Five Great Judy Garland Musicals That Show Why She Is A Gay Icon

She is regarded as “The Greatest Entertainer That Have Ever Lived.” The legend of Judy Garland has possibly eclipsed her magnificent career. But for all “the friend of Dorothy,” and “my best Judy” comments we hear and “the hospital that Judy spit out Liza is a gay landmark” (bonus points to anyone who knows who said that and in what long running show…) how much does the average queer really know about Judy Garland, more specifically her storied career.

Truth be told, this freelance writer needs an education in the movie canon of Judy Garland. I know a little, I know she never won an Oscar, I know she was under contract with MGM. I saw Renee Zellwegger completely transform herself to win her second Academy Award for Judy. And I have been told by many of my friends that I must watch the 2003 television movie, “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,’ with Judy Davis and Tammy Blanchard, both of who won Emmys for their portrayal for Judy.

Related: Jinkx Monsoon talks Seattle drag legends and that Judy Garland performance

In a very quick nutshell, she started performing at age two, and in her early years was performing with her siblings as part of “The Gumm Siblings,” Judy was born Francis Ethel Gumm. Her father dying when she was 12 was a pivotal moment as the young singer was devastated and stuck with her mother who basically turned Judy over to MGM Studios. According to PBS after the massive success of The Wizard of Oz, the teen actress was set on a course of doom as she was fed amphetamines nonstop,

“MGM had Garland working on two movies at a time, rehearsing for one while she shot the other. She spent long, tiring days at the studio. It was hardly sustainable for the teenager, so to keep her from passing out, they fed her and her castmates amphetamines, or “pep pills.” “They’d give us pep pills to keep us on our feet long after we were exhausted then they’d knock us cold with sleeping pills, then after four hours, they’d wake us up with pep pills again. That’s the way we worked and that’s the way we got thin. That’s the way we got mixed up and that’s the way we lost contact with the world.”

In finding the musicals to recommend for this article I had no clue at the sheer number of how many movies she has been in. And how many fabulous songs she sang! I can’t even think of a star today that I would compare her too! [I also don’t want to open myself up to unnecessary criticism because whatever name I write, someone won’t be happy and will call me old, fat, ugly, and/or dumb in the comments section…seriously folks, the anger aimed at writers online seems quite excessive] 

Let’s get to the list…

*In The Good Old Summertime (1949)

If you love You’ve Got Mail, you will love this musical adaptation of the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner. “In turn-of-the-century America, Andrew and Veronica are co-workers in a music shop who dislike one another during business hours but unwittingly carry on an anonymous romance through the mail.” (IMDB.com)

According to PopSugar,

“Ever wonder where that “I don’t care” GIF featuring Garland originates from? Well, it’s a scene in this musical comedy about a woman named Veronica Fisher (Garland) who is at odds with coworker Andrew Larkin (Van Johnson), not knowing they’re each other’s secret pen pals and love interests.”

photo credit//popsugar.com

*For Me and My Gal (1942)

Gene Kelly made his film debut in this film about a struggling vaudeville act. The plot synopsis, according to Wikipedia states, “in the heyday of vaudeville, on the verge of America’s entrance into World War I, two talented performers, Jo Hayden (Judy Garland) and Harry Palmer (Gene Kelly), set their sights on playing the Palace Theatre on Broadway, the epitome of vaudeville success, and marrying immediately after. Just weeks before their plans are to be realized Harry gets a draft notice. Intending to obtain a short delay before reporting for duty, he intentionally smashes his hand in a trunk. That same day Jo is notified that her brother, who had been studying to be a doctor, has died in the war.” 

The movie is on the American Film Institute’s list of Greatest Movie Musicals.

*Girl Crazy (1943)

This film is widely known to be the film where Judy’s “health” issues and behavior started causing problems in production. According to The Judy Room, “she was still fragile. She would miss many more days due to illness. Location shooting in Palm Springs (including parts of the delightful “Could You Use Me?” number) was cursed by sand storms and equipment failures, as well as a brief absence by Judy when she rushed back to Los Angeles for a romantic tryst (presumably with Joe Mankiewicz). In spite of all of these problems, the film turned out beautifully. Judy gives a wonderful performance as does Mickey. Her version of “But Not For Me” is one of the best numbers she ever did on film. To quote Clive Hirschhorn from his massive 1981 book “The Hollywood Musical”: “Gershwin never had it so good.”

*Listen Darling (1938)

Garland starred in this film the year before she shot to stardom as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. In the film she sings a song that became part of her musical repertoire, Zing Went the Strings of My Heart. The movie also stars Freddie Bartholomew and Mary Pickford. Garland and Bartholomew play friends “who will do anything to stop her widowed mother from entering into a loveless marriage with the town banker – including kidnapping.” (IMDB.com)

*Meet Me In St. Louis (1945)

This classic MGM musical is famous for a variety of reasons. In this Christmas film nominated for four Academy Awards, it’s 1903 the year before the World Fair. The film is the most successful musical of the 1940s and ranked 10th on the AFI’s Greatest Movie Musicals. Three songs from the movie charted as hits, The Trolley Song, The Boy Next Door, and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

The first time this movie came on my radar was in the 2005 film The Family Stone. The scene of Judy singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas plays in the background during a heartwarming montage. 

Happy (belated) 100th Birthday Judy, and Happy Pride to all you Instinct readers out there!


This post is solely the opinion of this contributing writer and may not reflect the opinion of other writers, staff, or owners of Instinct Magazine.​”

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