Singer, actress, and dancer Judy Garland is one of the most famous entertainers in American history. She was just a teenager when she won an Academy Award and was the first woman to win a Grammy for Album of the Year. And, of course, she starred in one of the most beloved films of all time, The Wizard of Oz.
Garland’s life was a series of ups and downs, and she was taken from her family, friends, and fans way too soon. Here are some incredible and rare photos of Garland over the course of her lifetime.
She Was Born Frances Ethel Gumm
On June 10, 1922, Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Her parents performed in vaudeville, and she and her sisters were also performers known as the Gumm Sisters. Judy and her sisters (pictured here) changed their last name in 1934 after accidentally being introduced as The Glum Sisters.
It’s unclear what the exact inspiration is behind Garland’s name, but it may be from the character Lily Garland in the film Twentieth Century. Or she may have selected it after she and her sisters were referred to as being prettier “than a garland of flowers”.
She Was Best Friends With Mickey Rooney
This photo shows Garland at her home in Santa Monica, California, alongside Marjorie Gestring, Jackie Cooper, Mickey Rooney, June Preisser, Virginia Weidler, and Louis B. Mayer. They were preparing to swim a race during Garland’s birthday party.
Garland went to high school in Los Angeles and was surrounded by many famous faces. She attended school alongside Rooney, who became a frequent co-star and one of her best friends. They starred in several musicals together. He later said of their friendship, “It’s very, very difficult to explain the depths of our love for each other. It was so special. It was a forever love.”
She Felt Inferior To Other Actresses, Such As Lana Turner & Elizabeth Taylor
This photo shows Garland with her mother on the set of Little Nellie Kelly at MGM studios. While Garland was very successful, she felt inferior compared to many other female actresses of the time, such as fellow MGM stars Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Garland was self-conscious about her girl-next-door appearance and didn’t feel like she could compete with some of the other glamorous women on film. Plus, it didn’t help that studio chief Louis B. Mayer referred to her as his “little hunchback”.
She Claimed MGM Got Her Hooked On Amphetamines And Barbiturates
As previously mentioned, she and Rooney appeared in numerous films together, including Babes in Arms, Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, and Life Begins for Andy Hardy. According to Garland, the two of them were prescribed amphetamines so they could be fresh and vibrant to star in so many films one after the other.
She also claimed they took barbiturates to go to sleep at night. Garland said her work schedule was very hectic and later blamed MGM for the long hours. Rooney disputed this and said MGM did not give her any of the drugs she got addicted to.
Her Movie Studio Put Her On A Strict Diet
Even though Garland was a healthy weight, MGM insisted that she diet to stay slim. There were times when she was only allowed to eat a bowl of soup, cottage cheese, and a plate of lettuce instead of a regular meal. This affected Garland both mentally and physically.
She constantly doubted her abilities even though she was hugely successful in music and on the big screen. Her early experiences made her very self-conscious, and she relied on other people to reassure her that she was pretty and talented.
MGM Tried To Make Garland Appear Younger In Wizard Of Oz
Many girls go through an awkward stage, and MGM thought Garland was in the midst of it while filming The Wizard of Oz. She was 16 years old at the time, but they wanted to make her look even younger. One of their solutions was to give her a brace to wear to make her bust appear smaller.
Garland was lauded for her work in the film at the 1939 Academy Awards. She received a Juvenile Award for playing Dorothy and also for her performance in Babes in Arms.
She Was Very Close To Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra was the godfather of Garland’s youngest daughter, Lorna. But even more interesting is that Judy Garland and Sinatra had an on-and-off love affair throughout the 1950s. The couple started their romance in 1949 while she was still married to Vincente Minnelli. They reconnected after Garland split from third husband, Sid Luft.
One of Garland’s love letters to Sinatra was auctioned in 2016. It read in part, “You said today that you’d been negligent. But darling—that’s so unimportant compared to the great amount of happiness you’ve given me. I shan’t forget the hours we’ve spent together—ever!”
She Was Married Five Times
Garland, 19, married composer David Rose in 1941 against her parents’ and her studio’s wishes. They thought it would be detrimental to her image. She and Rose divorced in 1944. She married director Vincente Minnelli the following year and had a daughter, Liza. They divorced in 1951.
Garland married businessman Sid Luft in 1952 and had two kids, Joey and Lorna, but divorced in 1965. She then married actor Mark Herron, and they split a few months later. Her last husband was Mickey Deams. She died three months into their marriage.
Her Second Husband Was Gay (And Daughter Liza Also Married A Gay Man)
Garland and Minnelli’s marriage lasted for six years. Minnelli reportedly lived as a gay man for many years before moving to Hollywood, where he stayed in the closet for the sake of his career. His attraction to men is part of the reason why the couple divorced.
The couple’s daughter, Liza, also married a gay man, Peter Allen. The pair were together for seven years before they divorced, and he didn’t come out until afterward. He and his long-time partner died of AIDS-related illnesses. Allen’s life was made into a Broadway musical starring Hugh Jackman.
Liza Has Also Had Multiple Failed Marriages
As already mentioned, Liza’s first marriage was to Peter Allen. They divorced in 1974, and Liza claimed she was the only one in her circle that didn’t know he was gay. Shortly after the divorce, she married producer Jack Haley Jr. Her mother starred with his father in The Wizard of Oz. Liza and Jack split in 1979.
Liza’s longest marriage was to sculptor and stage manager Mark Gero, whom she was married to from 1979 to 1992. Ten years later she married concert promoter David Gest, who later claimed that Liza beat him when she was inebriated. They divorced in 2007 after several years of separation.
Garland Was Friends With JFK
Garland was introduced to future president John F. Kennedy by Peter Lawford and his wife Patricia, who was Kennedy’s younger sister. At the time, Kennedy was a junior senator from Massachusetts. They became friendly over the years, and Kennedy would often ask Garland to sing “Over the Rainbow” while on the phone.
Her son Joey Luft recalled, “I remember he called her one time. I think it was after the election and she was jumping up and down in the living room. She campaigned for him, and they were pretty close.”
She Was Forced To Terminate Two Pregnancies
Garland got pregnant when she was married to her first husband, David Rose, at age 19. Her mother and MGM secretly arranged to terminate the pregnancy to save her career even though the procedure was illegal. This practice was quite common in Hollywood at the time.
Before she married Sid Luft, he also urged her to terminate a pregnancy in 1951. They were both married to other people at the time, and Luft was worried that it would impact his career. He later regretted the decision.
She Battled Post-Partum Depression
In addition to having problems with her self-image, Garland got to the point where she had to take pills in order to function. Her ex-husband, Sid Luft, wrote in his book, Judy and I, “She confessed it was virtually impossible for her to sustain a work mode in front of the cameras without taking some kind of medication.”
She also suffered from postpartum depression, and doctors gave her even more drugs to deal with it. Lufti tried to help Garland beat her addiction, but ultimately was unable to do much.
She Struggled Being A Parent
While Garland loved all of her children, she had a hard time raising them because she was addicted to drugs, which affected her behavior. Her daughter Liza said her mother frequently had mood swings. “If she was happy, she wasn’t just happy,” recalled Liza. “She was ecstatic. And when she was sad, she was sadder than anyone.”
Garland would shower her children with affection one minute and then scream at them the next. While daughter Lorna loved her mother, she knew she was damaged. “There wasn’t enough love in the world, enough attention in the world, to save my mother,” she once said.
She Tried To Take Her Own Life Several Times
After she was fired from MGM in 1950, Garland tried to take her own life on several occasions. Her depression started when she was married to second husband Vincente Minnelli. They divorced, and she married Sid Luft, who found her bleeding in the bathroom.
Luft was devastated by the incident. He believes the pills she took contributed to her erratic behavior. She attempted to take her life several times while still with Luft over their 13-year marriage.
Liza, Like Her Mother, Struggled With Addiction
Liza, like many of her contemporaries, got wrapped up in the nightclub and partying scene of the 1970s. After her mother died, Liza began taking Valium and became an alcoholic.
Andy Warhol famously wrote an entry in his diary in 1978 that noted Liza once visited fashion designer Halston’s house and said, “Give me every drug you’ve got.” In the mid-’80s Liza decided to clean up her life. She entered the Betty Ford Clinic while performing in the musical “The Rink.”
Garland Made A Comeback In A Star Is Born
In 1950, after 15 years with MGM, Garland left the studio. She became depressed and had a hard time making money. She got some theater work but didn’t do very much until she appeared in 1954’s A Star is Born, which is regarded as her Hollywood comeback.
She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and most critics and fans believed she would win. When she lost, Groucho Marx sent her a telegram and called it the “biggest robbery.”
The Day She Died, A Tornado Hit Kansas
Garland died on June 22, 1969, in London. She was 47 years old. On the exact same day, a tornado struck Kansas. Don’t forget, a tornado blew Dorothy away in The Wizard of Oz. Garland’s death was attributed to an accidental overdose of barbiturates. It’s also believed that an eating disorder contributed to her death.
Even though Garland earned millions of dollars throughout her career, her financial estate was mismanaged. As a result, upon her death, her estate was worth only $40,000.
Her Daughter Liza And Frank Sinatra Helped Pay Off Her Debts
In 1961, Garland created a will that unfortunately could not be fulfilled because she was deeply in debt. As a result, her daughter Liza and longtime friend Frank Sinatra helped pay off her debts. Nearly 10 years after Garland’s death, her ex-husband Sid Luft and their children Lorna and Joe auctioned off several of her personal items.
The family sold nearly 500 things, including copper cookware and the star’s musical arrangements. The auction brought in the modern equivalent of over $960,000.
She’s Still Considered One Of The Greatest Entertainers Of All Time
Garland appeared in 35 films over the course of her career, and she was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. The song “Over the Rainbow” was ranked the top movie song of all time in the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Songs” list.
She was also a gay icon, partially because her personal struggles were similar to those of gay men during the peak of her career. And people still can’t get enough of her. Renée Zellweger recently portrayed Garland in the biopic Judy, which hit theaters in 2019. And Zellweger’s performance immediately had Oscar buzz surrounding it.