Judy Garland: An American Icon

Singer and actress Judy Garland (June 10, 1922–June 22, 1969) achieved fame and success early on. At 13, she quickly gained popularity among studio executives through her films with costar Mickey Rooney. Garland received a special Oscar in 1940 for outstanding performances as a juvenile screen actor, including her role as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz (1939). The Smithsonian is home to the famous Ruby Slippers that Garland wore in the movie. Her 1939 Decca recording of “Over the Rainbow” is not the version featured in the film, but it reached no. 5 on the Billboard charts in 1939 and became her signature song. The song also endeared her to the gay community, which identified not only with the song but also with Dorothy who non-judgmentally welcomed a host of unique characters she met along the “yellow brick road.” Garland became an icon to the gay community for her humanity, personal struggles, and fabulous camp style.