Frances Ethel Gumm – The Early Years

By | Jun 10, 2011

On June 10, 1922, the youngest child of former vaudevillians Frank Gumm and Ethel Milne was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Frances Ethel Gumm, also called Baby, had her first stage performance at the age of two and a half when she appeared with her sisters Mary Jane and Dorothy Virginia singing Jiggle Bells at her father’s movie theater.

By 1926 the family had relocated to Lancaster California and in 1929 the sisters made their film debut in a short called The Big Revue. The sisters began touring the vaudeville circuit and in 1934 while performing in Chicago, George Jessel, encouraged them to begin using another name, since Gumm was met with unwanted laughter. They became the Garland Sisters and Francis took the name Judy Garland.

Even at a young age, Judy Garland had a wonderful voice. In 1935, at the age of 13, she signed a contract with MGM. The studio had a problem with what to do with her. She was too young for adult roles, but was already older than the usual Child Star.

After singing a special arrangement of You Made Me Love You to Clark Gable at a studio held birthday party she was ask to perform the song in the movie Broadway Melody of 1938. In that movie she sang the song to a photograph of Gable.

Soon they paired her with Mickey Rooney in the movie Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry. This was followed by Love Finds Andy Hardy, with Garland as the love interest. In all the pair would appear in nine films, many of them being “backyard musicals” such as Babes In Arms.

Then she appeared in the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. This movie along with her performance of Over the Rainbow pushed her into stardom. She would work for MGM for the decade of the 1940’s becoming one the biggest stars at MGM. In 1950 she was released from her contract with MGM and began another stage in her career. One that would end with her early death shortly after her 47th birthday on June 22, 1969.


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