More Than You Know: An Open Letter to Judy Garland from Billy Rose

News articles about Judy Garland circa 1949 and 1950 are terribly depressing. More than one article chronicles her cry for help, her delays on Annie Get Your Gun, Summer Stock and Royal Wedding, her possible break up from MGM, her definite break up and make up with Minnelli,  her fight with "plumpness," and her exhaustion.

Thus, it was like finding an oasis in the desert of negative rhetoric, when I stumbled across the following article from September 1, 1950. It is an open letter to Judy Garland written by Broadway producer and lyricist Billy Rose for his syndicated column, "Pitching Horseshoes."
Click the picture to enlarge

Rose recounts how watching Garland's latest movie, Summer Stock, lifted him out of his own funk. He says in part,

"You see, Judy, I hadn't seen you on the screen in quite a while, and I had almost fogotten [sic] how all-fired good you are. I found your portrayal of a farm girl in 'Summer Stock' as convincing as a twenty-dollar gold peice, and when you leveled on Harold Arlen's old song, ' Get Happy' - well, it was Al Jolson in lace panties, Maurice Chevalier in opera pumps! From credit flash to fadeout, I was happy when you were happy and weepy when you were weepy, and by the time the picture was over, Babydoll, you had turned my personal jim-jams into Jim-dandies.

.... Well, like everyone else, I read the front-page stories about you a couple of months back, and from the lines between the lines I sensed that you had been having a bout of the jim-jams yourself....

It gets down to this Judy: In an oblique and daffy sort of way, you are as much a national asset as our coal reserves - both of you help to warm up our insides....

It's probably silly of me to address you as if you were a two-bit Joan of Arc, but to my bedazzled eyes that's about the way you shape up in the entertainment world. And that's why I'm hoping that by the time you wind up your vacation at Lake Tahoe you'll have licked whatever was bothering you and be rarin' to strut your stuff again before the cameras."

This is an experienced and concerned showman in his own gentle way telling the 29 year old star, "Buck up, kid; you're more important than you know. Now get to work." His self-conscious use of the words "daffy," "silly" and "two-bit," to describe his own letter makes this personal note even more endearing.

Garland would later receive more bad press about her health, career and finances, but for one brief moment, someone reached out to help her.


  1. Fun letter ... and despite his crazy jargon, he is right about her in that film.

  2. Thank you so much for posting this. When reading about Judy's life during this period, we hear about all the bad stuff, the hard stuff, the struggles, the rejection, the marital and professional separations. It's easy to think that it was all dark and gloomy. So it was very refreshing to hear a contemporary account of the effect that Judy's work had on members of her audience at that time. Especially coming from someone like Billy Rose who knew a thing or two about entertainment!

  3. This is a lovely letter, coming at a difficult time. It's nice to see such an encouraging pep talk from an entertainment insider. Thanks for posting!


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