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Singing star whose voice took the world over the rainbow.

By David Wolfe

When this pretty paperdoll book was originally published in 1941, Judy Garland was already a star. While artists Regina Vallient and Lee Lunger were painting the paperdolls and wardrobe, the real life star was nineteen years old and one of M-G-M’s brightest talents. Behind her was an already long career as a child star in vaudeville and as a teen-ager in the movies. Ahead of her were years of triumph and tragedy, battles with her studio and with personal demons, movies and concert tours that would turn her into one of the greatest stars of all time. By the time she died in 1969, Judy Garland had become a legend and long gone was the fresh-faced, pretty young woman captured with such charm in these pages.

Judy Garland

A star was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1922. Francis Ethel Gumm didn’t wait long to start performing. At age one-and-a-half she sang “Jingle Bells” in a neighborhood talent show organized by her sister and the next year she made her professional debut. Her father ran the local movie house and, at age three, she sang and danced there so enthusiastically that she had to be carried off the stage, still singing. Soon, “Baby Gumm” and her two older sisters were touring locally as a trio. So successful were they that their parents took them to Los Angeles to pursue special show biz studies. In 1929, Francis made her film debut in a short, “The Big Revue.” The Gumm Sisters worked and worked, becoming a popular act on the then-thriving vaudeville circuit. In 1934, comic Georgie Jessell suggested they change their name from Gumm to Garland.

M-G-M signed thirteen-year-old Judy Garland to a contract and she was on her way despite the sad death of her father, Frank. In 1936, she was teamed with another teen-age talent, Deanna Durbin in a musical short entitled “Every Sunday Afternoon.” As a child working in a movie studio, Judy attended school, had voice lessons, studied French, dancing, gave interviews and performed on the radio, at parties and benefits while waiting for her movie assignments.

“Pigskin Parade” was Judy’s first feature film and it was followed by “Broadway Melody of 1937” and then, “Everybody Sing.” She had her first hit record, a number she performed for Clark Gable at his 36th birthday party. “Dear Mr. Gable, You Made Me Love You,” remained in the star’s repertoire ever after. M-G-M produced a popular series of films starring Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy, the energetic son of a small town judge. Judy Garland played his girlfriend in “Love Finds Andy Hardy” and made two more appearances in the series. She went on to co-star with Rooney in seven other films including “Girl Crazy,” “Babes in Arms” and “Strike Up the Band,”

In 1938, Judy shot “Listen, Darling” and began filming what was to become the definitive role of her career, Dorothy Gale in “The Wizard of Oz.” The evergreen tale of the innocent girl from Kansas who is swept away in a cyclone and lands over the rainbow is surely one of the most popular films ever and Judy’s performance is perfectly pitched. The heartfelt yearning she expresses as she sings the song that became her theme is unforgettable. She was presented with a special juvenile Academy Award for her performance, her only win, despite two nominations later in her career.

Judy Garland had achieved stardom at age 16, a fact officially recognized when she put her feet and handprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Her movies, were hits and her recordings were on the hit parade. M-G-M realized they had struck gold and picked-up the pace of her career until it become grueling. She often was working on two films at the same time, plus making weekly guest shots on Bob Hope’s radio show and a constant round of public appearances and promotional tours. It is at this time that Judy began to rely on pills to help keep her energy up while the studio insisted she diet strenuously to get rid of baby fat. She was competing with glamour stars like Lana Turner (her co-star in “Ziegfeld Girl”) and M-G-M wanted Judy to look as beautiful and she sounded.

In 1941, Judy Garland, just 19, married David Rose, the first of several unhappy unions that include director Vincent Minelli, (who fathered Judy’s famous daughter, Liza), Sid Luft, Mark Herron and Mickey Deans.

With America’s entry into World War II, Judy added entertaining the troops to her already overloaded work schedule. It’s no wonder that she began to be plagued by illnesses that caused delays and cancellations of movies and personal appearances. It was the beginning of a pattern that would undermine the star’s career for the rest of her life. Still, hit followed hit. “For Me and My Gal,” “Presenting Lily Mars,” and the ever-popular classic, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” “The Harvey Girls,” “The Pirate,” “Easter Parade” and “In the Good Old Summertime” continued her run of hits.

Then in 1949, Judy was cast in “Annie Get Your Gun.” She pre-recorded a few songs and some numbers were filmed, but Judy’s illness and depression stopped production when she was hospitalized and replaced by Betty Hutton. She returned to work eventually and made “Summer Stock” but her film career was virtually doomed. She left Hollywood and appeared live at The Palace Theatre in New York where her success generated a new career for her as a concert performer. Only one more great musical film was yet to be made. “A Star is Born” was filmed in 1954. It was a tour de force performance but it’s thought that Judy’s behavior on the set made her so unpopular in Hollywood that it cost her the Academy Award she surely deserved.

For the rest of her life, Judy Garland sang in concert halls around the world. In the early 1960’s, a television series that showcased her talent alongside a roster of impressive guest stars including Ethel Merman, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett and Judy’s daughter, Liza Minelli. Unhappy marriages, drug dependency and even suicide attempts diminished the great star’s ability to perform and by 1969, she was an unhealthy, unstable woman old beyond her years. She died of an accidental drug overdose while in London. 22,000 people filed by her coffin to pay their respects to Judy Garland, the singer whose heart was in her voice.

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