A Dream Carrer

  • Category: Theater
  • Words: 2703
  • Grade: 92
On an early Saturday morning in 1922, Frank and Ethel Gumm became the parents of a future star. The Gumm family did not want Frances Ethel Gumm, but as she grew older both her family and the world wanted her. To all that knew her, she was Judy Garland, but to herself she was Frances Ethel Gumm (Finch 23). Judy Garland constantly tried to hide Frances Ethel Gumm, even as a child. This, however, is what brought on the death of a well-known star (246).
        Frances' sisters were the first to be well known for their singing abilities. They could often be seen performing on stages in communities around America. As Frances grew older, she realized her sisters' fame and wanted to join them in their act. At the age of three, she became very determined to join her sisters on stage. Her determination finally took hold of her and at a performance in Minnesota, Frances ran on stage and sang for the audience. Her song was "Jingle Bells", and she continued to sing it whole-heartedly until her father rushed her off the stage. But he was too late; the audience had seen her talent and soon began making requests for her to perform (Thomas 67). This led to the beginnings of the Gumm sister trio. They were known internationally for their incredible vocal abilities. Included in the group was Frances and her two sisters, Virginia, and Mary Jane (Watson and Chapman 2). When being introduced to an audience, the sisters would often find their last name being laughed at. This, however, was soon dealt with. At a show in Detroit, a man known as Robert Garland was asked to introduce the sisters. Not wanting to humor the audience with the last name Gumm, He introduced them as the Garland sisters. The name seemed well liked, and was soon adopted by the sisters as their last name. Soon there after, the girls made the decision of changing their first names as well. Virginia became known as Jimmie, Mary Jane was Susie, and Frances was known as Judy, Judy Garland (6).
        Judy Garland was soon being recognized more and more. In fact, even big named studios knew of her. One such studio, The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio, finally requested that Judy do an audition for them. All her years of hard work of singing in small towns on the outskirts of show biz, had finally paid off. The studio wanted her and Judy Garland was now on her way (7).
        Judy continued to work for that studio for a short amount of time until 1935. It was then that an MGM representative, Al Rosen, heard her. He was amazed at this little girl who could sing like a grown women. Soon there after, she signed a contract with MGM and began to gain even more recognition (Pleasants 283).
        At this time, Judy was not an attractive young woman. She knew this and even considered herself an ugly duckling. This, however, was a result of not having the positive reassurance her father use to give her before his death. Frank Gumm died in November of 1935 as a result of fluids flowing from his ear and infecting his spinal cord. This was a traumatic experience for Judy, and a quite a shock (Watson and Chapman 10). When it finally hit her that her father had died, she locked herself in a bathroom and cried for fourteen hours. She explained this as, "I wasn't close to my father, but I wanted to be all my life...And he wanted to be close to me too, but we never had much time together." It is clearly shown that her tears were for the time not spent with her father (Finch 58).
        As Judy continued with MGM, she also continued to gain weight. This concerned the studio and they put her on a strict diet of chicken broth for her meals (Watson and Chapman 12). This strict diet began to make Judy realize how unattractive she was becoming. This really started hurting her, and she desperately wanted to be the Judy Garland everyone loved and adored (18). Finally she took the problem into her own hands, her first solution, comedy. She tried especially hard to make her past and who she really was, a joke (Finch 68). This seemed to be the solution for awhile, however it began to look like a sure failure, so she tried something else. Judy soon found herself using drugs to become the glamorous Judy Garland. Diet pills were thought to be the answer by Judy, only her family saw it differently. As her sister put it,
                "There are times, at a place like Metro, when they don't give a damn about your talent--all they're worrying about is how you look and they make a big thing out of it. That's when Benzedrine and stuff like that first came out, and nobody thought it was bad. It killed your appetite, and that's why you took it. Nobody realized it was speed!
        The studio doctor gave [Judy] Dexedrine, I believe it was, to keep her weight down. Nobody thought it was bad. My mother didn't think it was bad--if she had, she wouldn't have let Judy take it. But nobody knew anything about it then."
        Frances thought that a solution to her problem was pills. She thought they could help her be the women that the world believed her to be, Judy Garland (Finch 73 and 78). Pills soon began to play a major part in her life. She soon started taking more and more to cover up her old self and become Judy Garland. As she later told her daughter,
                "When I was very young, I had to work so late and so hard. After I'd work, I'd be wide-awake and I couldn't go to sleep, and I had to get up in four hours and start all over again. So I was given...I was given...a pill to help me go to sleep and get me up. And after years of doing this, my system functioned well on these. I find they make me feel better. So I kind of need them--like vitamins."

        Frances Ethel Gumm thought the pills were going to help her be Judy Garland (Frank 460). No matter how hard she tried, her mother would always see her as Frances Ethel Gumm. This, however, eventually only brought on more trouble into Judy's life (Finch 146). Another factor in her trouble was the tension between her and her co.-workers. She had a tendency to continually show up late to work. And if she was confronted on the matter, she would become "bitchy" and "malicious". "One moment people were furious at her; the next, fawning over her. And she seemed to produce this transformation by sheer will power." (150).
        It is clearly shown that "Frances" was not a pleasant or well liked women, however Judy Garland was just the opposite. This was completely understood by Judy, and was all the more reason to do whatever it took to truely become Judy Garland (151).         Pills were thought to be the answer, but in reality it was possesing the ability to say "no". Judy was a workaholic, she would rarely turn down an oppotunity to become bigger and better. This proved to be a problem though as she grew older. Her involvement in so many things only caused her to increase her pill intake and become more miserable (Watson and Chapman 35).
        In 1938 Judy began the arduous project of filming the "Wizard of Oz". This proved to be a challenge for her (Thomas 59). The challenge was not to focus so much on the negatives. When she would see herself perform as Dorthy it was very hard. It was at times like this she could be found crying in a bathroom. This she explained as being so ugly. She was very concerned about her appearance. This again led to the increase of pills (Shipman 87). People began to wonder why she allowed herself to have such "grueling" scheduals. Her reasoning, "Acting is the only place where I felt like a useful person, where people said, 'Fine, you did a good job. Come again,' and everyone needs to hear those things." (Watson and Chapman 49)
        After filming the "Wizard of Oz", Judy added more to her schedule. In 1944 radio shows became a part of her daily routine (45). Her life started getting even busier at this point and she rarely had time to herself. However, she was able to take the time to marry Vincente Minnelli (Frank 213). Things really were hard for Judy, but somehow she continued to push through. In 1948 MGM studios sent her the following letter,
As you know, you have been unable since sometime prior to July 12, 1948, to render the services required of you under our employment contract with you; and it has become increasingly apparent over the past few weeks that your condition is such as to make it unlikely that you will be able in the immediate future to render such services. This conclusion is confirmed by your doctor who advised us that in his opinion you could not without a considerable period of rest and medical care undergo the exertion and strain which would be involved in the rendition of your services in the next photoplay we had planned for you.
You will understand that in these circumstances we would not be legally or morally justified in assuming the risks inherent in the situation.
Accordingly we have no alternative but to elect and we do hereby elect to suspend our contract of employment with you commencing July 12, 1948, and continuing for and during the period of your illness, as illness is defined in such a contract.
We hope you will take advantage of the opportunity thus afforded to restore your condition to the point, which will enable you safely and with reasonable assurances of continuity to render your required services. In that connection we would appreciate being kept advise of your progress in order that we may make appropriate plans for you when you are restored to health..."

                This was only one in a series of letters (Frank 238). Soon in 1950 it became too much. During a meeting with her secretary Myrtle Tully and her husband Vincente, she suddenly ran from the room. After her screaming was heard throughout the house, Tully and Minnelli rushed to the bathroom only to hear attempts to commit suicide.
                "They rushed to the bathroom, but the door was locked. 'Leave me alone! I want to die!' she yelled. Minnelli broke down the door at the second attempt and found his wife holding a broken glass in one hand. She had an ugly, but not serious, gash on her neck. Minnelli took the glass and Tully gathered Garland in her arms."

        This was one of the many attempt made by Judy Garland to commit suicide. However it was this attempt that was heard and seen by many people, and published in many newspapers (Shipman 255-256). Judy was obviously not a happy woman, all she wanted to do was kill Frances Ethel Gumm and become the one and only Judy Garland. What she did not realize is that pills, and grueling schedules, were not the answers. In fact, nothing was, Judy could never completely blot out Frances, yet she continued to try (Finch 246).
                "I felt humiliated and unwanted, and I was faced with the bitter knowledge that I'd come to that unhappy position by my own actions. All newfound hope evaporated, and all I could see ahead was more confusion. I wanted to black out the future as well as the past. I didn't want to live any more. I wanted to hurt myself and others.
"Yet even while I stood there in the bathroom with a shattered glass in my hand, and Vincente and my adored secretary, Tully, were pounding on the door, I knew I couldn't solve anything by myself---and that's what killing yourself is..."

        This was here reasoning for her behavior (Watson and Chapman 60). So many things added to her unhappiness, such as not winning an Oscar for the things she had done so well on. A production in 1953 that was sure to win her an Oscar was the movie "A Star is Born." Sad to say, even after all the publicity that that production received, she got nothing. This only made her feel more unwanted (Sanders 16). For the next fifteen years, things seemed to get worse. She continued to use drugs, she added more to her schedule, and her mother died.
        In June of 1969, the legend Judy Garland and the simple city girl, Frances Ethel Gumm, died. She was found in her bed with her pills at her side. Her death was caused by an overdose on pills. Even to her death, Judy Garland continued to use the pills to cover her true self. This effort to hide who she really was, was the cause of her death (Watson and Chapman 114).
                "I think I'm most happy, when I'm entertaining people...making them forget their problems and worries.
You've heard aviators talk about the thrill of flying...how they feel when they get up there...the ship in their control. The Earth drops away...they're alone in the sky. All the trivial things in life are forgotten. It isn't quite that they feel they are superior beings. It's just that all things ordinary and earthbound and tied up with the daily routine of living become insignificant beside the thrill and power of what they are doing.
That's the best way I can describe when I'm doing my job well...when I know I have the audience. I've felt it on stage in vaudeville, in army camps, and hospitals. I've felt it come right down through the mike on the air. When it happens before a camera and I notice carpenters and grips stop doing what they're doing to watch, I know I'm doing right and I'm happy."

        From this it is clear that all she wanted was to be loved and adored by people, and that acting was what made her feel that way. To do this she took up the grueling task of covering up who she really was, however, this proved to be a fatal mistake (115). Judy Garland never could completely cover up Frances Ethel Gumm (Finch 246).

Works Cited:
Finch, Christopher. Rainbow-The Stormy Life of Judy Garland New York: Grosset and Dunlap 1975
Frank, Gerold. Judy New York: Harper and Row 1975
Pleasants, Henry. Great American Popular Singers New York: Simon and Schuster 1974
Sanders, Coyne Stevens. Rainbows End-The Judy Garland Show New York: Kensington Publishing 1990
Shipman, David. The Secret Life of an American Legend New York: Hyperion 1992
Thomas, Rheys. The Ruby Slippers of Oz Los Angeles: TaleWeaver Publishing 1989
Watson, Thomas J. and Chapman, Bill. Judy-Portrait of an American Legend New York, St. Louis, San Fransisco, Hamburg, Mexico, Toronto: McGraw and Hill 1986

Judy Garland

Jordan Longacre
U.S. History Reasearch Paper
Mrs. Gordon
June 1, 1999

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