Who Was Judy Garland? 36 Things You Never Knew About the Star

Behind the glitz and glitter, the actress lived a troubled life.

Judy Garland

by Shana Lynch |
Updated on

Judy, the biopic about the life of Judy Garland, premiered in cinemas this week. Starring Renée Zellweger, the film begins with Garland's career thirty years after starring in The Wizard of Oz and shows her whirlwind romance with future husband Mickey Deans.

But between the glam and the sold-out performances, it got us wondering — who was Judy Garland, really? Read on for a behind-the-scenes look at the life of the famous singer and actress...


Judy Garland facts

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Judy Garland is her stage name

Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on 10 June 1922 in Grand Rapid, Michigan but [changed her surname to Garland](https://www.factinate.com/people/42-little-known-facts-judy-garland/y-garland/) after becoming more famous.

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She comes from a family of vaudevillians

Her parents[ ran a movie theatre](https://www.factinate.com/people/42-little-known-facts-judy-garland/y-garland/) that often showed vaudevillian performances and Judy made her on-stage debut at the age of two with a performance of 'Jingle Bells' at the cinema's Christmas show.

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She was in a girl group with her sisters

Garland along with her two older sisters, Mary Jane and Dorothy Virginia, performed together under the moniker ['The Gumm Sisters'](https://www.nytimes.com/1964/05/29/archives/mrs-sue-cathcart-48-judy-garlands-sister.htmlister.html) with Garland being known as 'Baby Gumm.' Allegedly, a playbill once called them 'The Glum Sisters,' prompting them to change their stage name.

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Her mum had grand ambitions for young Judy

The family [moved west to Lancaster, California](https://www.factinate.com/people/42-little-known-facts-judy-garland/y-garland/) in 1926 where Ethel Gumm thought her daughters would have better chance of getting into the motion picture business.

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She attended the high school of the stars

Garland attended and graduated from the famous Hollywood High School in LA, which has [other notable graduates](https://www.hollywoodhighschool.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=63766&type=d&pREC_ID=108329_ID=108329) including Sharon Tate and Mickey Rooney.

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She had an unstable childhood

Garland's parents had a rocky marriage and she once said about her childhood, 'As I recall, my parents were separating and getting back together all the time. It was very hard for me to understand those things and, of course, I remember clearly the fear I had of those separations.'

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Her mum was the OG Momager

Ethel Gumm's ambition for her daughters would give Kris Jenner's a run for her money – Garland once referred to her mum as 'the real Wicked Witch of the West.'

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She had a number of weird fears

Garland reportedly hated thunder and flying, and was extremely superstitious: she believed she learned faster if her left shoe was off and was often pictured [wearing only her right shoe](https://wp.jumblejoy.com/decades-judy-garlands-passing-one-closest-guarded-secrets-finally-comes/lly-comes/).

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She attended high school while filming The Wizard of Oz

When Judy signed her contract with MGM Studios she was only 13 years old, leaving her in a weird middle ground between child star and adult actor. Because of this, she was only allowed to work four hours a day and had to attend at least three hours of school a day.

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She had an Olympian as a personal trainer

After being told to 'slim down' for the role of Dorothy, Garland [trained with Olympic swimmer Barbara 'Bobbie' Koshay](https://diply.com/article/judy-garland-fun-facts/2?config=25?config=25), who was also her body double.

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She was very active

Garland loved being active and spent a lot of time playing sports such as swimming and baseball.

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She had other career ambitions

Garland never thought acting would be a full-time career and dreamt of [becoming a nurse](https://diply.com/article/judy-garland-fun-facts/2?config=25?config=25) one day.

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She was body-shamed constantly

MGM Studios often forced Garland to go on strict diets during which she could only eat things like chicken soup, cottage cheese and lettuce. Garland was also made to wear caps on her teeth and prosthetics on her nose.

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She has a famous daughter

Like mother, like daughter: Garland's own daughter is famous singer Liza Minnelli. Garland married director Vincente Minnelli in 1945, despite a 20 year age difference between the two, and they had daughter Liza in 1946.

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She was a passionate animal-lover

Garland had a special devotion to dogs (don't we all?) and was inseparable with the pup who played Toto on the set of the Wizard of Oz.

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She almost wasn't Dorothy

The role of Dorothy was offered to both Shirley Temple and Deanna Durbin before being given to Garland. Interestingly, Dorothy was also meant to be a blonde.

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She found her perfect partner

Garland and Mickey Rooney were often paired and first appeared on-screen together in Babes in Arms before going on to co-star in many other films.

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Her first on-screen kiss was slightly problematic

In 1940, Garland began starring in adult roles for the first time, playing both a mother and daughter in Little Nellie Kelly and having her first on-screen kiss with George Murphy, who was 20 years older than Garland. [Murphy later said about the kiss](https://www.factinate.com/people/42-little-known-facts-judy-garland/y-garland/) that he felt like "a hillbilly with a child bride."

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She had a problem with prescription pills

Garland was prescribed amphetamines by the studio to be able to keep up with filming movie after movie. Scarily, she was also prescribed barbiturates to help her sleep at night. This dangerous combination is what led to her life-long struggle with addiction.

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She was a Gay icon

She was even called the '[Elvis for homosexuals](https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cWMEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA87&lpg=PA87&dq=judy+garland+the+elvis+of++homosexuals+advocate&source=bl&ots=6SLhCSwlq7&sig=UE6SwpVx6N5kfgNQkjHGIMcKMpM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=AHXaUL-AJ6m70QHV-4GIAQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=elvis&f=false)''){href='https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cWMEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA87&lpg=PA87&dq=judy+garland+the+elvis+of++homosexuals+advocate&source=bl&ots=6SLhCSwlq7&sig=UE6SwpVx6N5kfgNQkjHGIMcKMpM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=AHXaUL-AJ6m70QHV-4GIAQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=elvis&f=false)' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer'}&f=false)' and when asked about her gay following, she said 'I couldn't care less. I sing to people.'

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Dorothy's dress was actually pink

Dorothy's iconic blue and white check dress [was actually pink and blue](https://www.bustle.com/articles/27566-happy-birthday-judy-garland-11-facts-only-her-biggest-fans-would-knowwould-know), but showed as white as the film was shot in Technicolor.

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She had her own TV show

Titled 'The Judy Garland Show,' the programme ran for one season on CBS in 1963. Ellen and Oprah, who?

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She co-founded the 'Rat Pack'

Garland was one of the[ first members of the iconic group of actors and musicians](http://scenestr.com.au/arts/5-facts-about-judy-garlanddy-garland) in the 1930s, including Frank Sinatra, Katherine Hepburn, and Lauren Bacall.

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Her most iconic scene took 3 days to shoot

In the original A Star is Bornway before Lady Gaga's time – Garland sang the famous song 'The Man That Got Away' and it took 3 days and 27 takes to get the scene right.

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She was married five times

Garland was married a total of five times. Her first husband was David Rose, who gave Garland an engagement ring on her 18th birthday despite already being married to actress and singer Martha Raye. They were married in 1941 and divorced in 1944.Her second husband was Vincente Minnelli, father of Liza Minnelli, as mentioned. They were married in 1945 and divorced in 1951.Garland then married Sidney Luft in 1952 and the couple had two children, Lorna and Joey. They were divorced in 1965 after Garland sued Luft on the grounds of mental cruelty. She also claimed that he was physically abusive.Mark Herron was Garland's fourth husband. Herron announced their marriage while Garland was still technically married to Luft, so Herron and Garland were not officially married until 1965. They separated after only six months with Garland testifying that Herron was physically abusive towards her. Herron claimed it was self-defence. Garland's fifth and final husband was Mickey Deans, who she married in London in 1969.

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She only won one Oscar

Her iconic role as Dorothy would lead to six Academy Award nominations, but the film only won two (Best Original Score and Best Original Song). She would later win an honorary Academy Juvenile Award for her performances in Babes in Arms and The Wizard of the Oz.

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She had some pretty cool neigbours

Garland resided in The Dakota Complex by Central Park in New York City where she lived next to [John Lennon and Yoko Ono. ](https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/judy-garland-apartment-new-york-dakotaork-dakota)

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She had friends in high places

President John F. Kennedy Jr. [would often call Garland and ask her to sing to him over the phone.](https://people.com/books/guess-which-song-jfk-asked-judy-garland-to-sing-to-him-over-the-telephone/telephone/) His most frequent request? 'Somewhere over the rainbow,' of course.

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She was pressured into having an abortion

After marrying her first husband, she quickly became pregnant and was forced into having an abortion.

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Garland had three children

Garland had daughter Liza Minnelli with second husband Vincente Minnelli in 1956 and daughter and son Lorna and Joey Luft with third husband Sidney Luft in 1952 and 1955 respectively.

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Frank Sinatra was a close friend

He was even the godfather of Garland's youngest daughter, Lorna Luft.

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Garland often had to be 'pushed' on stage

Garland [suffered from terrible stage fright](https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2011/05/judy-garland-201105and-201105) and once said 'people had to literally push me out on stage.'

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Her favourite flower was a yellow rose

Garland loved yellow roses and [even had a yellow petal English variety named after her](https://hubpages.com/entertainment/Interesting-Facts-About-Judy-Garlanddy-Garland).

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She had a signature scent

Carven's Ma Griffee Parfum, in case you were wondering.

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A tornado hit Kansas the day she died

In a terrible twist of irony, [a tornado struck Kansas](https://unrealfacts.com/day-judy-garland-died-tornado-hit-kansas/it-kansas/) on the same day Garland passed away in 1969.

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Her inner demons would ultimately lead to her downfall

Garland's fifth husband, nightclub manager Mickey Deans, found Garland dead of an overdose on 22 June 1969. Garland was only 47 years old.

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