Judy Garland stars as Dorothy in a musical based on the classic children’s book by L. Frank Baum. When Dorothy’s neighbor, Miss Gulch, threatens to take away Dorothy’s precious dog, Toto, Dorothy runs away from home. Attempting to return, she and her house are caught in a twister and blown to the garish, color-saturated Land of Oz. The house lands atop Oz’s Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and making Dorothy an instant celebrity. The Wicked Witch of the West, the sister of the deceased witch, soon arrives and threatens revenge. Dorothy must escape from Oz by following the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, where the great Wizard of Oz can help her return to Kansas. Along the way, Dorothy picks up some new friends--the heartless Tin Man, the brainless Scarecrow, and the courage-less Cowardly Lion, each of whom hopes that the Wizard can offer him what he lacks. The long journey to see the Wizard is filled with dangers and traps planted by the Wicked Witch of the West--as well as lots of phenomenal musical numbers. Filled with extravagant sets and costumes and 40 minutes of rambunctious song and dance routines, Dorothy’s adventures in Oz are pure delight. The film deservedly holds a precious place in the hearts of millions.
A young girl named Dorothy is bored of her gray life on a Kansas farm. When her house is whisked away by a tornado it lands somewhere over the rainbow in a Technicolor world, and Dorothy knows she's not in Kansas anymore. The beloved, incomparable classic based on L. Frank Baum's 1900 book is a musical and visual candy store. The film has proved so influential that it is impossible to even enumerate those of its elements which have permeated other cultural mediums, or even subsequent films which quote it visually or verbally. Academy Award Nominations: 5, including Best Picture. Academy Awards: Best Original Score, Best Song ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow").
MGM acquired the film rights to the L. Frank Baum story for $75,000, a huge amount at the time.
Some of the original casting desires included either W. C. Fields or Ed Wynn as the Wizard; Fanny Brice or Beatrice Lillie as Glinda, the Good Witch; Gale Sondergaard as the Wicked Witch; and Shirley Temple as Dorothy. After Ray Bolger asked to play the Scarecrow instead of the Tin Man, Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Tin Man but was replaced after nine days of filming by Jack Haley because of breathing problems he suffered at the hands of his costume.
The picture went through a number of directors: Richard Thorpe, whose nine days of footage were not used; George Cukor; Victor Fleming, who directed most of the color scenes before having to leave to direct GONE WITH THE WIND; and King Vidor, who directed most of the black-and-white scenes set in Kansas.
Shooting of what was known as Production 1060 was to begin on April 19, 1938, but actually began on October 13, 1938, and lasted until March 16, 1939. The film went well over budget, costing more than $2.75 million. It took in only about $3 million on its initial release.
Judy Garland was paid $500 a week for the film.
THE WIZARD OF OZ held its premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theater on August 15, 1939.
Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion costume weighed more than 50 pounds.
The Munchkin coroner, played by Meinhardt Raabe, was also Little Oscar, Oscar Mayer's official spokesman in commercials.
Jerry Maren, one of the Munchkin Lollipop Guild singers, continued his career in show business, which included stints in more than 60 films as well as appearances on The Man Show and Seinfeld.
UNDER THE RAINBOW, a 1981 comedy spoofing the behind-the-scenes making of THE WIZARD OF OZ, starred Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher.