Entertainer Judy Garland was both one of the greatest and one of the most tragic figures in American show business. The daughter of a pushy stage mother, Garland and her sisters were forced into a vaudeville act called the Gumm Sisters (her real name), which appeared in movie shorts and at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. It was clear from the outset that Judy was the star of the act, and, as such, was signed by MGM as a solo performer in 1936. The studio adored Garland's adult-sounding singing but was concerned about her puffy facial features and her curvature of the spine. MGM decided to test both Garland and another teenage contractee, Deanna Durbin, in a musical "swing vs. the classics" short subject entitled Every Sunday (1936). The studio had planned to keep Durbin and drop Garland, but, through a corporate error, the opposite took place. Nevertheless, MGM decided to allow Garland her feature film debut in another studio's production, just in case the positive audience response to Every Sunday was a fluke.
Loaned to 20th Century Fox, Garland was ninth-billed in Pigskin Parade (1936), but stole the show with her robust renditions of "Balboa" and "Texas Tornado." Garland returned to MGM in triumph and was given better opportunities to show her stuff: the "Dear Mr. Gable" number in Broadway Melody of 1938, "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart" in Listen, Darling (1938), and so on. When MGM planned to star 20th Century Fox's Shirley Temple in The Wizard of Oz, Garland almost didn't get her most celebrated role, but the deal fell through and she was cast as Dorothy. But even after this, the actress nearly lost her definitive screen moment when the studio decided to cut the song "Over the Rainbow," although finally kept the number after it tested well in previews.