What Happened to Judy Garland? A Look at the Tragic Life of a Hollywood Icon

Judy Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm, was a child star who rose to fame during Hollywood’s Golden Age. She is best known for her role as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.” However, behind the scenes, Garland’s life was full of pain and tragedy.

Throughout her career, Garland struggled with addiction and financial troubles. Her substance abuse ultimately led to her death from an accidental barbiturate overdose in 1969, at the age of 47. Despite her struggles, Garland remains an icon in Hollywood and her legacy continues to inspire many. In this article, we will take a closer look at the life and untimely death of Judy Garland, exploring the highs and lows of her career and the impact she had on the entertainment industry.

Early Life and Career

Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She was the youngest of three daughters born to Ethel Marion Milne and Francis Avent Gumm. The family was deeply involved in the entertainment industry, with her mother and father owning a movie theater and her older sisters, Mary Jane and Dorothy Virginia, performing as the Gumm Sisters in vaudeville shows.

Garland began performing with her sisters at a young age, and they quickly gained popularity in the vaudeville circuit. In 1935, the trio signed with MGM, and Frances changed her name to Judy Garland. She made her film debut that same year in the short film “Every Sunday.”

Garland’s breakout role came in 1939 when she starred as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” The film was a massive success, and Garland’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” became an instant classic. She went on to star in a number of films for MGM, including the popular Andy Hardy series.

Despite her success, Garland’s childhood was not an easy one. She was subjected to pressure from film executives who criticized her appearance and manipulated her onscreen image. This took a toll on her self-image and mental health from a young age.

Stardom and Struggles

Judy Garland’s rise to fame began when she was just a child. She signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in 1935 and quickly became a star. Her performance in “A Star is Born” earned her an Academy Award nomination, cementing her status as one of Hollywood’s leading ladies.

However, with fame came struggles. Garland was put on a strict diet by the studio and was constantly pressured to maintain a certain weight and appearance. She was often criticized for being both overweight and underweight, leading to insecurities about her nose and overall appearance.

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Despite these challenges, Garland continued to shine on screen, starring in beloved films such as “Meet Me in St. Louis.” However, her personal life was marked by addiction and failed marriages. She struggled with depression and often turned to drugs to cope with the pressures of fame.

In the end, Garland’s tragic death at the age of 47 was a reflection of the struggles she faced throughout her life. Despite her immense talent and success, she was unable to overcome the weight of her personal demons.

Personal Life and Relationships

Judy Garland’s personal life was marked by a series of marriages, divorces, and relationships. Here is a breakdown of her notable relationships:


Judy Garland was married five times throughout her life. Her first marriage was to composer David Rose in 1941, but the couple divorced in 1944. Garland then married director Vincente Minnelli in 1945, with whom she had her daughter Liza Minnelli. The couple divorced in 1951.

Garland’s third marriage was to producer Sidney Luft in 1952, with whom she had two children, Lorna and Joey Luft. The couple divorced in 1965. Garland then married actor Mark Herron in 1965, but the marriage was annulled after just five months. Her final marriage was to nightclub manager Mickey Deans in 1969, but the couple was only married for three months before Garland’s death.


Aside from her marriages, Judy Garland had several notable relationships throughout her life. She had a tumultuous relationship with her second husband, Vincente Minnelli, and her third husband, Sidney Luft, was often described as controlling and emotionally abusive.

Garland also had relationships with several other men, including musician David Rose and actor Mark Herron. She was also rumored to have had relationships with several women in Hollywood, including actress Tallulah Bankhead.

Despite her personal struggles, Garland remained close with her children throughout her life. Her daughter Liza Minnelli went on to have a successful career in Hollywood, and her children Lorna and Joey Luft also pursued careers in the entertainment industry.

Health Issues and Addiction

Judy Garland’s life was marked by several health issues and addiction. She struggled with addiction to various substances such as pills, alcohol, barbiturates, sleeping pills, amphetamines, and diet pills. Her addiction was fueled by her need to stay “camera slim,” as well as her depression and nervous breakdowns.

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Garland’s substance abuse took a toll on her physical and mental health. She suffered from hepatitis, injuries, and illness, which led to her being hospitalized several times. Her postpartum depression also contributed to her addiction.

On June 22, 1969, Garland died from an accidental barbiturate overdose in a London hotel. The cause of death was listed as “Barbiturate poisoning (quinabarbitone) incautious self-overdosage. Accidental.” Her death was a tragic reminder of the dangers of substance abuse and the importance of seeking help for addiction.

Despite her struggles, Garland’s resilience and talent continue to inspire many. Her legacy lives on through her music and films, and her story serves as a reminder of the importance of mental health and seeking help for addiction.

Later Career and Legacy

After her struggles with addiction and personal issues, Judy Garland continued to perform and remain in the public eye. In 1961, she made her triumphant return to Carnegie Hall in New York City, where she gave a legendary performance that was later released as a live album. The album won Album of the Year at the 4th Annual Grammy Awards, and cemented Garland’s status as an international star.

Despite her struggles, Garland remained a beloved figure and a gay icon, known for her powerful voice and emotional performances. Her legacy continued long after her death, with numerous biopics and documentaries exploring her life and career. In 2001, Renee Zellweger won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Garland in the biopic “Me and My Shadows.”

While Garland’s life was marked by personal struggles, her talent and legacy continue to inspire new generations of performers and fans. From her iconic role in “The Wizard of Oz” to her unforgettable performances at Carnegie Hall, Judy Garland remains a beloved and enduring figure in the world of entertainment.

Death and Aftermath

Judy Garland passed away on June 22, 1969, at the age of 47. Her death was caused by an accidental overdose of barbiturates. The news of her death was a shock to her fans who mourned the loss of the legendary actress and singer.

Garland’s death had a profound impact on her family, particularly her daughters Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft. Minnelli, who was only 23 at the time, was devastated by the loss of her mother. Luft, who was 16, struggled to come to terms with the fact that she had lost her mother at such a young age.

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Garland’s death also had an impact on the entertainment industry as a whole. She was a beloved figure who had starred in numerous films and had a successful singing career. Her death was a reminder of the toll that fame and success can take on a person.

Following her death, there were rumors that Garland had committed suicide. However, the official cause of death was an accidental overdose. It is important to remember that mental health was not as openly discussed in the 1960s as it is today, and it is impossible to know for sure what Garland was going through at the time of her death.

In the aftermath of Garland’s death, her ex-husband Joey Luft and her former manager Peter Bent Brigham Hospital both spoke out about the need for better mental health care in the entertainment industry. They called for more support for performers who may be struggling with addiction or mental health issues.

Judy Garland’s death was a tragic loss for her family, fans, and the entertainment industry as a whole. While her legacy lives on through her work, it is important to remember the toll that fame and success can take on a person.

Financial Struggles

Judy Garland’s financial struggles were a significant part of her life. She faced several challenges that affected her finances, including back taxes, mismanagement, and embezzlement.

In 1966, Garland reportedly owed the government $400,000 in back taxes and was instructed to sell her home within 90 days. She had to scrape for money by performing at whatever gigs would pay her. Despite her attempts to pay off her debts, she continued to struggle financially.

The Palace Theatre in California played a significant role in Garland’s financial struggles. She had performed there in 1951, and her show, “Weep No More, My Lady,” was a huge success. However, the theatre’s owners embezzled her earnings, leaving her with nothing. This incident damaged her trust in the entertainment industry and fueled her distrust of those around her.

Moreover, Garland’s finances were poorly managed throughout her career. She was often taken advantage of by her managers, who would exploit her financially. This mismanagement led to her financial woes, and she was forced to continue performing to make ends meet.

Judy Garland’s financial struggles were a result of several factors, including back taxes, mismanagement, and embezzlement. Despite her success in the entertainment industry, she faced significant financial challenges throughout her life.

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