Whirl from the everyday on the black wings of a tornado - to the mystic land of Oz! See an old lady knitting on a cloud; a cow milked sky-high! In Munchkinland you meet Toto, the wonder dog, and the White Witch...who may give you magic slippers like Dorothy's to take you safely to Oz. Meet the harum-scarum Scarecrow, hanging on a post. Hear him sing his sorrowful song. He is searching for a brain. Dance down the Yellow Brick Road with Dorothy and the Scarecrow, thru orchards of apple trees which pick their fruit and throw it, too! Greet the rusty Tin Man. Oil him up a bit so he can creak out his sad tale - he seeks a heart and doesn't know where to find it. Laugh at the plaintive Cowardly Lion - in need of courage - the things that befall this merry-mad company fairly set his tail on end...Beware the dangers of the Haunted Forest as you go. Don't let the black witch...and her guards, the Winged Monkeys and the Giant Winkies head you off! Just beyond is the glistening Emerald City - and the wonderful Wizard of Oz who makes every wish come true.
[from a 1939 MGM magazine ad]
MGM, 1939 (Sepia/Color, 100 minutes, Production No. 1060)
Buddy Ebsen originally played the Tin Man, but after several weeks of filming, he became very ill. It turned out he had a serious allergic reaction to the aluminum powder in his face makeup, and very nearly died. Rather than hold up production, MGM decided to replace Ebsen with Jack Haley. If you listen closely, you can hear Buddy Ebsen's voice in two choruses of "We're Off to See the Wizard" (the Tin Man scene and the Lion scene), which the production staff decided to not re-record.
Early on in the project, Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Scarecrow and Ray Bolger was cast as the Tin Man. However, Bolger complained that he had stipulated in his MGM contract that if MGM ever produced The Wizard of Oz, he wanted to play the Scarecrow. So, the two actors switched roles.
The Shirley Temple story has been greatly exaggerated over the years. Shirley was never seriously considered for the part of Dorothy. Arthur Freed had approached L.B. Mayer in 1937 to get permission to buy the movie rights to The Wizard of Oz expressly as a vehicle for Judy Garland. Everyone on the lot was certainly aware of Judy's talents, and they were all determined to make Judy into a major star.
During early stages of planning, it became clear that Oz would be a costly project - it turned out to be MGM's most expensive film to date. Executives at Loewes, Inc., owner of MGM, were nervous about having Judy in the lead of such an expensive film, since her box office popularity was -- as yet -- not well established. So they insisted that Mayer test Shirley Temple for the part. Shirley was the biggest box office draw in Hollywood at the time. Roger Edens, Judy's vocal coach and greatest supporter was sent to Twentieth Century-Fox to test Shirley's singing voice, and of course he reported back to MGM-boss Louis B. Mayer that there was no way Shirley could play the part. Besides, there was no way Fox would even consider loaning her out. So that's all there was to that.
Singer/actress Adriana Caselotti provided the voice for Juliet in the Tinman scene when he sings "If I Only Had a Heart." Miss Caselotti had provided the voice of Snow White in Disney's first animated feature in 1938. It is said that Snow White paved the way for The Wizard of Oz by proving that audiences were interested in fantasy films.
The Wizard of Oz won an Academy Award for Best Song ("Over the Rainbow") and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (Herbert Stothart), and was nominated for Best Picture (lost to Gone with the Wind), Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects. Judy won a special miniature Oscar for "most outstanding performance by a juvenile." It was the only Academy Award Judy ever received, though she was nominated on two other occasions. She referred to the miniature statuette as her "Munchkin Award."
The first television showing of Oz was on the CBS network on November 3, 1956. It was shown on CBS' "Ford Star Jubilee" program. Judy Garland inaugurated the "Ford Star Jubilee" series with her first TV special on September 24, 1955. In November 1996, CBS celebrated 40 years of Oz with a special showing of the movie with celebrity interviews and a documentary.
The Wizard of Oz is said to be the most-watched movie of all time. It is estimated that more than one billion people have seen it (that's one-fifth of the earth's population!). Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow" is as much a part of American culture as apple pie, Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl. Lines from the movie have even crept into our language - how many times have you heard someone say "We're off to see the Wizard," or "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore," or "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain?"
After previews, it was decided to omit part of the Scarecrow's dance. In order to shorten the scene, it was necessary to do some retakes. For some unknown reason, Judy's hairdresser made her braids a different length in the
retakes. Watch the scene closely, and you'll see the length of Dorothy's braids change quite dramatically several times.
Some good books to read about the film:
Videos and Soundtracks
Single-Disc version also included in
The Judy Garland Signature Collection
DVD Box Set
Notable Past Issues:
The Ultimate Oz
Other Notable Releases on videotape include the 50th Anniversary Edition (above, left), which includes a booklet written by John Fricke. The latest release, touted as the last time it will be available this century, is the super-whizzbang, ultra processed sound (Dolby Surround, THX, etc.) version (Spanish dubbed version shown above, right).
Non-Rhino Releases: (top row)
Original MGM Sountrack Recording, MGM/EMI 3303 (1989). This and CBS/Sony's entry (below) was the best there was (on CD) till Rhino got into the act. It's still fun. Contains all of the songs, and some of the dialog.
Original Cast Album, CBS AK 45356. This and MGM's entry (above) was the best there was (on CD) till Rhino got into the act. It's still fun. Contains all of the songs, and some of the dialog.
Behind the Scenes at the Making of..., Jass Records J-CD-629. This one is a lot of fun. It contains the episode of the radio show "Good News" which was devoted entirely to promoting the soon-to-be-released movie (aired June 29, 1939). Hear the only recordings of Judy missing her lines in "Over the Rainbow". Hear Robert Young singing the part of the Tin Man. Hear Harold Arlen singing "Over the Rainbow". Hear Fanny Brice in one of her "Baby Snooks" routines. The CD also contains a shorter program "Leo Is on the Air", an MGM special also designed to promote Oz.
Soundtrack, Chansons Cinema. An interesting release from France with dialog and music. Sound quality is lacking, but it consists of excepts from the film sound track, which makes it somewhat unique and interesting.The Rhino Releases: (bottom row)
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, The Deluxe Edition, Rhino R2 71964. This one is great - it's the complete score. I don't think I ever really noticed what beautiful background music is in the movie - no wonder it won an Academy Award! It also contains outtakes, rehearsal demonstrations, and other goodies including Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg singing the complete Munchkinland sequence. Comes complete with a very nice book written by John Fricke.
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Rhino R2 71999. This release contains excerpts from the full score album noted above. Sometime between 1995 and now it changed colors!
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Rhino R2 72755. Very similar to 71999 (above) -- maybe identical, but more attractively packaged and targeted at children on the Kid Rhino label.
The Story and Songs of, Rhino R2 75516. Contains more dialog -- a condensed version of the story with the songs. Packaged in a "pop-up" card type cardboard case.
Popular mythology surrounding the film has, in some cases, grown to hysterical proportions. Let's lay some of these myths to rest...
Judy was sixteen years of age when she made The Wizard of Oz. She was not seventeen, as is so often indicated. This misconception probably comes from the fact that the movie was released in 1939 and Judy was born in
1922: 17 years difference, voila! But the fact is that by the time Judy's 17th birthday came around on June 10, 1939, she was busy at work on Babes in Arms. Principal filming on Oz began in September 1938, and was completed around the end of
March 1939. Minor detail, I guess, but I get tired of reading and hearing that she was 17, don't you?
This was not Judy's first film, nor was it her only film, as some people seem to think. Oz was Judy's seventh feature film. Including shorts, she had been in a total of 14 movies prior to Oz.
A stage hand did not hang himself on the set during filming! It is true that the Oz project was plagued with more than its fair share of problems, but this rumor is ludicrous! In the orchard scene and the Tin Man's
cabin scene, MGM enriched the visuals with a variety of exotic birds. If you watch closely, you'll see a toucan in the tree that the witch is hiding behind in the apple orchard, as well as a crane (or some similar bird) in the orchard. In the Tin Man's
cabin scene, where Dorothy and Scarecrow meet the Tin Man, there is also a crane in the background. It can be seen plainly behind Dorothy and Scarecrow as they stand on the yellow brick road watching the Tin Man dance. And, it (or another one) can be seen
again off in the distance ahead of them as the threesome sing and dance out of the scene. As they dance down the yellow brick road, the crane spreads its wings, and it does look rather strange. It was this scene that apparently started the hanging man
"... No children's tale is Hollywood's Wizard of Oz. Lavish in sets, adult in humor, it is a Broadway spectacular translated into make-believe ... Its tornado rivals Sam Goldwyn's The Hurricane. Its final sequence is as sentimental as Little Women..."
- Time Magazine, 1939
"Judy Garland makes a delightful Dorothy as she wanders through Oz until she realizes that all the wonderment in the world can be had in her own back yard ... The Wizard of Oz is an amusing and spectacular film."
- The New York Herald Tribune, 1939
"4 stars. Judy Garland is perfectly cast as Dorothy. She is as clever a little actress as she is a singer and her special style of vocalizing is ideally adapted to the music of the picture."
- The New York Daily News, 1939
"A delightful piece of wonder-working which had the youngsters' eyes shining and brought a quietly amused gleam to the wiser ones of the oldsters. Judy Garland's Dorothy is a pert and fresh-faced miss with the wonder-lit eyes of a believer in fairy tales."
- Frank S. Nugent, The New York Times, August 18, 1939
Dorothy (referring to her problem with Miss Gulch and Toto): "Oh, but he doesn't do it every day - just once or twice a week - and he can't catch her old cat anyway."
Glinda (to Dorothy): "Well, I'm a little muddled..."
Dorothy: "How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?"
Dorothy (to Scarecrow): "He said oil can!"
Lion: "I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks; I do, I do, I do, I do..."
Dorothy (to the Wizard, with spunk): "If you were really great and powerful, you'd keep your promises!"
Wizard (to the foursome): "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"
Scarecrow: (putting his finger to his head) "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side. Oh, joy, rapture! I've got a brain!" [The humor of this line is lost on some: The Pythagorean theorum states that the sum of the squares of the two (shorter) sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse (this applies to only one case of an isosceles triangle - when side a and b are equal and the angle between them is 90 degrees). Anyway, the Scarecrow may have a brain, but he still has some learning to do - as do we all.]
Dorothy (to Glinda): "Well, I ... I think that it ... that it wasn't enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em ... and it's that if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with."
Dorothy (to all): "Oh, but anyway, Toto, we're home - home! And this is my room - and you're all here - and I'm not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all ...
Get Oz fridge magnets at Fridgedoor!
This place has a humongous selection!!