Born: June 10, 1922
Died: June 22, 1969 (at age 47)
Birthplace: Grand Rapids, Minnesota, U.S.
Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm; June 10, 1922 - June 22, 1969) was an American singer, actress, and vaudevillian. She was renowned for her contralto vocals and attained international stardom that continued throughout a career spanning more than 40 years as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist, and on concert stages.
Garland began performing in vaudeville with her two older sisters and was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a teenager. She made more than two dozen films with MGM, including nine with Mickey Rooney. Garland's most famous role was as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Her other roles at MGM included Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), The Harvey Girls (1946) and Easter Parade (1948). After 15 years, she was released from the studio and made record-breaking concert appearances, a successful recording career, and her own Emmy-nominated television series. Film appearances became fewer in her later years, but included two Academy Award nominated performances in A Star Is Born (1954) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961).
Garland received a Golden Globe Award, a Juvenile Academy Award, and a Special Tony Award, and at 39 became the youngest and first female recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in the film industry. She was the first woman to win a Grammy for Album of the Year for her live recording of Judy at Carnegie Hall. In 1997, Garland was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Several of her recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1999, the American Film Institute placed her among the 10 greatest female stars of classic American cinema.
From an early age Garland struggled in her personal life. The pressures of adolescent stardom sent her to a psychiatrist at age eighteen. Her self-image was influenced by film executives who said she was unattractive and manipulated her on-screen physical appearance. She was plagued by financial instability, often owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. She married five times, with her first four marriages ending in divorce. She also had a long battle with drugs and alcohol, which ultimately led to her death from a barbiturate overdose at the age of 47.
Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She was the youngest child of Ethel Marion (née Milne, 1893-1953) and Francis Avent "Frank" Gumm (1886-1935). Her parents were vaudevillians who settled in Grand Rapids to run a movie theater that featured vaudeville acts. She was of English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry, named after both of her parents and baptized at a local Episcopal church.
"Baby" (as she was called by her parents and sisters) shared her family's flair for song and dance. Her first appearance came at the age of two-and-a-half when she joined her older sisters Mary Jane "Suzy/Suzanne" Gumm (1915-1964) and Dorothy Virginia "Jimmie" Gumm (1917-1977) on the stage of her father's movie theater during a Christmas show and sang a chorus of "Jingle Bells". The Gumm Sisters performed there for the next few years, accompanied by their mother on piano.
The family relocated to Lancaster, California, in June 1926, following rumors that Frank Gumm had made sexual advances towards male ushers. Frank purchased and operated another theater in Lancaster, and Ethel began managing her daughters and working to get them into motion pictures. Garland attended Hollywood High School and later graduated from University High School.
In 1928, the Gumm Sisters enrolled in a dance school run by Ethel Meglin, proprietress of the Meglin Kiddies dance troupe. They appeared with the troupe at its annual Christmas show. Through the Meglin Kiddies, they made their film debut in a 1929 short subject called The Big Revue, where they performed a song-and-dance number called "That's the good old sunny south". This was followed by appearances in two Vitaphone shorts the following year: A Holiday in Storyland (featuring Garland's first on-screen solo) and The Wedding of Jack and Jill. They next appeared together in Bubbles. Their final on-screen appearance came in 1935, in another short entitled La Fiesta de Santa Barbara.
The trio had been touring the vaudeville circuit as "The Gumm Sisters" for many years when they performed in Chicago at the Oriental Theater with George Jessel in 1934. He encouraged the group to choose a more appealing name after "Gumm" was met with laughter from the audience. According to theater legend, their act was once erroneously billed at a Chicago theater as "The Glum Sisters".
Several stories persist regarding the origin of the name "Garland". One is that it was originated by Jessel after Carole Lombard's character Lily Garland in the film Twentieth Century, which was then playing at the Oriental; another is that the girls chose the surname after drama critic Robert Garland. Garland's daughter Lorna Luft stated that her mother selected the name when Jessel announced that the trio "looked prettier than a garland of flowers". A TV special was filmed in Hollywood at the Pantages Theatre premiere of A Star Is Born on September 29, 1954, in which Jessel stated:
A later explanation surfaced when Jessel was a guest on Garland's television show in 1963. He claimed that he had sent actress Judith Anderson a telegram containing the word "garland" and it stuck in his mind. (However, Garland asked Jessel just moments later if this story was true, and he blithely replied "No".)
By late 1934, the Gumm Sisters had changed their name to the Garland Sisters. Frances changed her name to "Judy" soon after, inspired by a popular Hoagy Carmichael song. The group broke up by August 1935, when Suzanne Garland flew to Reno, Nevada and married musician Lee Kahn, a member of the Jimmy Davis orchestra playing at Cal-Neva Lodge, Lake Tahoe.
In September 1935, songwriter Burton Lane was asked by Louis B. Mayer to go to the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles to watch the Garland Sisters' vaudeville act and to report back to him. A few days later, Judy and her father were brought for an impromptu audition at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in Culver City. Garland performed "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" and "Eli, Eli", a Yiddish song written in 1896 and very popular in vaudeville. Garland was immediately signed to a contract with MGM supposedly without a screen test, though she had made a test for the studio several months earlier. The studio did not know what to do with her as, at age 13, she was older than the traditional child star but too young for adult roles.
Her physical appearance created a dilemma for MGM. She was only 4 feet 11.5 inches (151.1 cm), and her "cute" or "girl-next-door" looks did not exemplify the most glamorous persona required of leading ladies of the time. She was self-conscious and anxious about her appearance. "Judy went to school at Metro with Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, real beauties", said Charles Walters, who directed her in a number of films. "Judy was the big money-maker at the time, a big success, but she was the ugly duckling ... I think it had a very damaging effect on her emotionally for a long time. I think it lasted forever, really." Her insecurity was exacerbated by the attitude of studio chief Louis B. Mayer, who referred to her as his "little hunchback".
During her early years at the studio, she was photographed and dressed in plain garments or frilly juvenile gowns and costumes to match the "girl-next-door" image created for her. She was made to wear removable caps on her teeth and rubberized disks to reshape her nose.
Garland performed at various studio functions and was eventually cast opposite Deanna Durbin in the musical-short Every Sunday. The film contrasted her vocal range and swing style with Durbin's operatic soprano and served as an extended screen test for the pair, as studio executives were questioning the wisdom of having two girl singers on the roster. Mayer finally decided to keep both actresses but, by that time, Durbin's option had lapsed and she was signed by Universal Studios.
On November 16, 1935, Garland learned that her father had been hospitalized with meningitis and had taken a turn for the worse while she was in the midst of preparing for a radio performance on the Shell Chateau Hour. Frank Gumm died the following morning at age 49, leaving her devastated at age thirteen. Her song for the Shell Chateau Hour was her first professional rendition of "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart", a song which became a standard in many of her concerts.
Garland next came to the attention of studio executives by singing a special arrangement of "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)" to Clark Gable at a birthday party held by the studio for the actor. Her rendition was so well regarded that she performed the song in the all-star extravaganza Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937), singing to a photograph of him.
MGM hit on a winning formula when it paired Garland with Mickey Rooney in a string of what were known as "backyard musicals". The duo first appeared together as supporting characters in the 1937 B movie Thoroughbreds Don't Cry. Garland was then put in the cast of the fourth of the Hardy Family movies as a literal girl-next-door to Rooney's character Andy Hardy, in Love Finds Andy Hardy, although Hardy's love interest was played by Lana Turner. They teamed as lead characters for the first time in Babes in Arms, ultimately appearing in five additional films including Hardy films Andy Hardy Meets Debutante and Life Begins for Andy Hardy.
Garland stated that she, Rooney, and other young performers were constantly prescribed amphetamines to stay awake in order to keep up with the frantic pace of making one film after another, as well as barbiturates to take before going to bed so that they could sleep. This regular dose of drugs, she said, led to addiction and a lifelong struggle, and contributed to her eventual demise. She later resented the hectic schedule and felt that her youth had been stolen by MGM.
Garland was of a healthy weight, but the studio demanded that she diet constantly. They even went so far as to serve her only a bowl of soup and a plate of lettuce when she ordered a regular meal. She was plagued with self-doubt throughout her life, despite successful film and recording careers, awards, critical praise, and her ability to fill concert halls worldwide, and she required constant reassurance that she was talented and attractive.
Rooney, however, denied that their childhood studio was responsible for her addiction: "Judy Garland was never given any drugs by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Mr. Mayer didn't sanction anything for Judy. No one on that lot was responsible for Judy Garland's death. Unfortunately, Judy chose that path".
In 1938, she was cast in her most memorable role, as the young Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939), a film based on the 1900 children's book by L. Frank Baum. In this film, she sang the song with which she would be identified, "Over the Rainbow". Although producers Arthur Freed and Mervyn LeRoy had wanted her from the start, studio chief Mayer first tried to borrow Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox, but they declined. Deanna Durbin was then asked, but was unavailable, resulting in Garland being cast.
Garland was initially outfitted in a blonde wig for the part, but Freed and LeRoy decided against it shortly into filming. Her blue gingham dress was chosen for its blurring effect on her figure, which made her look younger. Shooting commenced on October 13, 1938, and was completed on March 16, 1939, with a final cost of more than US$2 million. With the conclusion of filming, MGM kept Garland busy with promotional tours and the shooting of Babes in Arms, directed by Busby Berkeley. Rooney and she were sent on a cross-country promotional tour, culminating in the August 17 New York City premiere at the Capitol Theater, which included a five-show-a-day appearance schedule for the two stars. Garland was forced into a strict diet during filming to the point she was given tobacco to suppress her appetite.
The Wizard of Oz was a tremendous critical success, though its high budget and promotions costs of an estimated $4 million (equivalent to $68.9 million in 2017), coupled with the lower revenue generated by discounted children's tickets, meant that the film did not make a profit until it was rereleased in the 1940s and in subsequent rereleases. At the 1939 Academy Awards ceremony, Garland received her only Academy Award, a Juvenile Award for her performances in 1939, including The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms. Following this recognition, she became one of MGM's most bankable stars.
In 1940, she starred in three films: Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, Strike Up the Band, and Little Nellie Kelly. In the last, she played her first adult role, a dual role of both mother and daughter. Little Nellie Kelly was purchased from George M. Cohan as a vehicle for her to display both her audience appeal and her physical appearance. The role was a challenge for her, requiring the use of an accent, her first adult kiss, and the only death scene of her career. The kiss was regarded as embarrassing by her costar, George Murphy. He said it felt like "a hillbilly with a child bride." Nevertheless, the success of these three films and a further three films in 1941 secured her position at MGM as a major property.
During this time, Garland experienced her first serious adult romances. The first was with bandleader Artie Shaw. She was deeply devoted to him and was devastated in early 1940 when he eloped with Lana Turner. Garland began a relationship with musician David Rose, and on her 18th birthday, he gave her an engagement ring. The studio intervened because at that time he was still married to actress and singer Martha Raye. They agreed to wait a year to allow for his divorce to become final, and were wed on July 27, 1941. "A true rarity" is what media called it. Garland, who had aborted her pregnancy by him in 1942, agreed to a trial separation in January 1943 and divorced in 1944. She was noticeably thinner in her next film, For Me and My Gal, alongside Gene Kelly in his first screen appearance. She was top-billed in the credits for the first time and effectively made the transition from teenaged star to adult actress.
At age 21, she was given the "glamor treatment" in Presenting Lily Mars, in which she was dressed in "grown-up" gowns. Her lightened hair was also pulled up in a stylish fashion. However, no matter how glamorous or beautiful she appeared on screen or in photographs, she was never confident in her appearance and never escaped the "girl-next-door" image which had been created for her.
One of Garland's most successful films for MGM was Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), in which she introduced three standards: "The Trolley Song", "The Boy Next Door", and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". Vincente Minnelli was assigned to direct, and he requested that makeup artist Dorothy Ponedel be assigned to Garland. Ponedel refined her appearance in several ways, including extending and reshaping her eyebrows, changing her hairline, modifying her lip line and removing her nose discs and dental caps. She appreciated the results so much that Ponedel was written into her contract for all her remaining pictures at MGM.
During the filming of Meet Me in St. Louis, after some initial conflict between them, Garland and Minnelli entered into a relationship. They were married June 15, 1945, and on March 12, 1946, daughter Liza was born. They were divorced by 1951.
The Clock (1945) was Garland's first straight dramatic film, opposite Robert Walker. Though the film was critically praised and earned a profit, most movie fans expected her to sing. It would be many years before she acted again in a nonsinging dramatic role. Garland's other films of the 1940s include The Harvey Girls (1946), in which she introduced the Academy Award-winning song "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe", and Till the Clouds Roll By (1946).
During filming for The Pirate in April 1947, Garland suffered a nervous breakdown and was placed in a private sanitarium. She was able to complete filming, but in July she made her first suicide attempt, making minor cuts to her wrist with a broken glass. During this period, she spent two weeks in treatment at the Austen Riggs Center, a psychiatric hospital in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The Pirate was released in 1948 and was the first film in which Garland had starred since The Wizard of Oz to not make a profit. The main reasons for its failure was not only its cost, but also the increasing expense of the shooting delays while Garland was ill, as well as the fact that the general public was not yet willing to accept her in a sophisticated vehicle. Following her work on The Pirate, she co-starred for the first and only time with Fred Astaire (who replaced Gene Kelly after Kelly had broken his ankle) in Easter Parade, which became her top-grossing film at MGM and quickly re-established her as one of MGM's primary assets.
Thrilled by the huge box-office receipts of Easter Parade, MGM immediately teamed Garland and Astaire in The Barkleys of Broadway. During the initial filming, Garland was taking prescription sleeping medication along with illicitly obtained pills containing morphine. Around this time, she also developed a serious problem with alcohol. These, in combination with migraine headaches, led her to miss several shooting days in a row. After being advised by her doctor that she would only be able to work in four- to five-day increments with extended rest periods between, MGM executive Arthur Freed made the decision to suspend her on July 18, 1948. She was replaced by Ginger Rogers. When her suspension was over, she was summoned back to work and ultimately performed two songs as a guest in the Rodgers and Hart biopic Words and Music, which was her last appearance with Mickey Rooney. Despite the all-star cast, Words and Music barely broke even at the box office. Having regained her strength, as well as some needed weight during her suspension, Garland felt much better and in the fall of 1948, she returned to MGM to replace a pregnant June Allyson for the musical film In the Good Old Summertime co-starring Van Johnson. Although she was sometimes late arriving at the studio during the making of this picture, she managed to complete it five days ahead of schedule. Her daughter Liza Minnelli made her film debut at the age of two and a half at the end of the film. In The Good Old Summertime was enormously successful at the box office.
Garland was then cast in the film adaptation of Annie Get Your Gun in the title role of Annie Oakley. She was nervous at the prospect of taking on a role strongly identified with Ethel Merman, anxious about appearing in an unglamorous part after breaking from juvenile parts for several years, and disturbed by her treatment at the hands of director Busby Berkeley. Berkeley was staging all the musical numbers, and was severe with Garland's lack of effort, attitude, and enthusiasm. She complained to Mayer, trying to have Berkeley fired from the feature. She began arriving late to the set and sometimes failed to appear. At this time, she was also undergoing electroshock therapy for depression. She was suspended from the picture on May 10, 1949, and was replaced by Betty Hutton, who stepped in performing all the musical routines as staged by Berkeley.
Garland underwent an extensive hospital stay at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, in which she was weaned off her medication and, after a while, was able to eat and sleep normally. Garland returned to Los Angeles heavier, and in the fall of 1949, was cast opposite Gene Kelly in Summer Stock. The film took six months to complete. To lose weight, Garland went back on the pills and the familiar pattern resurfaced. She began showing up late or not at all. When principal photography on Summer Stock was completed in spring 1950, it was decided that Garland needed an additional musical number. She agreed to do it provided the song should be "Get Happy". In addition, she insisted that director Charles Walters choreograph and stage the number. By that time, Garland had lost 15 pounds and looked more slender. "Get Happy" was the last segment of Summer Stock to be filmed. It was her last picture for MGM. When it was released in the fall of 1950, Summer Stock drew big crowds and racked up very respectable box office receipts, but because of the costly shooting delays caused by Garland, the film posted a loss of $80,000 to the studio.
Garland was cast in the film Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire after June Allyson became pregnant in 1950. She failed to report to the set on multiple occasions, and the studio suspended her contract on June 17, 1950. She was replaced by Jane Powell. Reputable biographies following her death stated that after this latest dismissal, she slightly grazed her neck with a broken glass, requiring only a band-aid, but at the time, the public was informed that a despondent Garland had slashed her throat. "All I could see ahead was more confusion", Garland later said of this suicide attempt. "I wanted to black out the future as well as the past. I wanted to hurt myself and everyone who had hurt me." In September 1950, after 15 years with the studio, Garland and MGM parted company.
Garland was a frequent guest on Kraft Music Hall, hosted by her friend Bing Crosby. Following Garland's second suicide attempt, Crosby, knowing she was depressed and running out of money, invited her on to his radio show - the first of the new season, on October 11, 1950.
She was standing in the wings of it trembling with fear. She was almost hysterical. She said "I cannot go out there because they're all gonna be looking to see if there are scars and it's gonna be terrible." Bing said "What's going on?" and I told him what happened and he walked out on stage and he said: "We got a friend here, she's had a little trouble recently. You probably heard about it - Everything is fine now, she needs our love. She needs our support. She's here - let's give it to her, OK? Here's Judy." And she came out and that place went crazy. And she just blossomed.— Hal Kanter, Writer for Bing
Eight appearances during the 1950-51 season of The Bing Crosby - Chesterfield Show immediately reinvigorated her career. Soon after, she toured for four months to sellout crowds in Europe.
In 1951, Garland began a four-month concert tour of Britain and Ireland, where she played to sold-out audiences throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland. The successful concert tour was the first of her many comebacks, with performances centered on songs by Al Jolson and revival of vaudevillian "tradition". Garland performed complete shows as tributes to Jolson in her concerts at the London Palladium in April and at New York's Palace Theater later that year. Garland said after the Palladium show: "I suddenly knew that this was the beginning of a new life ... Hollywood thought I was through; then came the wonderful opportunity to appear at the London Palladium, where I can truthfully say Judy Garland was reborn." Her appearances at the Palladium lasted for four weeks, where she received rave reviews and an ovation described by the Palladium manager as the loudest he had ever heard.
In New York in October 1951, Garland's engagement at the Palace Theatre exceeded all previous records for the theater and for Garland, was called "one of the greatest personal triumphs in show business history". Garland was honored for her contribution to the revival of vaudeville with a Special Tony Award.
She divorced Minnelli that same year, and she married Sid Luft, her tour manager and producer, on June 8, 1952 in Hollister, California. Garland gave birth to Lorna Luft, herself a future actress and singer, on November 21, 1952, and to Joey Luft on March 29, 1955.
Garland filmed a musical remake of the film A Star Is Born for Warner Bros. in 1954. Garland and Sidney Luft, her then-husband, produced the film through their production company, Transcona Enterprises, while Warner Bros. supplied the funds, production facilities, and crew. Directed by George Cukor and co-starring James Mason, it was a large undertaking to which she initially fully dedicated herself.
As shooting progressed, however, she began making the same pleas of illness that she had so often made during her final films at MGM. Production delays led to cost overruns and angry confrontations with Warner Bros. head Jack L. Warner. Principal photography wrapped on March 17, 1954. At Luft's suggestion, the "Born in a Trunk" medley was filmed as a showcase for her and inserted over director Cukor's objections, who feared the additional length would lead to cuts in other areas. It was completed on July 29.
Upon its world premiere on September 29, 1954, the film was met with tremendous critical and popular acclaim. Before its release, it was edited at the instruction of Jack Warner; theater operators, concerned that they were losing money because they were only able to run the film for three or four shows per day instead of five or six, pressured the studio to make additional reductions. About 30 minutes of footage were cut, sparking outrage among critics and filmgoers. Although it was still popular, drawing huge crowds and grossing over $6,000,000 in its first release, A Star is Born did not make back its cost and ended up losing money. As a result, the secure financial position Garland had expected from the profits did not materialize. Transcona made no more films with Warner.
Garland was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and in the run-up to the 27th Academy Awards, was generally expected to win. She could not attend the ceremony because she had just given birth to her son, Joseph Luft, so a television crew was in her hospital room with cameras and wires to broadcast her anticipated acceptance speech. The Oscar was won, however, by Grace Kelly for The Country Girl (1954). The camera crew was packing up before Kelly could even reach the stage. Groucho Marx sent her a telegram after the awards ceremony, declaring her loss "the biggest robbery since Brinks." TIME labeled her performance as "just about the greatest one-woman show in modern movie history". Garland won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical for the role.
Garland's films after A Star Is Born included Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) (for which she was Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated for Best Supporting Actress), the animated feature Gay Purr-ee (1962), and A Child Is Waiting (1963) with Burt Lancaster. Her final film was I Could Go On Singing (1963), co-starring Dirk Bogarde.
Garland appeared in a number of television specials beginning in 1955. The first was the 1955 debut episode of Ford Star Jubilee; this was the first full-scale color broadcast ever on CBS and was a ratings triumph, scoring a 34.8 Nielsen rating. She signed a three-year, $300,000 contract with the network. Only one additional special was broadcast in 1956, a live concert-edition of General Electric Theater, before the relationship between the Lufts and CBS broke down in a dispute over the planned format of upcoming specials.
In 1956, Garland performed for four weeks at the New Frontier Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip for a salary of $55,000 per week, making her the highest-paid entertainer to work in Las Vegas. Despite a brief bout of laryngitis, her performances there were so successful that her run was extended an extra week. Later that year, she returned to the Palace Theatre, site of her two-a-day triumph. She opened in September, once again to rave reviews and popular acclaim.
In November 1959, Garland was hospitalized after she was diagnosed with acute hepatitis. Over the next few weeks, several quarts of fluid were drained from her body until she was released from the hospital in January 1960, still in a weak condition. She was told by doctors that she likely had five years or less to live and that, even if she did survive, she would be a semi-invalid and would never sing again. She initially felt "greatly relieved" at the diagnosis. "The pressure was off me for the first time in my life." However, she recovered over the next several months and, in August of that year, returned to the stage of the Palladium. She felt so warmly embraced by the British that she announced her intention to move permanently to England.
Her concert appearance at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 1961 was a considerable highlight, called by many "the greatest night in show business history". The two-record album Judy at Carnegie Hall was certified gold, charting for 95 weeks on Billboard, including 13 weeks at number one. It won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Best Female Vocal of the Year, and has never been out of print.
In 1961, Garland and CBS settled their contract disputes with the help of her new agent, Freddie Fields, and negotiated a new round of specials. The first, entitled The Judy Garland Show, aired in 1962 and featured guests Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Following this success, CBS made a $24 million offer to her for a weekly television series of her own, also to be called The Judy Garland Show, which was deemed at the time in the press to be "the biggest talent deal in TV history". Although she had said as early as 1955 that she would never do a weekly television series, in the early 1960s, she was in a financially precarious situation. She was several hundred thousand dollars in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, having failed to pay taxes in 1951 and 1952, and the failure of A Star is Born meant that she received nothing from that investment. A successful run on television was intended to secure her financial future.
Following a third special, Judy Garland and Her Guests Phil Silvers and Robert Goulet, Garland's weekly series debuted September 29, 1963. The Judy Garland Show was critically praised, but for a variety of reasons (including being placed in the time slot opposite Bonanza on NBC) the show lasted only one season and was canceled in 1964 after 26 episodes. Despite its short run, the series was nominated for four Emmy Awards, including Best Variety Series. The demise of the program was personally and financially devastating for Garland.
Garland sued Luft for divorce in 1963, claiming "cruelty" as the grounds. She also asserted that he had repeatedly struck her while he was drinking and that he had attempted to take their children from her by force. She had filed for divorce from Luft more than once previously, even as early as 1956, but they had reconciled each time.
With the demise of her television series, Garland returned to the stage. Most notably, she performed at the London Palladium with her 18-year-old daughter Liza Minnelli in November 1964. The concert was also shown on the British television network ITV, and was one of her final appearances at the venue. She made guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. Garland guest-hosted an episode of The Hollywood Palace with Vic Damone. She was invited back for a second episode in 1966 with Van Johnson as her guest. Issues with Garland's behavior ended her Hollywood Palace guest appearances.
A 1964 tour of Australia was largely disastrous. Garland's first concert in Sydney was held in the Sydney Stadium because no concert hall could accommodate the crowds who wanted to see her. It went well and received positive reviews. Her second performance, in Melbourne, started an hour late. The crowd of 7,000 was angered by her tardiness and believed her to be drunk; they booed and heckled her, and she fled the stage after just 45 minutes. She later characterized the Melbourne crowd as "brutish". A second concert in Sydney was uneventful, but the Melbourne appearance garnered her significant bad press. Some of that bad press was deflected by the announcement of a near fatal episode of pleurisy.
Garland's tour promoter Mark Herron announced that they had married aboard a freighter off the coast of Hong Kong. However, she was not legally divorced from Luft at the time when the ceremony was performed. The divorce became final on May 19, 1965, and Herron and she did not legally marry until November 14, 1965; they separated six months later.
In February 1967, Garland was cast as Helen Lawson in Valley of the Dolls for 20th Century Fox. During the filming, she missed rehearsals and was fired in April, replaced by Susan Hayward. Her prerecording of the song "I'll Plant My Own Tree" survived, along with her stage clothes.
Returning to the stage, Garland made her last appearances at New York's Palace Theatre in July, a 27-show stand, performing with her children Lorna and Joey Luft. She wore a sequined pantsuit on stage for this tour, which was part of the original wardrobe for her character in Valley of the Dolls.
By early 1969, Garland's health had deteriorated. She performed in London at the Talk of the Town nightclub for a five-week run and made her last concert appearance in Copenhagen during March 1969. She married her fifth and final husband, nightclub manager Mickey Deans, at Chelsea Register Office, London, on March 15, 1969, her divorce from Herron having been finalized on February 11.
On June 22, 1969, Deans found Garland dead in the bathroom of their rented mews house in Chelsea, London; she was 47 years old. The coroner, Gavin Thurston, stated at the inquest that the cause of death was "an incautious self-overdosage" of barbiturates; her blood contained the equivalent of ten 1.5-grain (97 mg) Seconal capsules. Thurston stressed that the overdose had been unintentional and that no evidence suggested she had committed suicide. Garland's autopsy showed no inflammation of her stomach lining and no drug residue in her stomach, which indicated that the drug had been ingested over a long period of time, rather than in one dose. Her death certificate stated that her death had been "accidental". Supporting the accidental cause, her doctor noted that a prescription of twenty-five barbiturate pills was found by her bedside half-empty and another bottle of one hundred was still unopened.
A British specialist who had attended her autopsy said she had nevertheless been living on borrowed time owing to cirrhosis although a later autopsy showed no evidence of alcoholism nor cirrhosis. She had turned 47 just twelve days before her death. Her Wizard of Oz co-star Ray Bolger commented at her funeral, "She just plain wore out."
After her body had been embalmed by Desmond Henley, Deans took Garland's remains to New York City on June 26, where an estimated 20,000 people lined up to pay their respects at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan, which remained open all night long to accommodate the overflow crowd. On June 27, James Mason gave a eulogy at the funeral, an Episcopal service led by the Rev. Peter A. Delaney of St Marylebone Parish Church, London, who had officiated at her marriage to Deans, three months prior. The public and press were barred. She was interred in a crypt in the community mausoleum at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, a small town 24 miles north of Midtown Manhattan.
In January 2017, Garland's remains were removed from Ferncliff Cemetery at the request of her children and relocated to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Garland has been called one of the greats of entertainment, and her reputation has endured. The American Film Institute named her eighth among the Greatest female stars of Golden Age Hollywood cinema. She has been the subject of over two dozen biographies since her death, including the well-received Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir by her daughter, Lorna Luft, whose memoir was later adapted into the television miniseries Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, which won Emmy Awards for the two actresses portraying her (Tammy Blanchard and Judy Davis).
Garland was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. Several of her recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. These include "Over the Rainbow", which was ranked as the number one movie song of all time in the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Songs" list. Four more Garland songs are featured on the list: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (#76), "Get Happy" (#61), "The Trolley Song" (#26), and "The Man That Got Away" (#11). She has twice been honored on U.S. postage stamps, in 1989 (as Dorothy) and again in 2006 (as Vicki Lester from A Star Is Born).
Garland had a large fan base in the gay community and became a gay icon. Reasons given for her standing, especially among gay men, are the admiration of her ability as a performer, the way her personal struggles mirrored those of gay men in America during the height of her fame and her value as a camp figure. In the 1960s, a reporter asked how she felt about having a large gay following. She replied, "I couldn't care less. I sing to people."
Garland has been portrayed on television by Andrea McArdle in Rainbow (1978), Tammy Blanchard (young Judy) and Judy Davis (older Judy) in Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001), and Sigrid Thornton in Peter Allen: Not The Boy Next Door (2015).
On stage, Garland is a character in the musical The Boy from Oz (1998), portrayed by Chrissy Amphlett in the original Australian production and by Isabel Keating on Broadway in 2003. End of the Rainbow (2005) featured Caroline O'Connor as Garland and Paul Goddard as Garland's pianist. Adrienne Barbeau played Garland in The Property Known as Garland (2006) and The Judy Monologues (2010) initially featured male actors reciting Garland's words before it was revamped as a one-woman show.