My name is Tracy Miller. I founded Arlene Miller Creative Writing in memory of my mother Arlene Miller (August 24, 1924-May 10,2005) to recognize & support all forms of creative expression.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow, a girl named Judy Garland is still putting on a show by Tracy Diane Miller
I grew up enchanted by MGM musicals and the dramatic movies of a golden era in Hollywood that is now “gone with the wind.” I remember my mother talking about how she would spent a dime (yes, in the 1930s & 1940s in many local theatres, ten cents constituted the price of admission) to go to the movies. My mother was transported to Oz, “spent an hour on the trolley and lost her heart instead” , swooned over Dear Mr. Gable or realized, as Scarlett O’Hara promised, that “tomorrow was another day.”
The cinematic greats that flourished under the iron fist of then studio boss Louis B. Mayer enabled MGM studios to dominate the industry for decades.
In the pre and post World War II era, Hollywood offered an interesting contradiction: The glamour of the movies stood in stark contrast to the economic despair of much of the country.
On June 10, 1922, a little girl named Frances Gumm was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. “The little girl with the big voice” (as she was dubbed by the media outlets of the day) was raised on the vaudeville stage, traveling the country with her parents and performing with her older sisters, Mary Jane and Dorothy. They were billed as “The Gumm Sisters” with young Frances as the focal point (and arguably, the star of the trio).
Years later, Frances Gumm was signed by powerhouse studio MGM and her professional name was changed to Judy Garland. The journey to becoming an icon on the world stage and a legacy of excellence was cemented in 1939 with a trip down the yellow brick road. Judy Garland was cast as Dorothy in the landmark movie “The Wizard of Oz.” MGM wanted celebrated child star Shirley Temple as Dorothy, but at the time, Temple’s other commitments didn’t make her casting in the movie possible. Truth be told, Temple was the more age appropriate choice to reflect the child Dorothy of author L. Frank Baum’s books. Seventeen year old Garland was too old. Still, once Garland put on those ruby slippers, her destiny was set.
Judy Garland’s stirring vocals resonated with audiences. Her signature song, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” has long been regarded as a classic. Judy Garland won a special Juvenile Academy Award for her work in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Prior to “The Wizard of Oz,”Judy Garland was paired in a number of musicals with Mickey Rooney. “Let’s put on a show” became the familiar theme of the Garland/Rooney movies; the teens sang and danced into the hearts of America.
In 1944, Judy Garland was directed by her then husband Vincente Minnelli in “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Garland was cast as Esther Smith. She sang an array of classic songs including the marvelous The Trolley Song and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas to child actress Margaret O’Brien who played her youngest sister.
I first saw “Meet Me in St. Louis” in 1975. From that first moment, “Meet Me in St. Louis” became my all-time favorite movie, a title that it has held for me for 42 years. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen the movie. After an impressive roster of films for MGM, Garland starred in the Warner Brothers movie “A Star is Born,” for which she received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination. In addition, her dramatic turn in the movie “A Judgment at Nuremberg” was met with critical and industry acclaim.
In her later years, Judy Garland thrilled concert goers with performances at Carnegie Hall. In addition, she tackled television with “The Judy Garland Show” acquiring a new legion of devoted fans.
For the little girl from Minnesota who made the world a better place with her God given talent, I give my eternal thanks. Today would have been Judy Garland’s 95th birthday. I like to believe that she continues to entertain in Heaven.
I pray that Judy Garland finally found peace and happiness somewhere over the rainbow.