7 Greatest Judy Garland moments
"Over the Rainbow"
This classic ballad was written for The Wizard of Oz—one of the best known and most watched films of all time, featuring the role that made Garland one of MGM’s most bankable stars at the age of 16. Her poignant performance earned Judy a special juvenile Oscar statuette on 29 February 1940 for Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor.
The film is based on the 1900 children’s book by Frank L. Baum and tells the story of Dorothy Gale—a girl who is swept away from a Kansas farm by a tornado to a magical land of Oz.
The iconic number "Over the Rainbow" was originally almost cut from the film. MGM initially thought that it made the Kansas sequence too long and that it was degrading for Garland to sing in a barnyard. It’s a good thing they didn’t as the song won the Best Original Song Oscar and the recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
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Rooney was Garland’s fellow child star at MGM and the two were paired in a string of what were known as “backyard musicals” because of their small scale. They had a lot in common: both were slightly plump, sweet-looking teens who’d been performing with their vaudeville families since they were toddlers; both came from broken homes and thus, both saw Louis B. Mayer as a kind of father figure and MGM as their real home.
Yet Garland didn’t describe her MGM childhood as a happy one: even though she was of a healthy weight, she was constantly forced to diet and was prescribed amphetamines to stay awake to keep up with a busy shooting schedule and then barbiturates to help her sleep at night—a cocktail that led to a lifelong addiction and her eventual demise.
Their first film together as lead characters was Babes in Arms—a happy flick about spirited teens putting on a show, showcasing their talents as young entertainers brought up through the studio system. The film was a hit and made back four times its cost at the box office, prompting MGM to reunite Garland, Rooney and director Busby Berkeley for Girl Crazy later that year. The two ended up appearing together in five additional films.
Besides being a terrific actress and a talented singer, Judy could sure bust a move. And she did so alongside two of the greatest dancers of all time: Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
With Kelly, she appeared in the 1942 jukebox musical For Me and My Gal, which also happened to be Kelly’s screen debut. For the 19-year-old Garland, on the other hand, the film was a transition from being a teenage star to an adult actor and she was top billed in the credits for the very first time in her career.
The two got along really well and Garland helped Kelly with adjusting his stage acting to film, as well as supported him in his arguments with director Busby Berkeley, whom she didn’t get along with because of his abusive directing style which made her miserable during the Babes in Arms series.
The film followed one of many difficult periods for Garland, who was going through a separation from her husband, musician David Rose, and had aborted a pregnancy by him. Her weight had dropped below 95 pounds and she was criticised for looking unhealthily thin in the film.
Kelly and Garland were also set to co-star in the 1948 musical Easter Parade, but when Kelly broke his ankle (as a result of stamping his foot in anger after losing a volleyball game) he was replaced with Fred Astaire.
Garland had never met him before and, despite being a major star by that point, she was afraid to speak to him until they were properly introduced. This was the first and only collaboration between the two. The film was an incredible success for both and became the highest grossing musical of the year.
Like mother, like daughter
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Garland began a relationship with legendary director Vincente Minnelli during the filming of Meet Me in St Louis. The two were married on June 15, 1945 and their daughter Liza was born less than a year later.
Liza, as we know, became a massive star in her own right across multiple fields of entertainment and is one of the few entertainers who have been honoured with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award.
She made her film debut when she was two and a half years old in the film The Good Old Summertime which her mother starred in. As a teenager, she performed in musical theatres and nightclubs in New York and she frequently performed with her mother, most famously in a joint engagement at the London Palladium in 1964 and in Garland’s own TV show The Judy Garland Show.
She went on to enjoy an illustrious career on Broadway and in cinema, earning an Oscar for her iconic role in Cabaret.
A Star Is Born
This melancholy, goose bump-inducing number is one of Garland’s most iconic ones. With music composed by the legendary Harold Arlen and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, it’s the defining song of the 1954 musical A Star Is Born and one that earned her an Oscar nomination.
Garland’s rising star Vicki Lester rehearses with her band in an after-hours club when James Mason’s aging has-been actor stumbles in drunk and is completely awestruck by her incredible talent, deciding that he will help her achieve success.
It’s an atmospheric, jazzy piece that slowly builds up great emotion and grandeur with Garland’s vocals growing deeper and more powerful with every breath she takes.
The film production was a rocky one, mostly because of constant script changes and Garland's numerous personal issues, including drug addiction, fluctuating weight and real and imagined illnesses. Production delays led to massive cost overruns and vicious conflicts with Warner Bros.
The Judy Garland Show
After A Star Is Born, Garland undertook a number of successful of TV specials with CBS as well as a string of Las Vegas performances. In the early 1960s, she was in a precarious financial situation, so when CBS offered her a $24 million contract for a weekly television series of her own, she accepted. And thus, The Judy Garland Show was born.
The show received generally favourable reviews with the majority of critics praising Garland herself but saying that the rest of the show needed help. To address the reviews, it was decided that Garland wouldn’t appear in any more sketches and wouldn’t play any character but herself.
Instead, she would perform more songs, medleys and standards. She was also being given peculiar bits of information, such as the fact that she was touching her celebrity guests too much and was instructed to stop doing so.
Due to an unfortunate time slot and a number of other reasons, The Judy Garland Show lasted only one season and was cancelled in 1964 after 26 episodes, even though the fans rallied in an attempt to save it. The demise of the program was personally and financially devastating for Garland. She died five years later from a barbiturate overdose.
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