The Gumm Sisters’ (pictured below). They later changed their un-glamorous name to ‘The Garland Sisters’ after erroneously being billed as ‘The Glum Sisters’.
- Judy Garland was described by Fred Astaire as “the greatest entertainer who ever lived”.
- Garland was a diminuitive 4ft 11.5 inches in contrast to other statuesque movie beauties of her age (apart from Lana Turner who was also tiny).
- She suffered from terrible insecurities about her looks and felt she was an ugly duckling compared to beauties like Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth. Her terrible self-image probably wasn’t helped by the fact that studio chief Louis B. Mayer referred to her as his “little hunchback” – nice eh?
- Judy Garland remains to this day the youngest recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in the motion picture industry, which she received aged just 39.
- She attempted suicide a number of times, the first of which was by cutting her wrists in 1947 after having a complete nervous breakdown, and the last of which was the drug overdose which killed her.
- Garland married five times, with her first four marriages ending in divorce.
- She had a lifelong battle with drugs and alcohol, which was partly due to her movie studio. To keep up with the frantic pace of making one film after another, Garland, Rooney (pictured above), and other young performers were constantly given amphetamines as well as barbiturates to take before going to bed. Her drug addiction ultimately led to her death at the age of 47.
- Garland was just 16 when she starred in The Wizard of Oz, arguably her most iconic movie. Apparently her famous blue gingham dress was designed to have a “blurring effect on her figure” – I’m not sure whether this means they were trying to hide her figure which was starting to look more adult, or whether they just didn’t like the way she looked. Poor girl, no wonder she had insecurities!
Image source and copyright: 1, This file is in the public domain, because Publicity still released by MGM.
2, 3, 4, 5, This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed.