Judy Garland being welcomed by Columbus Mayor Myron Gessaman (photo courtesy of Ohio History Connection)
Ohio Life

Judy Garland Visits Columbus

In March 1938, actress and singer Judy Garland appeared and performed in our capital city as part of a tour promoting her new film. 

Nearly a year and a half before Judy Garland appeared on screen as Dorothy Gale in “The Wizard of Oz,” the then-15-year-old starlet made a stop in Columbus to promote her newly released film, “Everybody Sing.”

The visit was an eventful one for Garland. It included live performances at the city’s Ohio Theatre, a presentation of the “Heart of Columbus” from Mayor Myron Gessaman and even being named “Sweetheart” of the Alpha Gamma Chapter of the Sigma Chi Fraternity at Ohio State University. Chapter president Phillip Hughes presented Garland with the fraternity’s pin on stage during one of her performances at the Ohio Theatre, according to a report of the visit detailed in the March 28, 1938, edition of Life Magazine. Garland was then “whisked to the chapter house” for dinner.

“A milk toast was drunk to Judy Garland’s health following the fraternity dinner attended by 90 Ohio State Sigma Chis,” Life Magazine reported.

A few months after her visit to Columbus, a tale of one young fan’s tenacity made the news as well. The Ames Daily Tribune of Ames, Iowa, reported in its July 30, 1938, edition that a 15-year-old fan had recorded Garland’s performance at the Ohio Theatre and sent her the film. Russell Leach, a high school student from Bexley, brought along his 16mm camera when he attended Garland’s Columbus performances. He reportedly sat in a box so he would not be noticed, focusing his camera on the actress for both nights of her engagements and filming the entire act.

“From him the young Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer singer has received a tin film can containing a large roll of film,” the newspaper report noted.

The young fan also sent Garland his regrets that the film was silent, explaining that he couldn’t get his sound equipment into the theater.