Because of the Wonderful Things He Does

A Few Thoughts on Love from Miss Judy Garland of ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Emily Flouton
Oct 2, 2019 · 6 min read
Illustration by Carmen Johns

Note: The following essay was written for ‘The New York Times’ in 1939 by Judy Garland as promotional material for her new film, ‘The Wizard of Oz.’

It was never published.

Dear Reader,

I must ask you to forgive me before anything else. I can’t imagine why anyone would think I could write an essay. And for The New York Times! What a thing to be asked. Why, everybody knows I’m just a fourteen-year-old farm girl who had the rotten luck to be caught in some weather.

But oh, did you know? Everybody who “knows” this is actually quite wrong. I am far older than fourteen, nearly two entire years older. I’ve never been to Kansas in my life, and my name isn’t Dorothy at all. Still, that does not mean I am qualified to write an essay, and so I expect this to be very poor, bordering on unpublishable hogswaddle.

I’m to address you, unlucky reader, on the subject of Love. Only, what could I know of love? Excepting, of course, what they told me to know: “The next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.” Isn’t that the most precious line? I had tears in my eyes the first four times I said it. Although, as my sweet, green Maggie Hamilton remarked to me while we were sharing a cigarette behind the Emerald City — if I’d stayed in my own backyard, there’d be no picture. (The Wizard of Oz, now playing!)

Love! Love is simply wonderful, wonderful. Yes? It is terribly important, the most important thing in the world. Isn’t it? I suppose. I couldn’t possibly say. Though I do talk about love all over the picture. Just listen to me: “I love you! I love you all!” And if you look at me while you are listening to me, which I hope you will do (or you will be missing out), you will see that as I say it, I look all the way into the eyes of whomever I’m talking to, right to the back of their brain. And I widen my eyes as I say it, stretching them fat and round to prevent any barrier of eyelid between us. You know that I do this, you have seen it. This very publication said something so darling on the subject — that I had “the wonder-lit eyes of a believer in fairy tales.” And I do believe in fairy tales, and in love! Oh, I do! Since you are very special to me, kissable reader, I will tell you my secret: each time I say “I love you,” I think of my clarinet player, my own darling Artie Shaw with his rock wall of a chest and downy slick hair. These thoughts send me into an extraordinary stupor, and then I let love pour from my eyes like an unstoppable stream of seltzer. When I do this, I can tell that the person on the other end of my words, receiving my fake love, loves me back with a violent potency.

Oh, I do! Since you are very special to me, kissable reader, I will tell you my secret: each time I say “I love you,” I think of my clarinet player, my own darling Artie Shaw with his rock wall of a chest and downy slick hair.

The director of The Wizard of Oz (now playing!) — Fleming — he loved me. Yes, he loved my bottom off. He’s as gruff as they say, a real He-Man. And a man like that has to love with a harder kind of love than a woman’s love, which can be so poor and sloppy. Fleming ordered me not to do any of my usual “fancy-schmancy acting.” And I didn’t, did I? No, the acting I did instead was rather better. He gave me plenty of black coffee and cigarettes and those wonderful little pills so I wouldn’t have to eat. I was fatter than a house and he helped me so, bandaging me tight so no trace of woman slipped out. And the costume did fit wonderfully in the end. Just wonderfully. And once, when I couldn’t stop giggling at my clowny Lion, Fleming slapped me in the face and told me to “get to work.” I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for him to do this, because he was terribly fond of me. Love isn’t always comfortable, my ignorant reader. No, it is not.

You love our picture, don’t you? I can feel that you do. I look at it sometimes and I feel like vomiting everywhere in great clumps and streams, remembering. But we love the picture, too! That is why we kept making it for you, even when that aluminum powder got in the first Tin’s lungs and he was nearly did in. We simply fired that Tin and found ourselves a new Tin and carried on, didn’t we? No hospital visits for us! No. Then, when my darling Maggie Hamilton caught her green face on fire and it burned all up, we kept going still — for you, don’t you see? I kept going, even when I was so dizzy from not eating that I passed out in that lovely clump of phony poppies! You wanted the picture, so we made it for you. Yes, you! If it wasn’t for you, then who was it for?

Back to love and my thoughts about it. Yesterday, my true love Artie and I went motoring in my little red convertible. We zipped hither and thither and he told me he finds me radiant, angelic — a great comfort, he says. Only he won’t touch me. He doesn’t find me sexy. He told me he didn’t think I was fat, but he’s obviously lying. He desires an entirely different sort of woman, perhaps the kind whose eyebrows come closer together in the middle. Yet he says I am the very image of perfection. He means the Madonna, I suppose, or a very fine kind of oboe. Sometimes, when I was in Oz, pretending to be a lost and pathetic child, I would gaze at the cornfields painted on the wall and feel my own wall of grey gloom that I could not climb over. This wall never leaves me. I lose myself in Artie’s small eyes and glimmering smile but none of it is for me. I want to leap out of my mind. I don’t care about anyone else, any of you, you know.

He desires an entirely different sort of woman, perhaps the kind whose eyebrows come closer together in the middle. Yet he says I am the very image of perfection.

My true loves in The Wizard of Oz (now playing!) are my three bestest friends! You know about them, all of America does. Even this New York Times does, this New York Times, which was kind enough to point out that the parts of the picture that have those men in it are much better than the parts with just me, alone, stinking up the screen because I am such a wretched excuse for an actress. And I love them, my bestest friends. Grown men. Silly Straw. My clowning Lion. And Tin — my replacement Tin, you’ll remember, after the first Tin almost got did in because of gross negligence. Why, the three of them lead me through the woods and keep me safe and they don’t touch me under my skirt and not one of us ever has to go to the bathroom. Marvelous! If that isn’t love, what is?

Gay Mag

A new magazine from Roxane Gay offering some of the most…

Emily Flouton

Written by

Emily Flouton’s writing has appeared in Tin House, Subtropics, Quarterly West, Hobart, SmokeLong, and other places. She lives in Denver, CO.

Gay Mag

Gay Mag

A new magazine from Roxane Gay offering some of the most interesting and thoughtful cultural criticism to be found on the Web. Our first quarterly is coming in June 2019. We value deep explorations, timelessness, and challenging conventional thinking without being cheap and lazy.

Emily Flouton

Written by

Emily Flouton’s writing has appeared in Tin House, Subtropics, Quarterly West, Hobart, SmokeLong, and other places. She lives in Denver, CO.

Gay Mag

Gay Mag

A new magazine from Roxane Gay offering some of the most interesting and thoughtful cultural criticism to be found on the Web. Our first quarterly is coming in June 2019. We value deep explorations, timelessness, and challenging conventional thinking without being cheap and lazy.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store