Judy Garland: A beginner's guide to the original gay icon

The iconic film star passed away in 1969 at the age of 47 - but her legacy has lived on.


Judy Garland remains one of Hollywood’s most enduring icons, with a career in showbusiness spanning 45 years.

On what would have been her 99th birthday on June 10, we're looking back at the incredible life, work and achievements of the ‘World’s Greatest Entertainer’ and one of old Hollywood’s biggest gay icons.

Judy Garland led an unforgettable life, leaving behind a legacy as one of Hollywood’s most iconic singers, actresses and entertainers.

Born Frances Ethel Gumm on 10th June in 1922, Judy Garland began her career in vaudeville alongside her two sisters, making her first on-stage appearance at just two-and-a-half years old.

Judy carried on performing with her sisters until the age of 13, when she was spotted and signed to the Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

In 1938, aged 16, Judy was cast in her best-known role, that of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. It was in this film that she first performed her signature song, ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’, which you can watch below.

It was in this role that Judy first showcased her powerful singing voice, a talent which belied her young age.

The Wizard of Oz propelled Judy Garland to stardom and was a huge critical success, earning Judy the Juvenile Academy Award, making her one of only twelve actors ever to be awarded one.

In the early ‘40s, Judy progressed to more adult roles, but found it hard to shake off her ‘girl-next-door’ image. In 1944 she starred in one of her most successful roles, in Meet Me in St Louis, which earned four Oscar nominations.

Judy continued to star in films for MGM, including The Harvey Girls and Easter Parade. In 1950, Judy was free of her contract with MGM and found new success on the stage.

Performing around the world in a series of sold-out shows, Judy made a major comeback and was awarded a Special Tony Award.

Judy’s Hollywood comeback came in 1954, with A Star Is Born. Judy and Sidney Luft produced the seminal film, which earned her a Best Actress Golden Globe win and an Academy Award nomination.

Judy was unable to attend the ceremony as she had just given birth to her third child, Joseph. A dedicated working mother, Judy’s career hit a new high while she raised three children.

Judy earned a further Academy Award nomination for supporting actress in 1961, for her role in Judgement at Nuremberg.

A career highlight of the stage also came in 1961, where Judy performed her iconic concert at Carnegie Hall – named by many as the ‘greatest night in showbusiness history’.

A year later, she won the Album of the Year Grammy Award for the album released around this show.

Judy spent the following years working on her own TV show, The Judy Garland Show and embarking on various tours.

In 1969, 30 years after her iconic role in The Wizard of Oz, Judy returned to London for a five-week run of shows at the London Palladium, which would turn out to be her last performances.

Judy always claimed that she felt most at home on the stage and enjoyed the interaction that it allowed with her audience.

On June 22, 1969, Judy passed away, leaving behind an incredible legacy.

Judy always knew how to make a comeback, and her career was dotted with highlights from her beginnings as a child star through to her final days as a star of the stage.