Friday, June 10, 2016

JUDY GARLAND AND THE GUMM SISTERS

Everyone who is a classic movie fan knows the tragic story of Judy Garland. She was one of the most talented entertainers of all-time, but she is also one of the most tragic. Many people do not know the story of Garland's sisters as well. From 1924 to about 1934 the trio of girls toured as the Gumm Sisters and then The Garland Sisters.

In 1928, the Gumm Sisters enrolled in a dance school run by Ethel Meglin, proprietress of the Meglin Kiddies dance troupe. They appeared with the troupe at its annual Christmas show. Through the Meglin Kiddies, they made their film debut in a 1929 short subject called The Big Revue, where they performed a song-and-dance number called "That's the good old sunny south". This was followed by appearances in two Vitaphone shorts the following year, A Holiday in Storyland (featuring Garland's first on-screen solo) and The Wedding of Jack and Jill. They next appeared together in Bubbles. Their final on-screen appearance came in 1935, in another short entitled La Fiesta de Santa Barbara.

In 1934, the trio, who by then had been touring the vaudeville circuit as "The Gumm Sisters" for many years, performed in Chicago at the Oriental Theater with George Jessel. He encouraged the group to choose a more appealing name after "Gumm" was met with laughter from the audience. According to theatrical legend, their act was once erroneously billed at a Chicago theater as "The Glum Sisters". However that did not matter because when young Judy's star rose, the sisters faded into the back ground.


Mary Jane Gumm (1915-1964) was the oldest daughter of vaudevillians Frank and Ethel Gumm and future older sister of the actress Judy Garland. She was raised in Grand Rapids and, along with her younger sister Virginia 'Jimmie', performed a dancing act at their father's vaudeville theater known as The Gumm Sisters, while their mother played the piano. The sisters had tremendous talent, although they were nothing compared to their youngest sister Baby Frances, the future Judy Garland. Their mother continuously kept trying with all three of her daughters and after moving from their home in Minnesota in 1927 when Mary Jane was 12, they began to go for auditions in shows and bigger more famous nightclubs. After some bad reviews, Mary Jane decided that a life of show business wasn't what she wanted and, along with Jimmie, she backed out only to perform at their father's vaudeville theater in 1930. She later went on to marry Lee Kahn and changed her name to Suzanne Kahn. Then later married band conductor Jack Cathcart, who ended up leaving her for a younger woman. Suzanne succumbed to alcoholism and eventually committed suicide in May 1964 at the age of 48. From all accounts, Judy was estranged from sister Mary Jane at the time of Mary's death,

The other Gumm Sister was Virginia Gumm. She was born on July 4, 1917 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, USA as Dorothy Virginia Gumm. She was an actress, known for La Fiesta de Santa Barbara (1935), The Wedding of Jack and Jill (1940) and The Harvey Girls (1946). She was married to Johnny Thompson and Bobby Sherwood. She died on May 27, 1977 in Dallas, Texas, USA. Virginia had a daughter, Judy Gail "Judaline," with her husband, musician Bobby Sherwood. Judaline means "little Judy" in Jewish and was originally the endearing nickname given to Judy Garland by one of her directors when she was a child. The name was subsequently used by the family to differentiate between "Big" Judy and "Little" Judy). Judaline loved the name so much she had it made legal when she grew up. She was born in May 1938 and was named after her aunt, actress Judy Garland. Her daughter sadly died in the 1980s. In the Gumm family, Judy was not the only family member that had a hard time finding happiness over the rainbow....


2 comments:

  1. I was just looking for information on the Gumm Sisters yesterday. Totally on point that you posted something today. What are the odds?

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  2. Good article. I've wondered about Judy's sisters, what became of them. Thank you for posting.

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