Judy Garland Speaks

Beginning her career on stage as one of the Gumm Sisters, Judy Garland found her star thanks to The Wizard of Oz and her on-screen pairing with Mickey Rooney. While her personal life included many ups-and-downs, the golden-voiced talent remained one of the greatest performers of all time and a beloved national figure. Below Judy Garland speaks about her life and career.

1. On the perception of herself.

“I love my career. I want to say this because I’m always being painted a more tragic figure than I am, and I get awfully bored with myself as a tragic figure. I wouldn’t have been anything but an entertainer. With all the troubles, with the stumbling and falling on the way, the rewards are still so great.”

2. On Oz.

“I wanted to stay like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Life wasn’t as complicated then. But I can’t help growing up. No one can. Time won’t stop, and life won’t stand still. But I have a feeling that if I just look backward once in a while at Dorothy, if I am offbeat in any way, I’ll get back on the sound track again… Dorothy and I thought a lot alike when I made The Wizard of Oz. I like to think we still do.”

3. On her voice.

“Sometimes it’s so loud it surprises me. But that’s the way I’ve always sung. I’ve never trained my voice, possibly because I use the right muscles in my throat. There is something wonderful about belting a song across the footlights, clear and true, and feeling it bounce off the top balcony. I can’t explain it. There’s nothing like it.”

4. On growing up in showbiz.

“I don’t remember having any birthdays as a child. My mother was always afraid the studio would decide I was too old to play child parts. So we just ignored them.”

5. On performing.

“A really great reception makes me feel like I have a great big warm heating pad all over me. I truly have a great love for an audience, and I used to want to prove it to them by giving them blood. But I have a funny new thing now, a real determination to make people enjoy the show. I want to give them two hours of just pow!”

6. On her anxiety.

“I had so many anxieties, so many fears. I’d had them as a child, and I guess they just grow worse as you grow older and more self-centered. The fear of failure. The fear of ridicule. I hated the way I looked.”

7. On the Melting Pot.

“When you get to know a lot of people you make a great discovery. You find that no one group has a monopoly on looks, brains, goodness or anything else. It takes all the people—black and white, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant, recent immigrants, and Mayflower descendants—to make up America. It just wouldn’t be our kind of America without any one of them.”

8. On her faith.

“Of course I believe in God … because it’s ridiculous to not believe in God … because I have proof [that He’s there]. I’ve been protected and watched over, and my children have been. It’s just a knowing and living knowledge that brings a great deal of comfort to me.”

9. On stage fright.

“I’m a victim of the most awful stage fright. I always get sick right before I go on the stage. It’s such a lonely feeling. But no matter how frightened you are, you have to do it. I figure if people have gotten in their cars and driven there and paid to see you, you just bloody well have to go on.”

10. On being a legend.

“I’ve heard how ‘difficult’ it is to be with Judy Garland. Do you know how ‘difficult’ it is to be Judy Garland? And for me to live with me? I’ve had to do it—and what more unkind life can you think of than the one I’ve lived? I’m told I’m a legend. Fine. But I don’t know what that means. I certainly didn’t ask to be a legend. I was totally unprepared for it.”