Following the release of “The Wizard of Oz,” the former child star Judy Garland (1922-1969) went on to a celebrated international career as an actress (Oscar-nominated for 1954’s “A Star Is Born” and “1961’s ”Judgement at Nuremberg”) and singer — she became a cornerstone of MGM musicals and a beloved figure on the concert stage and television (”The Judy Garland Show”). The entertainer, whose personal problems sometimes made front-page news, was forever linked to Dorothy Gale, and claimed to never tire of singing “Over the Rainbow” in all her live stage appearances.
In 1940, she starred in three films: Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, Strike Up the Band, and Little Nellie Kelly. In the latter film, Garland played her first adult role, a dual role of both mother and daughter. Little Nellie Kelly was purchased from George M. Cohan as a vehicle for Garland to assess both her audience appeal and her physical appearance. The role was a challenge for her, requiring the use of an accent, her first adult kiss and the only death scene of her career. The success of these three films, and a further three films in 1941, secured her position at MGM as a major property.
During this time Garland experienced her first serious adult romances. The first was with the band leader, Artie Shaw. Garland was deeply devoted to Shaw and was devastated in early 1940 when Shaw eloped with Lana Turner. Garland began a relationship with musician David Rose, and on her eighteenth birthday, Rose gave her an engagement ring. The studio intervened because Rose was still married at the time to the actress and singer Martha Raye. The couple agreed to wait a year to allow for Rose's divorce from Raye to become final, and were wed on July 27, 1941. She was noticeably thinner in her next film, For Me and My Gal alongside Gene Kelly in his first screen appearance. Garland was top billed over the credits for the first time and effectively made the transition from teenage star to adult actress.
At the age of twenty-one, she was given the "glamour treatment" in Presenting Lily Mars, in which she was dressed in "grown-up" gowns. Her lightened hair was also pulled up in a stylish fashion. However, no matter how glamorous or beautiful she appeared on screen or in photographs, she was never confident in her appearance and never escaped the "girl next door" image that had been created for her. Adding to her insecurity was the dissolution of her marriage to David Rose. Garland, who had aborted her pregnancy by Rose in 1942, agreed to a trial separation in January 1943 and they divorced in 1944.
One of Garland's most successful films for MGM was Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), in which she introduced three standards: "The Trolley Song", "The Boy Next Door", and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Vincente Minnelli was assigned to direct this movie, and he requested that make-up artist Dorothy Ponedel be assigned to Garland for the picture. Ponedel refined Garland's appearance in several ways, including extending and reshaping her eyebrows, changing her hairline, modifying her lip line and removing her nose discs. Garland appreciated the results so much that Ponedel was written into her contract for all her remaining pictures at MGM. During the filming of Meet Me in St. Louis, after some initial conflict between them, Garland and Minnelli entered a relationship together. They were married June 15, 1945 and on March 12, 1946 daughter Liza Minnelli was born.
The Clock (1945) was her first straight dramatic film, opposite Robert Walker. Though the film was critically praised and earned a profit, most movie fans expected her to sing. It would be many years before she acted again in a non-singing dramatic role.
Garland's other famous films of the 1940s include The Harvey Girls (1946) in which she introduced the Academy Award winning song "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" and The Pirate (1948).
Returning to the stage, Garland made her last appearances at New York's Palace Theatre in July, a 16-show tour, performing with her children Lorna and Joey Luft. Garland wore a sequined pants-suit on stage for this tour, which was part of the original wardrobe for her character in Valley of the Dolls.