Born on this day in 1922: Frances Ethel Gumm
June 10, 1939, was Judy’s 17th birthday. This photo set was distributed by MGM and included highly fictionalized paragraphs purporting to tell Judy’s life story. The photos give her age as “Sweet Sixteen” when in reality she turned seventeen. There are several other mistakes and embellishments that you’ll get a kick out of. The set was sent out in the days after June 10, 1939, for magazines and newspapers to publish.
The text on the back of the photos begins with this paragraph (except the second one):
SWEET SIXTEEN IN HOLLYWOOD . . . At sixteen, the age when girls all over the country are considered just emerging from childhood, Judy Garland faces the possibility of becoming the only living girl to be as famous as Snow White. For Judy, just sixteen on June 10, 1949, has completed the role of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”. It is the most famous fiction heroine in the world. Now, let’s look at a pictorial life story of the little girl.
Photo 1 continues:
This is Judy Garland at the age of six months. She was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan [actually it was Grand Rapids, Minnesota – a common mistake in the lore of Garland], the third of three sisters. Her real name is Frances Gumm and her mother and father were formerly vaudeville players. Her mother was an actress, singer, and pianist and often still accompanies Judy at benefits. Frank Gumm owned the New Grand Theatre in Grand Rapids when she was born.
Photo 2 continues:
At the age of five, Judy Garland, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer star, went to a training school for “child talent” in Los Angeles, got a bit in a prologue at a theater in which she played Cupid and sang “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love Baby”. She and her sisters formed a trio as the Gumm Singers, sang at many benefits and finally one “pay performance”. They got fifty cents a week. The Oriental Theater in Chicago offered the girls an engagement and this picture shows how Judy dressed. But they were billed as The Gumm Sisters. George Jessel, on the same program, suggested they change the name so they became The Garland Sisters, and Judy has been Judy Garland since. After that appearance, the sisters returned to Los Angeles, their team experiences over.
Photo 3 continues:
It was not until she was twelve that Judy Garland went back to being a professional singer. She continued to do benefits but her older sisters, those in the Garland sister act with her, grew up and married. At 12, however, Judy went to Lake Tahoe for a vacation and sang at an impromptu entertainment. A talent scout for Metro=Goldwyn-Mayer heard her and the studio called her. They were astounded to see what a child she was but she insisted on singing. As a result, she won a contract. Here is the way she looked then.
Photos provided by Kim Lundgreen. Thanks, Kim!