How Did Judy Garland Die? Her Tragic Journey Over the Rainbow

how did judy garland die
A promotional shot of Judy Garland from the 1940s. Image is in Public Domain.

She was a beautiful girl with the perfect complexion, porcelain skin, and a voice that captured the hearts of professionals and audiences around the country.

Judy Garland was one of the most prominent film stars of the 20th century, and it’s no wonder with her string of hit movies that gave us some of the most popular songs in cinematic history. That’s why her untimely death came as a shock to fans everywhere.

How did Judy Garland Die? Find out that answer and more below.

What Was the Official Cause of Death for Judy Garland?

Judy Garland died of an accidental barbiturate overdose.

Coroner Gavin Thurston said it was “an incautious self-overdosage” as her bloodstream included the equivalent of ten 97 milligram Seconal capsules.

There was no evidence that she was suicidal, he added.

Following the autopsy, it was indicated that the overdose was caused by a long period of taking the drug. This was concluded by the lack of inflammation in Garland’s stomach lining and nonexistent residue in her stomach.

Garland’s physician backed up the coroner’s claims as a half-empty prescription bottle of the barbiturate pills was found by her bedside, and a bottle containing 100 pills remained unopened.

That isn’t the answer for all who wonder about Judy Garland’s death.

In 1972 her daughter, Liza Minnelli, said she thought exhaustion and the feeling of never being good enough is what really killed her mother.

“She let her guard down. She didn’t die from an overdose. I think she just got tired. She lived like a taut wire. I don’t think she ever looked for real happiness because she always thought happiness would mean the end.”

Her Wizard of Oz co-star, Ray Bolger, shared that sentiment at her funeral: “She just plain wore out.”

judy garland
A publicity still of Judy Garland from MGM used in conjunction with promotion of The Harvey Girls (1946). Image is in the Public Domain.

Where Was Judy Garland Found When She Died?

Like so many other tragic celebrity deaths, including the King of Rock n Roll himself, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland was found dead in the bathroom of a house she was renting in Cadogan Lane, Belgravia, London.

Related: 32 Interesting Facts About Elvis Presley

When Did Judy Garland Die?

Judy Garland died on June 22, 1969.

How Old Was Judy Garland When She Died?

Judy Garland was only 47 years old at the time of her death.

Judy Garland’s Funeral

As one of the most popular Hollywood icons of the time, it’s no surprise that her funeral, held in New York City on June 26, 1969, attracted more than 20,000 people.

The crowd was so large that the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan remained open overnight so all could pay their respects.

Mourners could view Garland dressed in the same silk, gray gown she wore for her wedding to her last husband, Mickey Deans.

The Episcopal funeral service, led by Reverend Peter Delaney, was held the next day. English actor James Mason, her A Star is Born co-star, gave the eulogy at the funeral.

“Judy’s great gift was that she could wring tears out of hearts of rock,” he said during the eulogy. “She gave so richly and so generously that there was no currency in which to repay her.”

No one from the press or the public was allowed during the funeral service.

Where is Judy Garland Buried?

Initially, after her death and funeral services, Judy Garland’s remains were interred at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, approximately 24 miles north of midtown Manhattan. She was buried in a crypt in the community mausoleum.

Just two years shy of five decades after her death, her remains were disinterred from Ferncliff Cemetery and re-interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, 2,800 miles across the country. It was done at the request of her children in January 2017.

Related: How Did Loretta Lynn Die?

What Were Judy Garland’s Last Words?

Judy Garland’s last words have never been known.

Who is Judy Garland?

Judy Garland was an American actress, singer, and little darling with a versatile performance quality. These things led her to become one of the most prominent film stars and performers throughout the 20th century.

judy garland beautiful
Publicity photograph of Judy Garland around 1950. Image is in the public domain.

Judy Garland’s Real Name

Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm. The journey to being known as Judy Garland was a long one.

First came the change to her last name in 1934.

She and her sisters, who were performing together at the time as “The Gumm Sisters,” were encouraged to change to “a more appealing name” by American vaudeville performer George Jessel. He did so because of the audience laughter that came when they were introduced while performing with him at the Oriental Theater in Chicago, Illinois.

Another Chicago Theater had also incorrectly billed them as “The Glum Sisters.”

The choice to go with the last name of Garland has had several stories over the years. One was that Jessel chose it in tribute to the Lily Garland character in the 1934 film Twentieth Century. 

The second story is that the girls chose it after Robert Garland, a drama critic. Another rumored story was that it was chosen after Jessel said that the sisters “looked prettier than a garland of flowers.”

We may never know which is true, but no matter which it is, we think they made the right choice.

That choice was only made stronger when she changed her first name to “Judy” not long after. That story is less elusive. She chose the name after the popular Hoagy Carmichael song, “Judy.”

Related: How Did Gordon Lightfoot Die?

When was Judy Garland Born?

Judy Garland’s birthdate is June 10, 1922.

As a June baby, Judy Garland’s zodiac sign is Gemini. It’s no wonder she has had such a successful career considering Gemini’s expressive and quick-witted nature.

Where Was Judy Garland From?

Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Judy Garland’s Ethnicity

While Judy Garland was American, her lineage includes Irish, English, and Scottish. She was also of French Huguenot ancestry, a branch of French Protestantism that stayed with the Reformed or Calvinist tradition.

young judy garlad
Publicity still released by MGM of Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, and Louis B. Mayer. Image is in the Public Domain.

How Tall Was Judy Garland?

Judy Garland’s height was 4’11”.

How Much Did Judy Garland Weigh?

Judy Garland’s weight was only 108 pounds.

Where Did Judy Garland Live?

Judy Garland was known to live in several places. She grew up in Minnesota and California. She was also known to live in London, which is where she died.

How Did Judy Garland Become Famous?

Judy Garland’s career all started when she joined her older sisters, Mary Jane “Suzy” and Dorothy Virginia “Jimmie,” on stage to perform “Jingle Bells” at their parents’ movie theater. Garland was only two at the time.

After years of performing with her sisters at the theater, with their mom playing piano, they were enrolled in a dance school in Lancaster, California.

With more success garnered over the next few years in dance and performing, the group performed in California, Chicago, and more before ultimately breaking up in August 1935, when her sister Suzy married musician Lee Kahn and moved with him to Reno, Nevada.

That change turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the very next month, she was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Studios in Culver City at just 13 years old after performing “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” and the Yiddish song “Eli, Eli.”

Although the next few years were a struggle because her age made her too old to start as a child star and too young to take on adult roles, as well as personal matters and issues with her appearance amidst studio executives urging her to lose weight, the best was yet to come.

Thanks to the unsuccessful attempts to recruit Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox and Deanna Durbin, Judy Garland landed the role of her career as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Ozalongside legendary actors Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Margaret Hamilton, and more.

judy garland in the wizard of oz
Publicity photo of American entertainer, Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale promoting the Sunday March 20, 1977 CBS television broadcast of the 1939 MGM feature film The Wizard of Oz. Image is in the Public Domain.

How Old Was Judy Garland When She Played Dorothy?

One of Judy Garland’s most prominent film roles came in 1938 when, at the tender age of 16, she was cast as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Based on a 1900 children’s book of the same name by L. Frank Baum, her star-making moment in the hit movie was her performance of “Over the Rainbow,” which would prove to be her signature tune.

The movie launched her to critical fame and success, and her first and only Academy Award – the Academy Juvenile Award – which had only been received by only three others before her and eight after her.

Related: 21 Best Movie Theme Songs of All Time

Judy Garland’s Career

Judy Garland soared for many years following her Wizard of Oz success.

One of the next biggest Judy Garland movies included Meet Me in St. Louis in 1944, which brought about even more popular Judy Garland songs, including “The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

She also held prominent roles in films like The Clock in 1945, The Harvey Girls in 1946, and Easter Parade in 1948. Her next Academy Award nomination for Best Actress came with her performance in 1954’s A Star is Born. 

Along with her prominent film career, Judy Garland made many appearances on Bing Crosby’s radio show Kraft Music Hall.

She delved into many concert tours, which revamped her career after many struggles with drugs and other influences that tarnished her film career.

One of the biggest Judy Garland tours was a four-month-long one in Britain and Ireland in 1951.

“I suddenly knew that this was the beginning of a new life … Hollywood thought I was through; then came the wonderful opportunity to appear at the London Palladium, where I can truthfully say Judy Garland was reborn,” Garland said of the tour.

Her singing career only continued to blossom with several Judy Garland albums.

Her most famous was when she did a live recording in 1961 titled Judy at Carnegie Hall, which would later win her the Album of the Year title at the Grammy Awards.

Garland’s later career included the start of her Emmy-nominated television series, The Judy Garland Show, which ran from 1963-1964.

Judy Garland’s Net Worth

Despite her prominent career, Judy Garland’s net worth was approximately $40,000 when she died. Much of this was due to her financial troubles over the years, often finding herself owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes.

Part of this was due to the bad management of her representatives and staff, but she was also, at times, overly generous toward her family and philanthropic causes.

This left her in such dire straights that many of the stipulations made in her will could not be fulfilled.

To pay off her mother’s debt, Liza Minelli called on Frank Sinatra, a long-time family friend, to help work it off.

Part of this included auctioning off several of Garland’s personal items. The nearly 500 items had everything from copper cookware to musical arrangements. The auction raised $250,000 for her designated heirs.

Related: Frank Sinatra’s Net Worth: The Life of a Music Legend

Judy Garland’s Children

Judy Garland still made some time for family during her busy career life, making the answer to the question “Did Judy Garland ever have children?” yes.

The oldest of Judy Garland’s children was her daughter, Liza Minelli, born on March 12, 1946.

Judy Garland’s second daughter, Lorna Luft, was born on November 21, 1952, and was soon followed by Judy Garland’s son, Joey Luft, born on March 29, 1955.

judy garland children
Original studio photo of Judy Garland in 1939. Image is in the Public Domain

Who Was Judy Garland Married To?

As crazy as her career was, Judy Garland’s love life was even crazier. 

How many times did Judy Garland marry? A whopping five times. 

British-born American songwriter and composer Davis Rose was Judy Garland’s husband first, but the marriage only lasted three years (1941-1944). 

Her second marriage was to stage director Vincente Minelli. The six-year marriage (1945-1951) resulted in her first child, Liza Minelli. 

Sidney Luft, a businessman, was the third man to steal Garland’s heart and was her longest marriage of the five (1952-1965). Her second daughter, Lorna, and her only son, Joey, came from that marriage. 

Actor Mark Herron came next, but the marriage lasted only from 1965 to 1969. That marriage was tumultuous, ending in Garland claiming that Herron had beaten her on multiple occasions. 

The final marriage came just three months before Garland’s death.

Mickey Deans was a musician and entrepreneur. There were a lot of questions about that pairing partly because of the significant age difference between the two.

How much older was Judy Garland than Mickey? Twelve years, but love has no age limit, so it didn’t bother either of them. To this day, he’s the answer to the question, “Who was Judy Garland’s true love?” 

Related: How Did Marilyn Monroe Die?

Did Judy Garland Lose Custody of Her Kids?

Following her divorce from her third husband, Sidney Luft, Garland did lose primary custody of her two younger children.

Judy Garland’s Parents

Judy Garland was the youngest child of Ethel Marion and Francis “Frank” Avent Gumm.

Her parents ran a vaudeville movie theater in Grand Rapids, which may be the explanation for their daughter’s being bitten by the showbiz bug.

Judy Garland’s Legacy

No matter what trials she may have had throughout life, it’s no secret that Judy Garland’s legacy still lives on.

She will forever be immortalized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with dual stars, one for her film work and one for her recording career.

Her films remain classics in the world of Hollywood that are still viewed today and passed on for many more generations to enjoy.

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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