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Judy Garland: A Beautiful Life Destroyed By The Entertainment Industry and Expectations of Women

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Stony Brook chapter.

Judy Garland, best known for her role of Dorothy in the 1939 Classic, The Wizard of Oz, is one of the most adored performers in history. From a young age, she had been encouraged to perform, with her first act being singing Jingle Bells during one of her parents’ vaudeville shows when she was just two years old. Then Frances “Baby” Gumm, it was apparent that she loved to perform, as she kept singing the song even after being prompted by her parents to exit the stage. From then on, she performed with her two older sisters, and their group was called The Gumm Sisters. Eventually it became clear to her mother that Frances was the most interested in show business, and she began to take her to solo auditions. Later in life, Judy looked back on her mother as manipulative, and using her talented children for fame and money, much to the dismay of her father, Frank. Judy had always been close with her father, and he was the one to take her to the MGM audition that would change her life forever. It was also around this time that she decided to change her name to Judy Garland after many unfortunate mispronunciations and spellings of Gumm as “glum” or “dumb.”

Judy Garland was picked up by Metro-Goldwyn Meyer, and given a contract for the Andy Hardy films, where she played Andy’s girl-next-door best friend. It was here that she met Mickey Rooney, who played Andy Hardy, and the two became lifelong friends. This friendship may have been what helped Judy get through the harsh treatment she endured at MGM, where she was constantly critiqued on her appearance, and forced to take extreme measures to change it. When she was first brought to the studio, she was fit with nose discs to make her nose more upturned and caps for her teeth, while the studio also told her she needed to lose weight. To accomplish this, she was put on a strict diet by the studio, and made to take pills that would induce weight loss, while keeping her awake for the long hours of filming. To help her sleep at night after the pills gave her energy, she was given barbiturates.  The studio always had her playing young girls, even as she was developing into a woman, which only added to the star’s declining self-image. At such a fragile age, all of the critiquing and drug use were major contributors to her mental illness and substance abuse problems later in life, which eventually led to her early death. After enduring for years, she had completed several films before having a breakdown during The Pirate, and needed to take some time off. Shortly thereafter she had her first suicide attempt, and it became apparent that her rough past was finally catching up to her. She was fired from MGM after she became too ill to perform, and unable to keep up with their strict schedules and practices.

After her time at MGM, Judy Garland continued to work on other projects. She had her own television program, and even returned to the stage for awhile. Her love life as an adult was also tumultuous, as she was married 5 times from 1941-1969. She had stated on many occasions that she wished she could have a few people who truly cared about her, instead of a plethora of fans who barely knew her and how her personal life had been. It was clear that on top of the substance abuse problems, Garland had developed a deep mistrust for other people, which is understandable considering her close management for most of her life. She was told what to do, what to eat, what to wear, how much she should weigh, and so on for so long that she began to disassociate herself from other people to finally be at peace.

My name is Shannon Connors and I am a 3rd year English major at Stony Brook. My favorite things are coffee, dogs, and Netflix.
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