Judy Garland’s real life was filled with heartache, pain, several marriages, suicide attempts, money difficulties and substance abuse problems. She died far too young at age 47 in 1969.
But Garland, who would have been 75 next Tuesday, still enchants audiences thanks to the wonderful, often magical, films she made during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In fact, most of her legions of fans still think of her as Dorothy Gale, the sweet young heroine longing to go home in “The Wizard of Oz.”
To celebrate this legendary performer’s birthday, follow the Yellow Brick Road down to your local video store and check out some of her flicks available on tape.
(Turner Classic Movies also honors Garland with a daylong salute Tuesday beginning at 6:15 a.m. with 1938’s “Everybody Sing.”)
FoxVideo is releasing Garland’s first feature, 1936’s “Pigskin Parade” ($20), just in time for her birthday. Garland is peppy and adorable as a farm girl in this pleasant college football musical comedy.
Though 1937’s “Broadway Melody of 1938" (MGM, $20) is far from memorable, Garland makes an indelible impression singing “Dear Mr. Gable.” In this cute specialty fan number set to “You Made Me Love You,” Garland professes her love for movie idol Clark Gable.
Garland and Mickey Rooney made nine films together during their tenure at MGM, including the entertaining 1938 vehicle “Love Finds Andy Hardy” (MGM, $20). The wholesome comedy finds Andy (Rooney) torn between three girls. Garland, at her girl-next-door best, sings “In Between.”
The following year, Garland starred in one of the most beloved movies ever made, “The Wizard of Oz” (MGM, $20), as the plucky, pigtailed Dorothy. Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Frank Morgan, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke and Toto, too, star. Garland sings the Oscar-winning classic “Over the Rainbow.”
Gene Kelly made his film debut opposite Garland in 1942’s “For Me and My Gal” (MGM, $20). Garland plays a vaudeville performer and Kelly a handsome, opportunistic song-and-dance man in this sentimental musical drama. Not great, but Garland and Kelly create screen magic together.
The 1944 musical “Meet Me in St. Louis” (MGM, $20) is about as close to perfection as one can get. Deliciously directed by Vincente Minnelli, this delight finds a luminous Garland as the second eldest daughter of a St. Louis family, circa 1903. The splendid score includes “The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door” and “Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas.”
The following year, Garland and Minnelli, who also was her second husband, teamed up for the moving World War II romance “The Clock” (MGM, $20). In her first non-singing role, Garland is a single New Yorker who, in just 24 hours, meets, falls in love and marries a young soldier (Robert Walker) on leave.
Garland is feisty and fun as a waitress in the rip-roaring 1946 western tunefest “The Harvey Girls” (MGM, $20). The score includes the Oscar-winning “On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.”
Minnelli’s offbeat 1948 musical “The Pirate” (MGM, $20) is a wonderfully sexy, colorful romantic musical that finds Garland as a lovelorn woman living in the Caribbean who lusts after an infamous dashing pirate. Gene Kelly is oh-so-hot as a performer who pretends to be the pirate.
Garland and Fred Astaire are quite literally a couple of swells in the classy 1948 musical “Easter Parade” (MGM, $20), which features a terrific Irving Berlin score and several snazzy dance numbers.
Though Garland was going through horrendous personal problems during production, she still manages to give a lively performance in the serviceable 1950 musical “Summer Stock” (MGM, $20), which also stars Kelly. After a four-year absence, Garland returned to the screen giving one of her most powerful portrayals in “A Star Is Born” (Warner, $30), a soaring musical version of the classic Hollywood story. James Mason is perfectly cast as the fading movie star who marries Garland’s ascending star. The high point is Garland’s rendition of “The Man That Got Away.” Garland received a best actress Oscar nomination.
She also received a best supporting nomination for 1961’s “Judgment at Nuremberg” (MGM, $20), a riveting drama about the Nazi war crimes trials. Garland is stunning in her small part as a German woman labeled as “polluted” during the war because she befriended an elderly Jew.
Garland’s swan song was the soapy 1963 British melodrama “I Could Go on Singing” (MGM, $20), in which she plays an American singer.