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Judy’s Life

Adapted from a biography by John Fricke


 1922, June 10 Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

1924, December 26 Baby joined her sisters in a first song-and-dance routine, “When My Sugar Walks Down the Street.” Her first solo was “Jingle Bells.”

Wonder Kiddies

1926 The family moved to Los Angeles.  Over the next nine years, the three Gumm Sisters made hundreds of stage and local radio appearances up and down the West Coast and as far East as Detroit.

1929 The sisters were featured in The Big Revue (Mayfair Pictures) and sang in three more Vitaphone Varieties shorts: A Holiday in Storyland, The Wedding of Jack and Jill, and Bubbles (First National).


1932 Baby Frances became the center of the act, drawing rapturous response from audiences and critics wherever the girls performed.

1934 A review from The Los Angeles Evening Express read, "Little Frances ... sang in a way that produced in the audience sensations that haven't been equaled in years. She must have the divine spark to be able to sing as she did."

1934 Comedian/emcee George Jessel suggested that the girls change their last name to something more theatrical; he recommended Garland. A few months later, Frances selected “Judy” (from the song by Sammy Lerner/Hoagy Carmichael) as her new first name. Shortly thereafter, her sisters bowed out of the act.

1935 Judy signed an MGM contract.


1936 The studio tested her appeal in a one-reel exhibitor's short with another teenage singer, Edna Mae (Deanna) Durbin. Response to both girls was strong enough to spur production of a second one-reeler, Every Sunday.

1936 Judy was loaned to Twentieth Century Fox for Pigskin Parade -- her first full-length motion picture.

1937 MGM cast her in Broadway Melody of 1938. Judy created a sensation with her serenade to a scrapbook of Clark Gable pictures, singing “Dear Mr. Gable” as an introduction to the familiar ballad, "You Made Me Love You."  She walked away with a Decca recording contract. Add Broadway Melody of 1938 to your film library.

Judy and Mickey Rooney were teamed for the first time in Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry. The two had been classmates four years earlier at Lawlor’s Professional School.

1938 Judy appeared in Everybody Sing with Allan Jones, Fanny Brice and Billie Burke, and Listen, Darling with Freddie Bartholomew, Mary Astor, and Walter Pidgeon. The Garland/Rooney spark was re-ignited in Love Finds Andy Hardy, the fourth of the “Judge Hardy’s Family” series.
MGM songwriter Arthur Freed starred the duo in a film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, Babes In Arms, and launched his career as film producer.

1939 Release of The Wizard of Oz caused a national sensation. It was quickly followed into theaters by an adaptation of the Broadway hit, Babes in Arms, costarring Garland and Rooney. It was the first of many MGM films produced by songwriter Arthur Freed.
1939 The box office triumphs of Oz and Babes placed Judy among the Top Ten Box Office Stars for 1940.


1940 Judy appeared in Andy Hardy Meets DebutanteStrike Up the Band, and Little Nellie Kelly.
1940 Judy was presented with a juvenile Oscar for The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms.
1941 (July 28) Judy married her first husband, David Rose, the American composer/arranger and orchestra leader.
1941 Garland film releases included Ziegfeld Girl, Life Begins for Andy Hardy, and Babes on Broadway.
1942 For Me and My Gal was the first film in which Judy's name was billed above the title of the picture, proclaiming her unique star status. The picture marks the screen debut of Gene Kelly.
1943 Judy was seen on screen in Presenting Lily MarsAs Thousands Cheer (guest appearance), and Girl Crazy.
1943 Judy made her concert debut at The Robin Hood Dell in Philadelphia. Fifteen thousand fans packed an amphitheater meant to hold sixty-five hundred; an additional fifteen thousand ringed the periphery, and ten thousand more were turned away.
1944 Judy divorced David Rose.

Minnelli-Garland1944 Meet Me in St. Louis, directed by Vincente Minnelli, opened in late November and became MGM's most successful release since Gone With the Wind.
1944 Judy completed a guest appearance in Ziegfeld Follies, and a starring role in The Clock, opposite Robert Walker. She was directed by Minnelli in both.
1945 (June 15) Judy married Vincente Minnelli.
1945 Judy filmed The Harvey Girls and Till the Clouds Roll By (with Robert Walker as composer Jerome Kern).
1946 (March 12) Liza Minnelli was born in Hollywood.
1947 Judy filmed The Pirate, her second film opposite Gene Kelly.
1948 When Kelly broke his ankle, Fred Astaire leapt out of retirement for the chance to play Judy's leading man in Irving Berlin's Easter Parade. It was her biggest box office triumph to date. She was also reunited for the final time on screen with Mickey Rooney, playing herself in a party sequence of Words and Music.
1949 In the Good Old Summertime costarred Garland and Van Johnson; it was one of the top grossing films of the year.


By 1950, Judy had recorded more than eighty sides for Decca Records in thirteen years. Between 1935 and 1953, she would tally close to three hundred national radio appearances as well, During World War II, she made several major cross-country tours to entertain stateside servicemen and women. All of this came in addition to her motion picture commitments: twenty-eight feature films in fourteen years. Such a schedule led to illness and total exhaustion. In 1950, M-G-M dissolved her contract.

1950 Summer Stock was Judy's last MGM film; she costarred again with Gene Kelly.
1951 Judy divorced Vincente Minnelli.

1951 In April, Judy returned to "Baby Gumm's" vaudeville roots, starting at the top with an outstandingly triumphant four-week engagement at the London Palladium.

1951 After a two-month performing tour in the United Kingdom, Judy brought an even more elaborate act to Broadway, reopening the legendary Palace Theatre. Her four-week booking was extended to nineteen weeks.

1952 Judy received a special Antoinette Perry "Tony" Award for the Palace show.

1952 (June 8) Judy married Sid Luft.

1952 (November 21) Lorna Luft was born in Los Angeles.

1954 Judy returned to films in A Star Is Born for Warner Bros. and won an Oscar nomination as Best Actress.

1955 (March 29) Joseph “Joey” Luft was born in Los Angeles.

1955 Judy signed with Capitol Records; over the next ten years, they release a dozen Garland record albums.

1955 Judy made her television debut to launch the "Ford Star Jubilee" series on CBS. She drew the largest audience in TV history to that date for a special program.

1956 Judy made her Las Vegas debut as the highest-paid entertainer ever to play that town. She also returned to The Palace for seventeen weeks, breaking her own box office records.
1957 After a sensational stage tour across the United States, Judy returned in triumph to London to play a five-week stand at The Dominion Theatre and appear in the "Royal Variety Show" in a command performance before Queen Elizabeth.
1959 Judy became the first popular singer to appear at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, touring the lavish show across the country as well.
1959 Judy was hospitalized in New York with a nearly-fatal case of hepatitis. Doctors told her that she could never work again.


1960 After a miraculous recovery, Judy recorded a song for the soundtrack of the film, Pepe (Columbia).
1960 Judy offered her first one-woman concert: more than thirty songs in a three-hour show at The London Palladium. She then toured the act to unprecedented response in Paris, Amsterdam, Germany, and across England.
1961 Judy played the same show in forty United States appearances. Her New York engagement on April 23, "Judy At Carnegie Hall,” was recorded "live" by Capitol and won five Grammy Awards (including Album of the Year and Best Female Vocal Performance). On the charts for ninety-seven weeks, it ranked as number one for thirteen of them: the fastest-selling two-disc set in history.
1961 Judy’s dramatic role in Stanley Kramer's Judgment at Nuremberg (United Artists) won her another Oscar nomination as Best Actress. She also recorded the voice of "Mewsette" for the animated feature, Gay Purr-ee (Warner Bros.)
1962 Her CBS-TV special, costarring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, won four Emmy Award nominations and, again, broke records for high ratings.
1962 Judy played another dramatic role, opposite Burt Lancaster, for Stanley Kramer in A Child Is Waiting (United Artists) and starred in I Could Go on Singing (United Artists).
1963 Another CBS special with Robert Goulet and Phil Silvers was Emmy-nominated, as was the subsequent twenty-six episode "Judy Garland Show" TV series during the 1963-64 season.
1964 Solo concert triumphs in Sydney, Australia, were followed by two nights at The London Palladium, where Judy shared the stage with daughter Liza Minnelli.
1965-66 In addition to nine TV guest appearances and scores of concerts, Judy divorced Sid Luft and married actor Mark Herron (November 14). They would divorce in 1967.
1967 Briefly cast in the ultimately dismissed and derided Valley of the Dolls, Judy left the film and returned to the stage. Once again, she broke her own box office record during a third Broadway engagement at The Palace, adding Lorna and Joe to the act.
1967 Her tour played for seven months to thousands of fans in sixteen cities over nearly eighty performances. Judy enjoyed her largest single audience in August when one hundred and eight thousand people jammed the Boston Common for her seventy-five minute show.
1968 After more concert and television appearances, Judy left for a December opening at The Talk of the Town supper club in London. The five-week booking broke all records for the venue, despite three nights when Judy was too exhausted to appear.
1969 (March 15) Judy married her fifth and final husband, Mickey Deans.
1969 Judy made her final concert appearances in Stockholm, Malmo, and Copenhagen, winning ten-minute standing ovations for each show.
1969 (June 22) Judy died in her London home from an accidental, incautious overdose of prescription medication.