Judy Garland
Answer to Name This Famous Person Game - October 2014
by Mike McLeod

Those identifying Judy Garland were: Sharon Bewick of One Man’s Trash in Irondale, Ala.; Jim Pruett of Eastbrook Flea Market & Antique Mall in Montgomery, Ala.; Lynn Harrell of Charlotte Harbor, Fla.; Larry Lunsford of Auburn, Ala.; Jordan Brandt of Dudley's Auction in Inverness, Fla.; Jean Ficht of Big Canoe, Ga.; Teresa Bland; Ted Carlton of Utah; Barbara Watson of Locust Grove, Ga.; Joe Campbell of Longleaf Antique Mall in Alexander City, Ala.; and Scott and Carolyn Brown Montgomery, Ala.

Right off the bat, I want to dispel the misconception that Judy Garland committed suicide; however, she did attempt it several times during her life. The autopsy showed an ingestion of drugs over an extended period of time, not all at once. Her death was declared an accidental overdose.

Judy Garland’s drug use and addiction probably originated with her rigorous work schedule as a movie star. She once said, “[MGM] had us working days and nights on end. They'd give us pep-up pills to keep us on our feet long after we were exhausted. Then they'd take us to the studio hospital and knock us cold with sleeping pills…. Then after four hours, they'd wake us up and give us the pep-up pills again so we could work another 72 hours in a row. I started to feel like a wind-up toy from FAO Schwarz.”

Judy Garland in Presenting Lily Mars, 1943. (All photos, theredlist.com.)

 It is hard to imagine Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz as addicted to drugs, but that seems to be the case. MGM’s management was culpable for this in part, and so was Judy Garland. She got off drugs with medical help at least one time, but after returning to work and the long hours, she again resorted to drugs to keep going. Even so, early on she was ignorant of the effects of addiction as most people and many doctors were. In 1933, the drug manufacturer Smith Kline French sold an amphetamine nasal spray for congestion over the counter.1

“The day she died, there was a tornado in Kansas.”2 For most of her life, Judy Garland seemed to be caught in a turbulent whirlwind of highs and lows. One of those high points was her first contract with MGM when she was just 13 years old. She earned $100 per week, equal to about $1,700 per week now. (In her seventh year with MGM, she was making $1,000 per week on a 40-week contract.)

Another highpoint was The Wizard of Oz which debuted in 1939 when she was 17.

Judy Garland, Jack Haley and Ray Bolger, 1939. Judy’s daughter Liza Minnelli was married to Jack Haley, Jr. for five years. The oil in the can was actually chocolate syrup.4

“Some of the [midget] men used to tease me while we were making The Wizard of Oz. They used to sneak under my dress! I told them if they ever went under there—and I found out about it—they were in big trouble!”3

Self esteem was always low in Judy Garland, despite her great talent and adoring fans. Growing up at MGM studios and rubbing elbows with beauties like Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor, it is easy to see why she always felt like the ugly duckling. She also dealt with body-size issues.

“From the time I was thirteen, there was a constant struggle between MGM and me—whether or not to eat, how much to eat, what to eat. I remember this more vividly than anything else about my childhood,” she said.

Judy Garland made more than 40 films in her career, some full-length and some shorts. She was a prolific actress, but she was more so a colossal singer. Jim Johnson of the Judy Garland Database website (www.jgdb.com), records: “…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. ...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 1,000 concert and nightclub engagements!”

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

Judy made the rough transition from being cast as the girl next door to an adult in the movies. She received Academy Award nominations for Judgment at Nuremburg and A Star Is Born, winning a Golden Globe for the latter. Her only Oscar was an Academy Juvenile Award for The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms, which she called “The Munchkin Award.”4 She won two Grammy Awards in 1962 for the album Judy at Carnegie Hall, was nominated for three more (two posthumously), and won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously in 1999.

Judy and Mickey Rooney in Babes on Broadway, 1941. They made nine movies together.

“If I am a legend, then why am I so lonely? Let me tell you, legends are all very well if you've got somebody around who loves you.”

Judy Garland was married five times, divorced four times, and passed away just a few months after her fifth wedding. She had three children.

Financial turmoil seemed to follow her all of her life. Despite her great income, she was often in debt. One husband was a gambling addict and had huge debts; one business manager embezzled her and other clients out of gigantic sums of money; and she failed to pay taxes two years and owed the IRS hundreds of thousands of dollars at one time.

“I wanted to believe and I tried my damndest to believe in the rainbow that I tried to get over and couldn't. So what? Lots of people can't....”

When her movie career stalled, she began singing to sold-out crowds in America and England. This success restarted her movie career. She also had her own TV show for a season and did several TV specials. She was beloved by her fans.

“I'm a woman who wants to reach out and take 40 million people in her arms.”

Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minn., and she died on June 22, 1969 in London, England. She is interred at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y., just north of Manhattan.

Despite all the tornadoes in her life (much of which I have left out), I still want to remember Judy Garland as that sweet young girl called Dorothy who just wanted to get home to her family and who hoped for a place of peace over the rainbow. I think I will.


1 “America’s First Amphetamine Epidemic, 1929-1971,” by Nicolas Rasmussen, PhD, MPhil, MPH, pp. 32-33; www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
2 Internet Movie Database, imdb.com. This is thought to be a myth, but a tornado did hit Saline, Kansas, before midnight on June 21st which would have been early on the morning of June 22nd in London where she died. Reported on www.findadeath.com/Deceased/g/Garland,Judy/judy_garland.htm.
3 ibid.
4 The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion Hardcover, by William Stillman and Jay Scarfone. HarperCollins, publ., ISBN: 9780062278012.

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