Judy Garland would have turned 100 this year. We pay tribute to his incredible work to celebrate his legend and his legacy. Much of Garland’s lore centers on her personal tragedies, and while one cannot separate the pain from her art, it would be reductive and dismissive to focus solely on her hardships. Although her best work was often laced with darkness and angst, she also shared her unerring sense of optimism and joy as well as her boisterous sense of humor. Garland has gone through a series of reinventions, as a movie star, concert performer, recording artist and television personality, adapting to a new career whenever necessary. She was once quoted as joking, “If you sit for twenty minutes in this company now, that’s a comeback.” She identified with the entertainment industry so much that she was nicknamed Little Miss Show Business.
Originally a vaudevillian, Garland performed as a child with her sisters, the Gumm Sisters, paying her artist dues, before coming to the attention of MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who signed a contract with the girl. Working as a contract player for the film studio, Garland did her part, appearing in small roles in lower-tier films, before being cast in an Andy Hardy film with Mickey Rooney, Love Finds Andy. Hardy from 1938. Rooney and Garland proved to have wonderful chemistry and starred in a series of musicals.
Although she grew into a star, she became an icon when she was cast as Dorothy Gale in MGM’s adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s tale, The Wizard of Oz. The film capitalized on Garland’s heartbreaking vulnerability and supernaturally mature voice. garland tracked The Wizard of Oz with a string of hit musicals that saw her team up with fellow musical geniuses like Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Ray Bolger. Garland became a box office superstar and sought after property for the studio and worked with esteemed directors like George Sidney, Busby Berkeley, Victor Fleming and her second husband, Vincente Minnelli, the director who, like Garland, would become synonymous with the movie musical.
For 13 years, Garland worked as a player for MGM, one of its biggest and brightest stars. She starred in nearly 30 films, endearing herself to audiences with her incredible talent. But personal and professional issues meant her storied career with MGM came to an ignominious end in 1950 when the studio fired her. Further health issues followed and her career was nearly cancelled, but she made the first of a series of legendary comebacks, recasting herself as a concert performer, returning to her vaudeville roots. Although her film career was over, she created a new identity for herself, becoming a concert diva, winning a Tony for her extraordinary run at the Palace Theater in 1951.
Although no longer an MGM star, Garland returned to the screen in 1954 in George Cukor’s dark musical melodrama, A star is born. With the role of Vickie Lester, Garland gave the performance of her career and marked the history of cinema, creating an indelible mark; nominated for an Oscar, Garland’s work in the film received critical acclaim. Unfortunately, the film’s financial fortunes did not match the enthusiastic critical response, and its failure further stalled Garland’s career. She wouldn’t be in another movie until 1961 Judgment at Nuremberg (dir. Stanley Kramer), a film that earned him a second Oscar nomination for his spectacular cameo. This return to film led to a few additional roles, but his film career effectively ended in 1963 with the musical drama I could keep singing.
Although the early 1960s saw Garland’s film stardom come to an end, she continued her concert career, notably performing in April 1961 at Carnegie Hall, making show business history with this show, giving a brilliant performance that showed his musical genius. . This gig was made immortal with the show’s soundtrack, which went to number one on the Billboard album charts and won four Grammy Awards.
Garland’s stardom meant that although she was no longer a movie star, she was still hugely popular. This popularity made her a popular figure on television, headlining a series of hit TV specials before headlining her own variety show, The Judy Garland Show. Garland’s glittering stardom and legend meant that the biggest stars of Hollywood and Broadway made appearances on the show, sharing the stage with her. The likes of Ethel Merman, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, Vic Damone, Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli, and up-and-coming Barbra Streisand have joined Garland in creating showbiz magic. Although the show was well reviewed by critics, it failed to find an audience and was canceled after one season.
The Judy Garland Show was undoubtedly the last moment of brilliance for the great diva. After 1963 Garland had to return to touring, traveling the world and giving sold-out performances at some of the world’s most notable venues. More health problems, personal problems, financial problems and professional setbacks meant that Garland’s later years were marked by struggle. In 1969, while living in London, she was found dead of an accidental overdose.
Judy Garland’s death was mourned by her fans and more than 20,000 admirers attended her funeral in New York. His connection to his queer audience meant that although his death had nothing to do with the Stonewall Riots, which followed shortly after his passing, the two significant moments in queer history are forever linked and spurred legends and myths.
Below is a list of Garland’s greatest hits: film performances, cameo appearances, songs, albums and concerts. His production is exhaustive and impressive to see. His work with MGM alone produced some of the greatest films in American cinema, and his Judy at Carnegie Hall album is one of the most important live albums released in the 20th century. Although her film stardom saw her through her teens and 20s, she became a complex and dazzling performer when music and live performance dominated her work. His artistry grew deeper even though his voice began to audibly fray; when she was not performing in front of a camera, reciting lines, she was able to share her inexhaustible resource of emotion with her audience. This list is unranked but a playlist of his best work that constitutes some of the greatest moments in film and music history.
“You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To)” (1937)
MGM produced outlandish musical film reviews that featured a series of musical numbers, sometimes tied to a thin plot. In the 1937 film 1938 Broadway Melody, a young Garland steals the show with a flirtatious version of the old chestnut, “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Mean To)”, which a teenage Garland gently hummed to movie megastar Clark Gable. The song would become a staple of Garland’s concerts, and it was a prime example of her ability to invest a song with sincerity and emotion.
The Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney collaborations (1938 – 1943)
Garland and Rooney starred in nine films together, essentially creating the “let’s put on a show” genre, in which their characters would face an obstacle that they could solve by hosting a music review. Garland’s first pairing with Rooney was in the 1938 comedy Love Finds Andy Hardy, which was part of the Rooney series of Andy Hardy comedies. She would do it in other Andy Hardy movies, starring Betsy Booth. Rooney and Garland were a very popular pair and also starred in other films including, Girls in arms (1939), Girls on Broadway (1941), and Crazy girl (1943).
These films were formulaic and predictable and did not work to challenge their audiences, but they also depicted an idealized, rosy America during World War II and served as necessary escapist entertainment as well as part of MGM’s Americana propaganda. Even though these projects were family entertainment, Girls in arms complicates Garland’s image – especially as a young movie star – as she appears in blackface. Garland and Rooney played fresh-faced kids who got into no real trouble and faced their obstacles with verve, humor and exuberant talent. Garland’s skills as an actress have been put to good use in these films, and it’s a treat to watch her grow from a youthful performer to a charming young lady.