Judy Garlands wicked mum made daughter a star at all costs: Wrap you around bed post

Judy: Renée Zellweger stars as icon Judy Garland in trailer

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Judy Garland’s mum Frances Gumm craved stardom herself and, unfortunately like many parents of child stars, found a way to get her dream at the cost of her daughter. Judy has since referred to her own mum as “Wicked Witch of the West”, and would strive to be a far better parent to her also famous children Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft. 

Judy is arguably one of the most well-known names in Hollywood in the first half of the 20th century, with her iconic role as Dorothy Gale in Wizard of Oz skyrocketing her fame when she was just 16. 

Her acting prowess meant it was also easy for the starlet to hide just how rough her childhood had been, and the pain of her fame under her manager, Ethel Gumm. 

Judy is the youngest of three girls born to her parents Ethel and Francis Gumm. 

The parents were not prepared for a third child, happy with their family of four, to an almost deadly degree. 

April VeVea claimed on the True Stories of Tinseltown podcast that when Ethel found she was pregnant: “She does everything she possibly can to induce a miscarriage”. 


This ultimately wouldn’t work and Ethel carried Judy to term who was born in June 1922. 

Both Judy’s parents were involved in the entertainment industry and she herself started performing before her third birthday. 

Judy joined The Gumm Sisters act alongside her two older sisters and the trio would tour the vaudeville circuit for years. 

In an interview with Barbara Walters, Judy reflected on this time and how her mother treated her. 

She claimed if she wasn’t feeling well her mother would stand in the wings of her performance saying: “You get out and sing or I’ll wrap you around the bedpost and break you off short!”

In the biography Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland, author Gerald Clarke claims around this time Ethel began giving Judy pills. 

Judy was not yet 10 when her mum began supplying her with pills to give her energy and others to make her tired. 

In later years Judy would be quite open about her struggles with addiction and her resentment to being given them at such a young age. 

Faced with no other option but to do as her mum said, Judy found herself auditioning for MGM Studios at the age of 13 after a studio employee had seen her perform with her sisters. 

The studio reportedly signed Judy without even conducting a screen test, but found they didn’t know what to do with her as she was too old for most child roles and too young for adult roles. 

Eventually, she was typecast as the girl next door which saw her career begin to take flight with a handful of movies in the late 1930s.

The star would often be paired with young Mickey Rooney, a working partnership that was physically preferable as Rooney’s short stature was still three inches taller than Judy. 

However, the on-set realities of these films were none too kind to youngsters, with Judy constantly being told to diet and provided with small meals despite being a healthy weight. 

Ethel allegedly took little interest in how her daughter felt being under contract with the studio, especially as Francis died shortly after Judy was signed leaving the family somewhat reliant on her income. 

In the podcast Vevea added that even in Judy’s social life she was slightly ostracised due to the reputation her mother had, knowing she wouldn’t let the children “have fun” in order to “protect her investment”. 

In 1939 The Wizard of Oz was released and did not receive as much praise at the box office as it did in 1956 when it had its movie television debut. 

Despite her early struggles in the industry would go on to have a fruitful career and became a Hollywood icon with a reputation lasting long after her passing. 

Just five years after The Wizard of Oz, Judy would have her first child Liza Minnelli and endeavoured to make sure her children who chose to follow her into acting would avoid the hardships she had faced. 

Unfortunately, Judy would battle with addiction her whole life and passed away at the age of 47 after a reported accidental overdose.

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