The Judy Garland Study Enigma

By: Al Wittnebert

She was born on June 10th 1922 to vaudeville entertainers Frank and Ethel Gumm of Grand Rapids, Minnesota and given the name Francis Ethel Gumm.

Changing her name to Judy Garland on the advise of entertainer George Jessel in 1934, she worked for nearly forty five of her forty seven years in show business. Judy Garland captured the world’s imagination by her talent and stage presence. Her name was known worldwide and she had millions of adoring fans. She appeared in over thirty-two feature films, did voice over work for two more, and made over a half dozen short subjects. She had her own television series and guest stared on many other shows. Judy had a nightclub act which toured the world between 1951 and 1969 and recorded over one hundred single recordings and twelve albums. For four decades she danced, sang and entertained us.

Signed to an exclusive contract with MGM in 1935, Judy went on to make movies that to this day are as popular as ever, including the incomparable Wizard of Oz.

Garland led a tumultuous personal life, having been drug dependent since her teens, suffering bouts of depression, financial ruin and five failed marriages. Her death at age forty seven, ruled as an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, was a great shock to her fans. Photos taken during her last years showed a bloated Garland looking far older than her years.

Even though she has been dead for over forty years, her popularity has not diminished.

Her recordings still sell, her movies are still watched, and she holds our dreams in her hands when we hear “Over the Rainbow”.

Judy Garland’s varied signature patterns over her career have confused collectors and dealers alike. In many instances it appears that a good many autographs of Garland’s were thought to be secretarials and forgeries because of these variations.

In order to better understand her signature variations, we have to first divide known autographs in to three separate stages of her life. They should be divided in to Juvenile, Adolescent and Adult time frames.

Her Juvenile and Adolescent signatures are rare given the fact that from 1939 to 1945, Judy was receiving more mail than any other star at MGM where she worked, including Mickey Rooney. Both Rooney and garland utilized personal secretaries and the MGM publicity department to respond to autograph requests in the mail during those years. Most were pre-printed photos and easy to spot.

I have illustrated a number of the common varieties of Judy Garland’s autograph so that you can compare to what you have or are going to purchase.