Judy Garland was a child singing star and a global star of stage and screen. Her starring role in The Wizard of Oz at 17 made her a household name. A new film stars Renée Zellweger playing Garland in the final year in her short life, when stardom and the Hollywood studio system had taken their toll.
Like so many stars whose public image was moulded by the studios in Hollywood, Garland's real life was far from the glamour that made the covers of magazines.
She was born Frances Ethel Gumm in 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Her parents were both vaudeville artists, and ran a vaudeville theatre, so the young Frances was on stage as soon as she could walk. She had an excellent singing voice and by age 10 was a child star, receiving rave reviews in Variety magazine. Soon after, she adopted the stage name Judy Garland. At age 13, she signed a contract with MGM, the biggest Hollywood studio.
It was The Wizard of Oz that made her name internationally. The perennial favourite film has been seen by more people than any other in Hollywood history and "Over the Rainbow" became Garland's signature song and a jazz standard. Garland played Dorothy, an orphan, who is blown away in a tornado and finds herself in the magical Land of Oz, in glitzy Technicolor. Dorothy's quest to return home to Kansas will lead her to help a tin man, a cowardly lion and a scarecrow find what they most want in the world.
Garland was awarded a special miniature Oscar for “outstanding performance by a screen juvenile” for the role.
Don't miss the televised lycée class on reading comprehension around a letter to Judy Garland. #continuitéPédagogique
The new film is set in 1969. Garland has gone through four marriages. She has a daughter, Liza Minelli, and two younger children from her marriage with Sidney Luft. The film shows her broke and struggling with depression, touring to sing in London to try to provide for her children.
Zellweger loved the possibility of having an in-depth look at Garland's life, rather than the wide fresco of a traditional biopic. "I thought there was an opportunity to explore something that isn't often considered when you're thinking about this larger than life personality - what it was that she delivered in her work and what it cost her. This was a period in her life when she was working because she needed to work, but physically needed to rest. Her voice, the thing that gives her value and self-worth, is also the thing that she's destroying in order to be able to take care of her children."