Which of the following stars of the 1939 film Wizard of Oz began their career as a vaudeville performer?
Considering Frank Morgan, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and Billie Burke, the answer is: Judy Garland.
Judy Garland’s vaudeville group “The Gumm Sisters,” attracted the attention of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer executives when Garland was just thirteen. By the time she reached 20 years old, Garland was already a beloved celebrity for her role as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz.
As one of the greats of early Hollywood, it should come as no surprise that Judy Garland's family was in show business long before her career took off. Garland's parents were actually vaudevillians themselves, who ran the theater where Garland first debuting her acting and singing talents at the age of two.
When Garland signed with MGM at thirteen, though, she was too old to be a child star and too young to be a leading lady. Consequently, Garland formed close friendships with other rising, teenage stars such as Mickey Rooney. They went on to appear in ten of the same movies over the years, and came to be considered one of Hollywood's best onscreen couples. Praised for their playful chemistry, Rooney and Garland's relationship in films such as Strike Up the Band (1940) and Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) is widely enjoyed even today.
Although Garland is best known for her film roles, her live musical performances are in a league of their own. Garland returned to her roots onstage many times throughout her career, yet perhaps the most notable excursion back into live performance was her Carnegie Hall recital in 1961. Sometimes referred to the "greatest night in show business history," the recording won Garland the Grammy for Album of the Year and made Garland the first woman to ever take home the prize.
Learn more about the legendary Judy Garland here.