Clark Gable sent her lovebirds. Robert Taylor sent her flowers. Jimmy Stewart sent her candy. Marlene Dietrich sent her a cable from half way across the world.
To a little girl lying there in a white hospital bed, it was like some fantastic dream come true, a dream such as all little girls have now and then. But Judy Garland pinched herself and knew it was real. She tasted the candy and smelled the flowers, cooed at the love birds, baptized them Clark and Carole, and re-read the cable.
"But that isn't all," the doctor said. "More flowers have come. They're being arranged now. And Billie Burke sent you a bedspread."
Judy tried not to look too elated. She determined to put all these giddy gloating thoughts under her pillow along with the cable, and looking up at the doctor, she seriously said: "Tell me, what was that medical term you taught me yesterday?"
The doctor smiled: "Polycythemia hypotonia. But I bet you don't remember what that means."
"Oh, yes, I do! Well, that is, I know how you cure it." Judy sat up straight - in spite of her three broken ribs and a punctured lung. "To cure it you perform a venous action!" she recited proudly.
"And what's that?"
Judy's brow wrinkled; she sank back into the whiteness again. "You got me there, pal, unless it's some kind of a blood transfusion."
"Well, that's close enough. Nurse Garland, you have passed the questions for today." He bowed formally and turned to go. "I'll be seeing you!"
All this sounds strange and perhaps a bit fanciful. But it happened, and not so long ago. Judy had been working late at the studio and when she left she asked for a studio car to drive her home. Mama Garland usually drives her to and fro, but Mama herself had been in the hospital and had just left it at four that afternoon.
Another car, speeding through a red light, caught Judy's car in the side. It was a bad accident, a crowd gathered quickly, and when they searched for Judy in the wrechage she wasn't there. They found her a few minutes later in a drug store three blocks away. She was telephoning: "Mom, I just called you to tell you I'd be a little bit late, but not to worry." It was good that they arrived there at that moment, because as Judy hung up the phone she fainted dead away. At six she had been laid on the same bed, in the same room which her mother had vacated two hours before. At six-five the doctor who examined her said that he didn't believe a little girl could walk three blocks in such a broken, shaken condition. But there were witnesses to prove that she had.
So Judy not only lives in a wonderland, but she is a bit of a wonder child herself. On each of the twelve days which she spent there in the hospital some token of love and affection, like those already mentioned, arrived, and she was a marvel in that respect, too, since she did not let it swell her head too much. Some little girls would have never gotten over it had they received the note from Robert Taylor that Judy received, along with his flowers: "Dear little Judy: I hope these will help you to feel better. From your sincere friend and admirer, Bob." But Judy is not some little girls. Judy loved every leaf, bud and word, but there is something that she loves even more, as you gathered when she turned to the doctor and asked him about thing-a-ma-jig Polycythemia, etc.
Ever since Judy was high enough to reach up into the linen closet (in her own home and in innumerable hotels), and to sneak out sheets and towels and anything out of which she could make bandages for her dolls, she has been a little Florence Nightingale, bent on nursing and doctoring the world. Her first words to us, when she left the hospital were: "I'm the luckiest girl in the world! You know what? My doctor has promised to take me with him on his settlement calls and he also said I could come and assist him any time I want. Dangerous?" Judy scoffed. "Say, don't you think we in the profession know how to protect ourselves against contagion?" and she made a gesture across her mouth, indicating that she'd go all mouth-masked in white gauze.
Under her arm, at that time, she was carrying a copy of the novel about an English doctor, "The Citadel." She heartily resented our inference that that must be just a "prop." "No, sir! I've read every word of it! I'm just taking it back to the library now, and I'm exchanging it for "Fight for Life." Say, did you read "Men Against Death"? No? I think it's wonderful. Gee, I'd like to find somebody who's read it so I can talk to them about it. Don't you like to talk over books?"
Her genuine, very simple enthusiasm precludes any possible thought that Judy might be a little precocious about all this. Precocious is the one thing which Judy just ain't. In fact it's the one thing she hates, above everything else and for several years now she has tried to wash herself clean of the very first line which she had to deliver on the Metro lot. She had been at Metro for a year without doing anything, and then came her first break in Broadway Melody. In her first scene, she had to look at Sophie Tucker, playing the part of Mrs. Clayton, her mother, and say, "Aw, the Claytons are all a bunch of hams!" Judy rebelled; she felt it was too fresh, and she begged and begged to have the line omitted or at least changed. Being a very great respecter of her own mother and father (he died two and a half years ago), Judy couldn't understand how any child could make such a bold remark.
But she was forced to go through with the line, and after that all through the picture she was a very unhappy child. She is never happy with such lines and parts, and not until Love Finds Andy Hardy, the latest Judge Hardy picture, did she have a part which she really liked. Then there is the Wizard of Oz, which she is looking forward to. Mervyn Le Roy selected her for the prize-plum part of Dorothy, and Judy is beaming, not only because the part is wonderful, but because the picture is to be in Technicolor, and she is going to wear a light wig with long golden curls.
"Of course I want to be beautiful!" she said, "And Adrian - he's doing my costumes - says I am going to be beautiful in this one! And I want to grow up to be very beautiful, too." Then her cute little face with its up-at-the-end nose suddenly looked sad. "Only I probably won't. But I do try. I take awfully good care of myself. I don't ever smoke or drink - I hate anything that has even the littlest fizz to it, even coca-cola. And I pay a lot of attention to my hands and even to my--" Then she stopped and looked embarrassed. But her eyes gave her away. They went quickly to her feet, to the low-heeled, open-toed sandals, out of which dainty pink and white toes peeked. "Isn't that silly?" she laughed. "I cold cream my feet every night, just like I do my hands and face!"
Far from silly, it's a sane tip that every young girl should incorporate in her beauty ritual. Naturally, being in the midst of the world's most famous glamour spot, Judy is more conscious of the search for beauty than most little girls. She also has quite a bit more experience with other things - dates, boys, clothes and social life, and all those things which fill the dreams of every fifteen-year-old.
Judy, for one thing, has not been spared the beautiful misery of having a crush on a movie star. One afternoon not so long ago she went to a picture with a little friend, Betty Jane Graham, and they both sat enraptured as Tyrone Power moved before them there on the screen. Afterwards, in the glaring sunlight, they both looked at each other, blinked and each saw the story written on the other's face. They had both fallen madly in love with Mr. Power. "That's bad," Judy reasoned honestly, as they moved on down the street, toward the nearest drug store. "You know how it's been, when we've both been in love with the same boy before?"
"Yes, I know, we were almost not friends," Betty remembered sadly.
"All right," said Judy, suddenly inspired, as they reached the soda fountain. "Two chocolate cones, double," she told the boy behind the counter. When they each had their cones in hand, Judy raised hers aloft and made a toast: "Here's to never allowing the name of Tyrone Power to cross our lips. We will never speak of him again." Betty nodded in solemn agreement, and with an elaborate lick against the chocolate cream they sealed the bargain and drank (or shall we say dissolved) the toast down!
Among her real life beaus are Jackie Cooper, Leonard Sues, Billy Hallop, one of the Dead End boys, and occasionally Mickey Rooney. But they do not call Judy for a date. As any well-mannered young man should do (also a diplomatic one), they get mama on the phone first. Mama usually says, "Yes, Judy would like to go." (Judy at her side, all whispers and grins, has already told her so.) Then the young man asks what time Mrs. Garland will want Judy to be home. If there is just a movie and a bite to eat afterward on the schedule, Mrs. Garland usually sets eleven as the time and that does not mean one minute after. Or if there is a party and it's a Saturday night one, she allows a little longer. On a Saturday or so ago, when there were two parties, Mrs. Garland gave them until twelve o'clock. At twelve promptly Mrs. Garland was aroused from her slumber to hear young Master Jackie Cooper's voice on the phone. "Oh, Mrs. Garland, let me tell you what happened. We went to the first party and it wasn't very good so we went to a movie, and there were two features and three shorts and we only arrived here at the second party just a little while ago, and there's no sign of them bringing out food yet, and I just wondered...."
"All right, Jackie, make it twelve-thirty, then."
A half hour passed and Mrs. Garland had just dropped off to sleep when the phone rang again. "They never did bring out the food, Mrs. Garland! So, if it's all right with you we thought we'd stop at a drive-in. We're going there now, and you needn't worry because you know I drive carefully."
"That's all right, Jackie, I understand. You just get something to eat and then get here as quickly as you can."
She was only allowed a fifteen minute interval of peace this next time. "Well, I asked for it," Mrs. Garland said to herself as she fumbled again for the light."
"Mrs. Garland, I'm sorry, but it's so crowded here at the drive-in and the service is so slow..."
Judy's mother had a bright idea. "Jackie, why don't you all come here? There's plenty of chicken and roast lamb in the ice box. You could all--"
"Oh, thank you!" Shouted Jackie. "That's what we were hoping for in the first place!"
Kids are kids, even Hollywood kids, and five minutes later they were there!
But of all Judy's loves, Clark Gable is the closest to her heart. She does have one other too, and he is Roger Eden [sic], who has written several songs for her and who makes her arrangements. But her adoration for him is a little different. Of him, she says, "I know no one could ever really take my father's place, but Roger comes the nearest." It was Roger, too, in a way who introduced her to Gable. Over a year ago he wrote a song for her which was called "Dear Mr. Gable," and Judy was asked to sing it to Clark at his birthday party. Judy stood at one end of the piano and Clark stood at the other. They had never met, but across the width of the piano Judy, stage-frightened for the first time in her life, sang him the song-letter which told him of her love. After that they became good friends, but that is not the finale of the story. A year passed and another Gable birthday rolled around; another party was to be given for him on the set; and Roger wrote new words for the "Dear Mr. Gable" song, and Judy was asked to sing it to him again. But when Judy read the words she saw that they were full of ribbing and teasing, to full of "love stuff." "Oh no," she said, "I can't sing that. He might not understand." Gable not understand a joke! They told her that that was impossible, so in the end she agreed.
However, it was still a trembly little girl who stood up there a second time to sing to her idol. Her yellow-brown eyes watched his intensely. It's a foregone conclusion that if she had not seen the grin spread over his face, she would have burst into tears.
As she sang the last line, "King Gable, I still love you," the audience and Gable, too, responded with much laughter and applause. Then in the midst of the excitement, Clark felt a gentle tug at his hand. "You're not mad?" whispered a frightened voice. "I should say not - and listen here, young lady, get on your tiptoes because I've got a whisper for you too!"
What he whispered Judy won't tell, but we have an idea that it was the last line of the song, but with Judy's name substituted for his own."