The great singer, actress, and vaudevillian Judy Garland (1922–1969), born Frances Ethel Gumm, began performing at the age of 2. She was signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer at the age of 13, and was molded by the studio’s star-making machinery. She grew up in girl-next-door parts in “backyard musicals” and Andy Hardy films opposite Mickey Rooney. Then came her role as Dorothy in the career-defining The Wizard of Oz in 1939—and the arduous climb over the rainbow had begun in earnest.
Her decades of stardom and struggle were marked by bouts of alcohol and drug abuse, multiple divorces, and career swings, but she remains one of the greatest interpreters of American popular song. American music specialist Robert Wyatt explores highlights from Garland’s extraordinary life with clips from her movies, including Meet Me in St. Louis; The Pirate, with songs by Cole Porter, including “Be a Clown”; and A Star Is Born, featuring her Oscar-nominated performance. Wyatt also screens clips from her acclaimed 1962 TV specials with Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Robert Goulet. Most poignant of all is a look at the 1964 London Palladium concert with daughter Liza Minnelli, in which a fading star passes the torch to a bright new one.