Victor Fleming’s stunning all-singing, all-dancing musical, The Wizard of Oz, was released in US theatres 76 years ago today on 15th August 1939.
Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the film tells the story of Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) – a young girl, who gets whisked away by a tornado, into the magical land of Oz. Dorothy and her dog Toto follow the Yellow Brick Road through Munchkin Land and towards the Emerald City to find the wise ol’ Wizard of Oz, in the hopes that he can help them return home to Kansas City. En route, Dorothy meets a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) who needs a brain, a Tin Man (Jack Haley) who is missing a heart, and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who wants some courage.
On first release, the now-beloved classic was a success, but not quite a phenomenon – earning only $3 million, despite receiving positive reviews. What would later change everything and make the film incredulously popular was the introduction of home television. First telecast in 1956 on CBS, the broadcast re-introduced the film to the public and became an annual event. Thanks to television, The Wizard of Oz is now the most watched film in the world, with over 100 million people having seen the film in Britain alone.
The film went on to receive five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. The emotional ballad, ‘Over The Rainbow’, won an Oscar for Best Song. Garland, who sung the iconic tune, went on to win a special award for Outstanding Juvenile Performance, which she called ‘the Munchkin Award’.
The film was notable for its storytelling, unusual characters and its trailblazing use of Technicolor, in an era which was used to traditional black and white pictures. The use of Technicolor brought to life the infamous and hugely desirable ruby slippers – which in the novel were in fact silver. The film has inspired a series of spin-offs including Disney’s Oz: The Great and Powerful and the fan-favourite Broadway musical Wicked.
The Wizard of Oz is not only Garland’s most well-known and beloved performance, but an iconic classic which was celebrated at the 86th Academy Awards when Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli and her family paid tribute to the film – aided with a performance of ‘Over The Rainbow’ by P!nk.
Watch P!nk’s stunning rendition of ‘Over The Rainbow’ at the 2014 Academy Awards below.