Born Frances Ethel Gumm in 1922, Judy Garland became one of classic Hollywood's most beloved stars thanks to her tremendous talent and the intense vulnerability she brought to the screen in her most memorable performances. As a teen, Garland played supporting roles in juvenile pictures like the Andy Hardy series, but she rocketed to real stardom with the release of "The Wizard of Oz" in 1939. She won a special juvenile Oscar in 1940 and went on to be nominated for Best Actress in 1954 and Best Supporting Actress in 1961, but Garland's fame came at a terrible price in terms of her emotional and physical health. She died in 1969, at just 47 years old, leaving behind three children and countless heartbroken fans. Movie lovers today will always remember her as Dorothy Gale, but Garland made plenty of other excellent pictures. Here are ten classic movies where you can see the musical star at her very best.
1) "Love Finds Andy Hardy" (1938) - The Andy Hardy films mixed comedy, music, and family drama for a winning combination that made star Mickey Rooney one of Hollywood's greatest successes. In this picture and two more Andy Hardy features, Garland teams up with Rooney to play girl-next-door Betsy Booth, who pines for Andy's attention but always ends up being just a pal.
2) "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) - Garland won viewers' hearts with her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in this big-budget adaptation of the novel by L. Frank Baum. Her performance of "Over the Rainbow" remains one of the single most iconic moments in movie history, and little girls still wear her ruby slippers at Halloween. Costars like Ray Bolger, Margaret Hamilton, and Frank Morgan give Garland plenty of support in bringing the colorful fantasy to life.
3) "Babes in Arms" (1939) - Garland also stars with Mickey Rooney in a series of juvenile musicals about young people putting on shows, with this 1939 production as the original outing. The musical format gives Garland a great opportunity to show off her singing ability, and in these movies her character gets a lot more attention from Rooney's youthful heroes.
4) "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944) - In this nostalgic American musical, Garland stars as one of several daughters in a turn-of-the-century family awaiting the arrival of the World's Fair. Vincente Minnelli, who would marry Garland in 1945, met her while directing this picture; the two would become the parents of Liza Minnelli in 1946. The heart-warming movie features Garland singing the holiday classic, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
5) "The Harvey Girls" (1946) - Garland makes a rare foray into Western territory in this musical about the young women who staffed Harvey Houses during the expansion of the railroads in the late nineteenth century. Her performance of the song, "On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe," helped the number win the Oscar for Best Original Song. Garland's colorful costars for this production include Cyd Charisse, Virginia O'Brien, John Hodiak, Ray Bolger, and Marjorie Main, but Angela Lansbury makes a particularly memorable appearance as the worldly dance hall singer who becomes Garland's romantic rival.
6) "The Pirate" (1948) - Garland made several movies with musical star Gene Kelly, but this swashbuckling comedy is one of the lightest and silliest, which makes it especially fun for younger viewers. Vincente Minnelli directs the two stars, who have a wonderful shared presence on screen.
7) "Easter Parade" (1948) - Garland pairs up with dancing legend Fred Astaire for this musical romance about a nightclub performer and a chorus girl. Ann Miller and Peter Lawford also star, and Charles Walters directs. In 1949, "Easter Parade" won the Oscar for Best Musical Score.
8) "In the Good Old Summertime" (1949) - In this musical remake of Ernst Lubitsch's 1940 film, "The Shop Around the Corner," Garland plays a shop worker who can't stand her fellow employee, little realizing that she is falling in love with the same man through an anonymous pen pal correspondence. Van Johnson stars as Garland's unexpected love interest, but the movie also offers scene-stealing supporting performances from S.Z. Sakall, Spring Byington, and Buster Keaton.
9) "Summer Stock" (1950) - Garland's last movie with Gene Kelly came at a low point in the actress' career, and it would be her last picture for MGM, as well. Little of the off-screen trouble is apparent on the screen, and Garland is spunky and fun as the farmer heroine, who finds herself the reluctant hostess of Kelly's theatrical group. The supporting cast includes memorable players like Eddie Bracken, Marjorie Main, Phil Silvers, and Gloria DeHaven.
10) "A Star is Born" (1954) - Garland's performance in this show business drama earned her the only Best Actress nomination of her career; the movie earned six nominations in all but went home empty-handed in a year of tough competition. Garland's costars include James Mason and Jack Carson, with Mason also earning a nomination for his performance. The movie was a remake of the 1937 version starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March; in 1976, Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson starred in yet another big screen rendition of the story.
For even more Judy Garland movies, try "Strike Up the Band" (1940), "For Me and My Gal" (1942), and "The Clock" (1945). Learn more about Garland's life and films by watching the video at the top of this article.
Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her book, "Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.