A radiant 15-year-old Judy Garland sang “You Made Me Love You” to a photo of Clark Gable in Broadway Melody of 1938 (actually released in 1937 with the tagline, “So new it’s a year ahead!”). But the original song was first published in 1913 and sung to a pre World War I generation by the likes of Al Jolson.
MGM resurrected “You Made Me Love You,” added a few lyrics, and had a then unknown teen serenade Clark with the new version at his 36th birthday party on a movie set. Louis B. Mayer recognized a hit when he saw one and ordered that the musical fan letter be showcased in the next song and dance film available, which just happened to be Broadway Melody of 1938.
Dear Mr. Gable,
I am writing this to you
and I hope that you will read it so you’ll know
My heart beats like a hammer
and I stutter and I stammer
every time I see you at the picture show.
I guess I’m just another fan of yours
and I thought I’d write and tell you so…
And so a new career was launched.
Looking at Judy and her scrapbook, I think of my own mother telling me how she and her friends used to cut out pictures of stars from movie magazines and trade them with one another to get more of their favorites. Mom’s top two were Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. I wonder if she ever sent him a similar fan letter after seeing Rose-Marie or Naughty Marietta.
Unfortunately, for Judy and Clark, MGM repeatedly asked her to sing the song to him at his birthday parties through the years until they both probably wished it had never been written. But we can still enjoy the magic of the best fan letter ever sung.
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