Somewhere over the rainbow, actress, singer, legend Judy Garland awaits. June 10th marks what would have been this Golden Age actress' 99th birthday, so to celebrate Garland's life and legacy, we'll return to the star who started it all.
Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Born to vaudevillian parents, Garland was destined for show business from day one. Indeed – at age two, Garland performed for the first time alongside her two older sisters during a Christmas show at her father's theater. The Gumm Sisters, as the trio came to be called, performed there for the next few years, accompanied by their mother on piano.
By late 1934, the Gumm Sisters had changed their name to the Garland Sisters. Frances changed her name to "Judy" soon after, inspired by a popular Hoagy Carmichael song. After relocating to California, the Garland Sisters caught the attention of Louis B. Mayer, co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. After bringing Judy in to hear her sing, the studio immediately signed her on. At this point, young Garland was just 13, and the MGM wasn't quite sure how to use her talents. But just three years later her breakthrough came when she was cast as iconic Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Garland received a special Academy Award for her performance in the film and an immortalized place in the hearts of the American public.
Unfortunately, the life of the star wasn't always rosy. In fact, from a young age, Garland reported that she was constantly prescribed amphetamines in order to stay awake and keep up with the frantic pace of making one film after another. Drug use never quite left the young star, and ultimately led to intense struggles with mental health later in life. She additionally suffered from weight and appearance insecurities, often exacerbated by MGM executives.
Yet, above all else, Judy Garland was a wildly talented force to be reckoned with. Despite her personal and professional struggles, Garland's magnetism and poise electrified any stage or screen which she graced with her presence. Garland starred in many popular movies into her adult life and worked extensively on her singing career. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance in A Star Is Born (1954) as well as a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). And, if that wasn't enough, Garland made record-breaking concert appearances, released eight studio albums, and hosted her own Emmy-nominated television series, The Judy Garland Show (1963–1964).
In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Garland as the eighth-greatest female screen legend of classic Hollywood cinema. She remains an icon of the time period, and one of the first public faces in Hollywood. Today, on her 99th birthday, celebrate Garland's life and legacy with a revisit of her iconic role in Wizard of Oz.