Actress and singer Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10th, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The youngest daughter of vaudevillians Frank and Ethel Gumm, her mother, was an ambitious woman gifted in playing various musical instruments, she saw the potential in her daughter at the tender age of just 2 years old when Baby Frances repeatedly sang “Jingle Bells” until she was dragged from the stage kicking and screaming during one of their Christmas shows and immediately drafted her into a dance act, entitled “The Gumm Sisters”, along with her older sisters Mary Jane Gumm and Virginia Gumm.
In 1926, the Gumm family moved to California where Garland and her sisters studied acting and dancing. They played numerous gigs that their mother Ethel had arranged for them as their manager and agent.
On November 16, 1935, in the midst of preparing for a radio performance on the Shell Chateau Hour, Garland learned that her father, who had been hospitalized with meningitis, had taken a turn for the worse.
Frank Gumm died the following morning, on November 17, leaving her distraught. Her song for the Shell Chateau Hour was her first professional rendition of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” a song which would become a standard in many of her concerts.
In 1938, she was cast in the main role as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939), a film based on the children’s book by L. Frank Baum. In this film, she sang the song with which she would forever be identified, “Over the Rainbow.”
Although producers Arthur Freed and Mervyn LeRoy had wanted her from the start, studio Chief Mayer tried first to borrow Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox, but they declined.
Despite her professional triumphs, Garland struggled immensely in her personal life, starting when she was a child. Her self-image was strongly influenced by film executives, who said she was unattractive and constantly manipulated her onscreen physical appearance.
She was plagued by financial instability, often owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. She married five times, with her first four marriages ending in divorce. She also had a long battle with drugs and alcohol, which ultimately led to her death at the age of 47.
Garland married for the first time at the age of 19. Her union with bandleader David Rose was decidedly short-lived, however. On the set of Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), another of Garland’s signature films, she met director Vincent Minnelli.
She officially divorced Rose in 1945 and soon wed Minnelli. The couple also welcomed a daughter, Liza, in 1946. Unfortunately, Garland’s second marriage only lasted a little longer than her first. In the 1960s, Judy Garland spent more time as a singer than an actress.
In 1961, at the age of 39, Judy returned to her ailing film career, this time to star in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but this time she lost out to Rita Moreno for her performance in West Side Story (1961).
Her battles with alcoholism and drugs led to Judy’s making numerous headlines in newspapers, but she soldiered on, forming a close friendship with President John F. Kennedy.
She died of a drug overdose the drug that had conquered her much of her life, on the 22nd of June 1969 at the age of 47.