Monday, August 18, 2014


“Somewhere over the rainbow…”

This month marks the 75th anniversary of Victor Fleming’s THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Based on the 1900 novel THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ by L. Frank Baum in which a young Kansas girl gets whisked away to a fantastical land, this version of OZ was the fourth big-screen version since 1910. It was a major production for its time; costing just over $2 million to make with its elaborate sets, costumes, makeup, visual effects, and a relatively new technology at the time…Technicolor(!).

Development of the film began thanks to the success of Walt Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937), which proved that there was a market for children’s stories in big-screen productions. MGM would go through several re-writes and would flirt with idea of casting Shirley Temple in the lead over Judy Garland, and production itself would have its ups and downs even after the cast was set. The heavy use of makeup caused skin irritations with much of the cast, and shooting would go through several directors before settling on Victor Fleming.

Upon release, the film was not considered a financial success despite receiving critical acclaim; it did not make its production budget back until subsequent re-releases over the years. And over those years, THE WIZARD OF OZ became a major part of the world’s culture. In 1956 when the film was re-introduced to the world on television, it became the most viewed motion picture in TV history and became an annual event. But prior to its television years, OZ was nominated for six Oscars in 1939, including Best Picture but lost to GONE WITH THE WIND. It did win for Best Original Song for Over the Rainbow. OZ would go onto become a family favorite for generations of families and critics; it was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress in 1989, and is often included in any Top Film of All-time list. It became the source for thousands, if not millions of quotes and references in pop-culture and film, and its music is often ranked in the top songs of the century. OZ would to on to inspire countless versions on stage, film, TV, and in literature.


As a wee-lad, this Blogger fondly remembers watching THE WIZARD OF OZ in the family room on TV; getting dazzled by the visuals, bored with Dorothy singing, and fascinated by the witch and her flying monkeys. Years later as the critical mind takes over, OZ still holds a high place. In filmmaking and in storytelling, there is an axiom which says that the higher the concept, the simpler the story must be. OZ is about one thing; getting Dorothy home. It is the simplest and oldest of stories which appears new and fresh thanks to its fantastical surroundings of talking trees, animals, scarecrows, and tin men. OZ is also the perfect template for characters. Movies succeed on drama, and drama comes from contrast. OZ has a band of contrasting creatures who could not be more different in appearance and in character, and that is the heart and soul of the film which has made it everlasting. THE WIZARD OF OZ in 1939 laid down the groundwork for the next 75 years of filmmaking. Its influence can be seen in the films of today, and will continue to inspire far over the rainbows.

“There’s no place like home!”

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