On Eve Of Judy Garland’s 100th Birthday, Grand Rapids Museum Showcases Star’s Memorabilia – WCCO

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A northern Minnesota city is home to a movie star legend. Judy Garland would have turned 100 next year. In Finding Minnesota this week, John Lauritsen followed Yellow Brick Road to the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids.

We all know the origin of this timeless song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. But how many fans actually know the origin of the actress who sang it?

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“She was born in the hospital as Frances Ethel Gumm,” said curator John Kelsch.

Before she changed her name to Judy Garland, “Baby Gumm” (as she was called) spent her formative years in the Iron Range, where her vaudeville parents ran a cinema. As the youngest of three sisters, she was well on her way to fame before her family left northern Minnesota for southern California.

“We can see her in Bemidji, Hibbing, Aitkin singing in these different film houses,” said Kelsch.

The Grand Rapids house where Garland lived still has the original hardwood floors and stairs, and the basement below contains a treasure trove of Garland artifacts.

Much of what you will find below are donations, which Curator Kelsch will keep to the best of his ability. This includes 200 of Garland’s personal tapes, many of which have never been heard of.

“We have 10, 20 years of work with this collection ahead of us,” said Kelsch, adding that it doesn’t feel like work. “That’s the fun part.”

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What makes the thousands of fans who visit the museum fun each year is the history tour of Garland’s life. From “The Wizard of Oz” to “Easter Parade” she played in more than 30 films, a leading actress alongside leading actors such as Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire. There are relics from her films everywhere.

But one of Garland’s most famous film treasures is nowhere to be found. In 2005, thieves broke into the museum and stole the ruby ​​red slippers. Thanks to the chief of police and the FBI, they were found in Minneapolis 13 years later. The museum hopes to get her back when the FBI closes the investigation.

“We actually have people who get a little tears in their eyes when they go through there, because it’s so well done and beautiful,” said managing director Janie Heitz.

Heitz was instrumental in promoting Garland’s legacy here and in California. It definitely helps to be tied to one of the most watched movies in history. She just wants visitors to know they are no longer in Kansas, but in Grand Rapids.

“She is just a timeless person in and of itself. Your life and legacy will live on for many years to come, ”said Heitz.

Garland actually visited Grand Rapids one last time in 1938, just before The Wizard of Oz was released.

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She died in 1969. Next June, her 100th birthday will be celebrated in the museum.

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