Born Frances Ethel Gumm, Judy Garland crammed quite the cinematic and recorded legacy into a life that tragically ended with her dying from an accidental overdose at age 47. While her most-loved role was as the lead in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz (for which Garland was honored with an Academy Juvenile Award), the Minnesota compiled quite the cinematic legacy.
Babes in Arms (1939)
Adapted from the 1937 musical of the same name, Babes found storied choreographer Busby Berkeley directing and Garland reuniting with Mickey Rooney. Filmed immediately The Wizard of Oz wrapped, this musical throws Rooney’s Mickey Moran together with Garland’s Patsy Barton as a pair talented children denied the stage by their vaudeville parents. The magical compositional duo of Rogers & Hart provided Garland and Rooney with a raft of songs that would become cornerstones of the Great American Songbook including “Where or When,” “My Funny Valentine,” “I Wish I Were In Love Again” and “The Lady Is a Tramp.”
Girl Crazy (1943)
This was the last of nearly 10 films Garland and Rooney acted alongside in and was a remake of a 1932 musical of the same name. Rooney’s Danny Churchill falls for Garland’s Ginger Gray at a college out west. When this school of higher educations faces closing due to falling enrollment, the kids put on a show to raise money. Composers George and Ira Gershwin provide the songs, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra is tapped to play while Rooney and Garland taking turns doling out stellar readings of “Bidin’ My Time,” “Embraceable You,” “But Not For Me” and “I Got Rhythm.”
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Garland met director Vincente Minnelli on the set of this project and wound up making him her second husband. That set, Esther Smith become one of Garland’s signature role and was center stage in this musical about a year in the life of a family leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair. She performs several songs in the film that have become staples of the Garland musical canon including the “Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Meet Me in St. Louis was deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress in 1994 and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Easter Parade (1948)
Garland hit the silver screen for this Irving Berlin musical with Fred Astaire, who was tapped as a replacement for Gene Kelly, who pulled out of the picture due to injury. Astaire’s Don Hewes has a falling out with dance partner Nadine Hale (Ann Miller). While drowning his sorrows at a local saloon, Hewes insists he can create a star out of the next dancer he meets. Garland’s klutzy Hannah Brown is said project and from here, the duo make magic via a string of legendary songs including “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” “We’re a Couple of Swells” and the film’s title tune.
A Star Is Born (1954)
Long before either Barbra Streisand or Lady Gaga took on the role that started out as lead protagonist Esther Blodgett, Garland inherited the character played by Janet Gaynor in the original 1937 film. Four years after Garland had been released from her MGM contract after working for the company for 15 years, the actress made a comeback as a young entertainer taking her shot at fame after getting involved with a former star on the downside of his career. Despite earning a Best Actress Oscar nod, she wound up losing out to Grace Kelly in The Country Girl.
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
One of Garland’s few non-musical roles, this Stanley Kramer-directed courtroom drama found her starring alongside Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich and Montgomery Clift. Her Irene Hoffman was a middle-aged German woman testifying at a war tribunal in the aftermath of World War II. Garland’s performance earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. She lost out to Rita Moreno in West Side Story.