best film:   The Wizard of Oz is a masterpiece and one of the all-time greats for both fantasy films and musicals. The story and performances (nobody in the rest of the strong supporting cast is anywhere near Garland in terms of her achievement here) are key to the film’s success. It is a wonderful film to get lost in. Meet Me in St. Louis and A Star is Born are second and third in this category- but this is clearly her best.


In Hollywood’s Golden Year of 1939, seventeen (17) year-old Judy Garland became a star in The Wizard of Oz.



best performance:   The Wizard of Oz. Garland’s achievement here is monumental. Her scene performing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is the star-maker and full arrival of an actress and future celluloid icon. Garland’s Dorothy is as sympathetic a character as they come. Another way to think about Garland’s value here is to try to picture another actress in this role- impossible to imagine.


stylistic innovations/traits:    Garland had roughly thirty (30) total screen credits as an actor after subtracting shorts and vocal work. This is a low number for any Hollywood actor during the Golden Era of the 1930s and 1940s especially when Garland started working for MGM as a teen. Garland had only nine (9) archiveable films- a low number for any actor on this list. Garland passed away at age forty-seven (47) but seven (7) of her nine (9) archiveable films were made before she turned twenty-seven (27). Still, very few actors can match her top three performances. Garland is a uniquely gifted both actor and musician and, of course, both skill sets are on brilliant display in The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis and A Star is Born. She gives one of the best performances of the year in 1939, 1944 and 1954. Garland is a better singer than she is a classically trained actor- but that is not insult to her as an actor- but praise for her talents as a singer.


Garland as Vicki Lester in 1954’s A Star is Born. This is the strongest version of the often-updated tale.



directors worked with:   Vincent Minnelli (3) and then George Cukor, Victor Fleming once.


It does not quite touch her work in The Wizard of Oz or A Star is Born– but Garland’s third big film- Meet Me in St. Louis– separates her resume from many actors historically.



top five performances:

  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. A Star is Born
  3. Meet Me in St. Louis
  4. Easter Parade
  5. The Clock




archiveable films

1937- Broadway Melody of 1938
1939- Babes in Arms
1939- The Wizard of Oz
1944- Meet Me in St. Louis
1945- The Clock
1948- Easter Parade
1948- The Pirate
1954- A Star Is Born
1961- Judgment at Nuremberg