In This Chapter

Judy Garland

Authored by: Steven Cohan

The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138950276
eBook ISBN: 9781315668819
Adobe ISBN:


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Frances Ethel Gumm was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, on June 10, 1922. Very early in her life, Frances, or “Baby” as she was called, performed professionally in vaudeville with her two elder siblings as the Gumm Sisters. At Chicago’s Oriental Theatre in 1934 headliner George Jessel introduced the singing act as “the Garland Sisters” because their surname was getting laughs from the audience. By the following year the sisters were consistently using Garland for their act’s name, and Frances took a different first name, becoming “Judy Garland,” known as the little girl with a powerful grown-up voice. Also in that momentous year of 1935 Judy auditioned for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which signed her to a long-term contract albeit with six-month renewals; at her audition, moreover, she met composer and music arranger Roger Edens, who would turn out to be an influential mentor and life-long friend. By 1937, Judy was singing in short subjects and feature-length films, appearing on radio, and had started her recording career at Decca. Her first big hit was “Dear Mr. Gable, You Made Me Love You,” which Edens partly wrote and arranged for her. First sung to great acclaim at a studio birthday party for MGM star Clark Gable (and to show off Judy to studio executives), the song was included in Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937) and it became one of her signature tunes. As well as costarring in several MGM features as the studio developed her screen persona, Judy played Betsy Booth, the proverbial girl next door, in three of the studio’s Andy Hardy series of films starring Mickey Rooney.

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