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20 Quotes That Get to the Heart of Judy Garland

Over 50 years after her death, Judy Garland remains one of the most legendary entertainers of all time. Born Frances Ethel Gumm, she got her start in a vaudeville family act, going on stage as early as age two, and later creating a singing duo with one of her sisters. That landed her the chance to audition for MGM Studios as a teenager, which led to iconic roles in such classic musicals as The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, Summer Stock, and many more. The young Hollywood starlet worked so hard, churning out picture after picture, that she was rarely out of the public eye for over a decade.

The studio’s demands on Garland’s time, however, and its demands that she maintain a certain weight, directly contributed to her drug addiction, an attempt to take her own life, and exhaustion — all before she was 28 years old. But the resilient star had many comebacks over the course of her career. In the 1950s, a string of stage shows helped Garland become one of the great singers of her generation. She also revitalized her acting career by producing and starring in the 1954 film A Star Is Born, which earned her first Oscar nomination. In the ‘60s, she received her second Oscar nomination for her role in the 1961 drama Judgement at Nuremberg, and in 1961, she swept the Grammy awards, taking home multiple trophies for her legendary performance Judy at Carnegie Hall.

Though she died of a tragic accidental overdose at age 47 in 1969, Garland’s work has stood the test of time, and far outlived that of many of her contemporaries, while she herself became a role model for generations, especially to women and the LGBTQ+ community, as well as fellow performers — she became the template for the triple threat talent who was comfortable in front of a camera, on a stage, and behind a microphone. Garland was aware, in her lifetime, of how beloved she was by her audiences — even as she found it challenging to love herself. Her wit and wisdom, from her teen days until the later end of her career, shine through in these 20 quotes.

I believe in the idea of the rainbow. And I've spent my entire life trying to get over it.

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be a little more gentle with each other, and a little more loving, have a little more empathy, and maybe we'd like each other a little bit more.

As for my feelings toward "Over the Rainbow," it's become part of my life. It is so symbolic of all dreams and wishes that I'm sure that's why people sometimes get tears in their eyes when they hear it.

I'm always being painted a more tragic figure than I am. Actually, I get awfully bored with myself as a tragic figure.

Not many of us have the names or identities we were born with. I don't associate Frances Gumm with me... I, Judy Garland, was born when I was 12 years old.

I don't always have to sing a song… There's a woman. There are three children. There's me! There's a lot of life going here.

It sounds like the most Pollyanna thing to say, but it is truly worth it — the heartbreak and the disappointments — when you can walk out and help hundreds of people enjoy themselves.

There are about 15 years that you can be young. All the rest, you are a grown-up. I think you appreciate being a grown-up much better, if you don’t try to be that way too soon.

I know, now, that it is a mistake, for most of us, to get success too quickly. I know it is better to go slowly and surely, I know it is good for us to get a few knocks on the chin.

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.

I believe that if you are lonely sometimes, you should accept it, without feeling that life has treated you badly. There are lonely moments in all lives. Even when you are in a crowd, a feeling of loneliness can wash over you. Remember that other people in the same crowd may be feeling the same way.

Why do people insist on seeing an aura of tragedy around me always? My life isn’t tragic at all. I laugh a lot these days. At myself, too. Lord, if I couldn’t laugh at myself I don’t think I’d be alive.

I've never looked through a keyhole without finding someone was looking back.

A really great reception makes me feel like I have a great big warm heating pad all over me. People en masse have always been wonderful to me. I truly have a great love for an audience, and I used to want to prove it to them by giving them blood.

The only time I felt wanted when I was a kid was when I was on stage, performing. The stage was my only friend — the only place where I felt alive and comfortable and safe.

I'm a woman who wants to reach out and take 40 million people in her arms.

I can live without money, but I cannot live without love.

You must remember that over the years, multitudes of people have shown me a great deal of love and loyalty, a very, very deep love... Some writers said I was through but, by God, the audiences came and bolstered me.

Photo credit: Pictorial Press Ltd/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Courtney E. Smith
Courtney E. Smith is an author, podcaster, and editor based in Dallas, Texas.
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