Judy Garland was born on June 10, 1922 as Frances Ethel Gumm, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She died on June 22, 1969 at her house in London.
She appeared on a couple of U.S. stamps, on this 2006 stamp she appears as herself rather than as one of her film characters.
She and her sisters performed as the Gumm Sisters, and made their film debut in a short called The Big Revue (1929). They performed in several more shorts through 1935, and on the vaudeville stage during that time as well.
Comedian George Jessel played the Oriental Theater in Chicago with them in 1934, and was instrumental in renaming them as the Garland Sisters. Judy became Judy shortly after that.
Judy was signed to MGM studios at age thirteen in September 1935 immediately upon auditioning for the head of the studio Louis B. Mayer.
Being that awkward tween age, the studio had a difficult time placing her, and the studio felt her looks weren’t up to leading lady status. They settled on a Girl-Next-Door look for her, and she played that role in several films in the thirties.
She became the literal girl next door in an Andy Hardy film opposite Mickey Rooney when she became the neighbor girl in Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) which set her on a path to costar in many films with him.
In 1938, at 16, she was given the part of Dorothy Gale in the the MGM Musical The Wizard of Oz (1939), after they couldn’t arrange to borrow Shirley Temple from Fox. Apparently the producers wanted Garland, but Mayer insisted on trying for Temple.
That film propelled her to the status of household name and box office star, and better parts began to come her way. It also won her a special Juvenile academy award (Oscar). She also won several Grammys and a special Tony, as well as a Golden Globe. She also got several non-competitive special awards.
Garland claimed that MGM studios provided their child actors with amphetamines and barbiturates so they could cope with the press of making films with rapid turn-over. Mikey Rooney disputed that, claiming that Garland was alone in deciding to take the drugs.
Regardless, she fell into addiction and that caused her health and professional problems for the rest of her life.
Judy Garland was a marvelous interviewee, and talk show guest. The audience, at least, was never sure what would come out of her mouth. Her sense of humor was something else.
Below is a video of some classic Judy Garland as herself on the Jack Paar Show (which became the Tonight Show). This is from May 7, 1967. Judy comes is on from time-marks 2:20 to 11:30.
Judy Garland had two daughters, Liza Minelli and Lorna Luft, and a son, Joey Luft. She was married 5 times, and divorced 4. Her fifth husband was Mickey Deans, who survived her.
In her career she had 40 film acting credits from 1929-1971, and 172 soundtrack credits.
Ultimately, her death was ruled an accidental overdose, despite there being no evidence of pills in her stomach, and there not being a unusual number of pills missing from the prescription bottles. Doctors concluded it was the slow accumulation of the effects of so many years of use that finally her body couldn’t take any more.
Rumors of suicide have circulated since her death, but there is no evidence her death was intentional.
On the evening of June 21, 1969, the first significant tornado of a 6 day outbreak was an F3 storm that severely damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and businesses in Salina, Kansas. It caused minor damage to an additional 500 homes, and injured 60 people. Because of the time difference, it was already June 22 in London, where Judy Garland was found dead.