65 years of magic
"For over one hundred years, this story
has given faithful service to the young at heart, and time has been powerless to put it's kindly philosophy out of fashion.
To those of you who have been faithful to it in return, and to the young
at heart...I dedicate this web page."
"The Wizard of Oz" is a story that will never grow
old. It contains a kind of immortality and a quality that never seems to fade. Ever since it's premiere on August 15th, 1939,
this film has been declared one of the most famous motion pictures of the 20th century. Has any other movie had 5,000
people tap dance down 34th street in celebration of it's 50th birthday? Probably not, but this movie will always remain
one of the most recognizable and best loved pieces of American History.
It all began over a century ago in 1900, when a man named Lyman
Frank Baum wrote and published his classic children's story, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Originally a story told to neighborhood
children, Baum hired an illustrator, William Denslow to create the pictures for the book, and after getting the hand-written
manuscript together, decided to get it published. The two went all over town from publisher to publisher, getting
the same response every time. The presidents of the publishing company said that Oz was not the type of book
that families were currently wanting; instead, they wanted another one of Baum's book's that was similar to
his earlier and successful work, "Mother Goose in Prose". It seemed that there was no hope for Oz, but miraculously,
nearly 40 years later, MGM Studios decided to bring this classic to the screen without destroying it's magical qualities.
It finally required the combined efforts of 14 writers and 5 directors to capture Baum's vision on film.
|"Now which way do we go?"
|"Toto, I have a feeling that we're not in Kansas anymore!"
The story is about a young girl named Dorothy Gale, who lives with
her aunt and uncle on a farm in the middle of the Kansas prairie. Dorothy, unhappy with her boring life on the depressing
black and white plains, dreams of going to a place that is "Over the rainbow." When Miss Gulch, (Dorothy's
mean neighbor,) takes Toto away to the sherriff to be destroyed, Dorothy runs away and meets Professor Marvel, a traveling
fortune teller who sees Aunt Em become ill in his crystal ball. Dorothy decides to return home and soon finds herself
caught in the windy fury of a cyclone. When she finally makes it back to the house, Dorothy is knocked unconcious by a flying
window and then dreams that her house flies far away to a colorful, magical, and mysterious world called "Oz." There, she
meets Glinda, the good witch of the north, and the inhabitants of Munckinland, the Munchkins. After discovering that
her house has fallen on top of the wicked witch of the east, Dorothy realizes that she is danger when she is
threatened by the witch's sister, the wicked witch of the west, and soon Glinda sends her on a journey down the yellow
brick road to the sparkling Emerald City, to see the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, who will help her return home.
Along the way, Dorothy is joined by a scarecrow, in search of a brain, a tin man, in search of a heart, and a cowardly
lion, in search of courage. The witch of the west keeps track of the group through their journey, trying
to gain ownership of the magical ruby slippers that Dorothy wears, which originally belonged to the witch of the
east. Upon their arrival at the Emerald City, the foursome discovers that the only way to get their wishes granted is
to retrieve the broomstick of the witch of the west. After Dorothy melts the witch by throwing a bucket of water on her, the
four return to the Emerald City, where the real wizard is suddenly unmasked, and in the end of all of her adventures, Dorothy
is inspired to realize that "there's no place like home." After Dorothy learns the secret of the magic slippers, Glinda
tells her to click her heels together three times, and within seconds, Dorothy awakens from her dream and finds
herself in her own bedroom, surrounded by the people she loves.
|"I'll get you, my pretty...and you're little dog, too!"
Judy Garland, an actress under contract with MGM studios, was cast
for the role of Dorothy when she was 16 years old. Earlier on, directors were debating whether or not to use Shirley
Temple for the role, but after hearing her sing at a private audition, they thought that the part would be too difficult even
for this amazing 10 year old. Judy must lose some weight, but the part of Dorothy is hers.
"I thought that she was the most beautiful creature ever put on this earth. And so right for
the part of Dorothy. She was just like a little girl from Kansas. With great big eyes,...she wasn't pretty...just plump, but
in a way she was beautiful." --Ray Bolger
"When Mom would talk about making The Wizard of Oz, you could always tell the respect she had
for the movie, and how proud she was to have been a part of it."--Liza Minelli
E.Y Harburg and a young man named Harold Arlen were chosen to compose
the music and songs for Oz. Harold Arlen was in charge of the music, and Mr. Harburg was to add the lyrics. "We had just about
finished all of the songs for the film except for the one for Judy in Kansas," recalls Harold Arlen "and pretty soon it became
one of those things that begins to bug you. So one night Mr. Harburg and I went out and I brought along my little piece
of manuscript and put down "What you know now is over the rainbow,"...and of course it immedialtley needed Mr. Harburg's lyrics."
"A dry, arrid, colorless place...almost no flowers there because it is so dry...the only thing
in her life that was colorful was...I thought, the rainbow. It was the only thing of color that she had ever seen. So I said
I must have a song with "rainbow" in it."--E.Y. Harburg
"When Mom sang "Over the rainbow", she believed in the sentiment of the song with all of her
heart. That's why whenever you hear the song...even today...you think of her...it was that personal."--Liza Minelli.
"She didn't just sit there and say "Alright, watch this...I am really going to blow you away
with this. This was just a song in a film, and that's the reason why it is the most perfect marraige of a song and an artist
that it's ever been." --Lorna Luft.
Miss Gulch was not an original character in L. Frank Baum's book.
She was not introduced into the OZ cast until 1939, when a screenplay writer named Noel Langley decided to have the Kansas
folk represent each fantasy character in Oz. Miss Gulch represents the wicked witch because of her mean personality.
Three Kansas farmhands named Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke, were
also added to the cast to represent Dorothy's three friends she meets in Oz. Hunk represents the scarecrow because of his
clumsiness, Hickory represents the Tin Man because he wants to have a "statue of him in town", and Zeke represents the cowardly
lion because he tells Dorothy to "have a little courage" when dealing with Miss Gulch. Broadway stars Jack Haley, Bert Lahr,
and Ray Bolger were chosen to be cast for these three roles.
A. Arnold Gillespie is Hollywood's dean of special effects;
and Oz presents him with his greatest challenge. He must create a dazzling array of special effects, many of them never before
attempted: A flying farmhouse and a floating head...a melting witch, and flying monkeys...fireballs, talking trees and
a whirling Kansas tornado.
"The Wizard of Oz presented us with a lot of difficult projects," Gillespie says, "and
the tornado was one of the the toughest, naturally, and we really did not know what to do."
Finally, a solution was made. Mr. Gillespie built a hollow, funnel shaped tube out of muslim
stocking. It was 30 feet in length, and it hung from the cieling and was attached to a machine that moved it along the
floor and made a cloud of dust at the bottom. This was the first time that this special effect had been used. In order to
create the illusion of Dorothy's house being blown away by the tornado, the special effects department dropped a model farmhouse
to the floor and then played the film in reverse.
"Toto, we must be up inside the
Toto was the hardest role to cast in the film because the directors
did not know what kind of dog to use. They wanted a dog that resembled the original illustrations in L. Frank Baum's book,
and finally, they found Terry, a Cairn Terrier.
We've all heard about the several pairs of ruby slippers worn by
Judy Garland and how much they have been auctioned for, anywhere from 15 thousand to 165 thousand dollars. One pair made of
real rubies has been valued at 3 million dollars. The magic shoes were actually silver in the original book, but Noel Langley,
one of the writers for the film, decided to change them to ruby. Today, one of the ruby slippers exhibits in Washington, D.C,
draws over 5 million visitors annually.
On the set, there is confusion, chaos, and often danger. There are
also many unexpected accidents and injuries. Margaret Hamilton is severely burned during rehearsal and has to skip filming
for a few weeks. Buddy Ebsen, (pictured below) who was orignally cast as the tin man, suffers from a severe allergic reaction
to the silver make up he had to wear and was replaced by Jack Haley.
At the Oscar Awards Ceremony in 1940, "The Wizard of Oz" won three
awards, including best actress, (Judy Garland), best song, (Over the Rainbow), and best director (Victor Fleming). It competed
with "Gone with the wind" for the award of picture of the year, but sadly, it lost.
Oz succeeded in spite of its chaotic creative process. The movie
we enjoy so much is the happy result of the cast and crew's hard working and collaborative efforts. It's interesting how you
can watch a bad movie, and once is enough...in the case of "The Wizard of Oz", a hundred times may not be enough.
May it live in out hearts and minds forever.
"I think it's endured because of people's dreams and because of
the possibilities...and the fact that there may be someplace over the rainbow that we all seem to want to go to. Even
if we want to find something that's more colorful, or more outrageous, or scarier...you end up wanting to go home. And that's
the best place you can be. After all the things that you've learned...no matter how beautiful everything else is...home is
what matters."---Liza Minelli
"Oh, Auntie Em...There's no place like home!"