Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blast From the Past:Happy Birthday, Judy --Rest in Peace Ella

Judy GarlandCover of Judy Garland
The one and only Judy Garland was born Frances Gumm on this day, 89 years ago. (Yes, Judy played Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ in 1939.)

Actress and singer. Born on Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Judy Garland, the star of many classic musical films, was known for her tremendous talent and troubled life. She started out in show business at an early age. The daughter of vaudeville professionals, she started her stage career as a child.

Garland shed her nickname "Baby" in favor of a more mature and vibrant Judy. The following year, she would become a solo act, signing a movie contract with MGM at the age of 13. It was on a radio broadcast that November, however, that Garland debuted one of the songs most closely associated with her, "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart." Shortly after the program aired, Garland suffered a great personal loss when her father Frank died of spinal meningitis.

Despite her personal anguish, Garland continued on her path to film stardom. One of her first feature film roles was in Pigskin Parade (1936). Playing a girl-next-door type of role, Garland went on to co-star in Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) with friend Mickey Rooney. The two proved to be a popular pairing, and they co-starred in several more Andy Hardy films.

Not only was she working a lot, Garland was under pressure from the studio about her looks and her weight. She was given amphetamines to boost her energy and control her weight. Unfortunately, Garland would soon become reliant on this medication as well as needing to take something else to help her sleep. Drug problems would plague her throughout her career.

In 1939, Garland scored one of her greatest on-screen successes with The Wizard of Oz (1939), which showcased her singing talents as well as her acting abilities. Garland received a special Academy Award for her portrayal of Dorothy, the girl from Kansas transported to Oz. She soon made several more musicals, including Strike Up the Band (1940), Babes of Broadway (1942) with Mickey Rooney, and For Me and My Gal (1943) with Gene Kelly.

Garland married for the first time at the age of 19. Her union with bandleader David Rose was decidedly short-lived, however. On the set of Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), another of Garland's signature films, she met director Vincent Minnelli. She officially divorced Rose in 1945 and soon wed Minnelli. The couple also welcomed a daughter, Liza, in 1946. Unfortunately, Garland's second marriage only lasted a little longer than her first. The Garland-Minnelli union was practically over by 1949 (they officially divorced in 1952).

Garland married producer Sid Luft in 1952, which was a stormy relationship by some reports. They had two children together—daughter Lorna in 1952 and son Joey in 1955. What ever personal difficulty Garland and Luft had, he had a positive impact on her career and was instrumental in putting together one of her greatest films. Starring opposite James Mason, Garland gave an outstanding performance as a woman who obtains stardom at the price of love in A Star Is Born (1954). Her rendition of "The Man That Got Away" is considered one of her best performances on film. She was nominated for an Academy Award for this film.

Throughout her life, Garland was continuously in demand as an entertainer, playing gigs around the world, but her personal life was on a dismal spiral. In 1968, Garland went to London. She was in personal and financial trouble by this time. Making some performances at London's Talk of the Town nightclub, Garland was clearly not in good shape on stage. She wed former bandleader and club manager Mickey Deans a few months before her death in 1969. Judy Garland died on June 22, 1969, in London, England, reportedly of an accidental overdose.

June 15, 1996-Singer Ella Fitzgerald died at the age of 79 in Beverly Hills, California.
God, I must be old. Most of the people that will read this don't know Judy Garland or Ella Fitzgerald.

Singer. Born Ella Jane Fitzgerald on April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. After a troubled childhood, including the death of her mother in 1932, Fitzgerald turned to singing and debuted at the Apollo Theater in 1934 at age 17. She was discovered in an amateur contest in Harlem and joined Chick Webb's band and recorded several hits, notably "A-tisket A-tasket" (1938).

After Webb died in 1939, his band was renamed Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra. Two years later, she began her solo career and by the mid-1950s, she had become the first African-American to perform at the Mocambo. Her lucid intonation and broad range made her a top jazz singer. Her series of recordings for Verve (1955-9) in multi-volume "songbooks" are among the treasures of American popular song. Fitzgerald is known as "The First Lady of Song," and was the most popular American female jazz singer for over fifty years. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums.

With the exception of Jazz at Santa Monica Civic '72, her latter recordings marked a decline in her voice due to complications from diabetes. The disease left her blind, and she had both legs amputated in 1994. She made her last recording in 1989 and her last public performance in 1991 at New York's Carnegie Hall. Ella Fitzgerald died on June 15, 1996 in her Beverly Hills home.

Fitzgerald was briefly married to Benny Kornegay, a convicted drug dealer and hustler, in 1941. She was married to bass player Ray Brown from 1947 to 1952; they adopted a child born to Fitzgerald's half-sister whom they christened Ray Brown, Jr. Fitzgerald.

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