“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Somewhere over the rainbow lies a land of munchkins, witches, wizards and more. MGM brought the magical land of Oz to Technicolor life through image and song in 1939′s family classic, The Wizard of Oz. The story of L. Frank Baum’s unlikely adventurers had been brought to the big screen twice before, but never with such vibrant life and imagination.
Young Dorothy Gale lives with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry on the family’s small Kansas farm. When mean-spirited local crone Miss Gulch threatens the life of Dorothy’s dog Toto, the girl takes her pet and runs away. She meets a traveling showman named Professor Marvel, who gives the girl a few lessons on magic and family. Dorothy returns home, but gets caught up in a tornado that carries her, Toto and the farmhouse spinning into the air.
The house touches down in Munchkinland, landing on top of the feared Wicked Witch of the East. The munchkins are happy to see the old hag gone, but the Wicked Witch of the West vows revenge. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, gives Dorothy the deceased witch’s ruby slippers as protection, then sets her off on the Yellow Brick Road to find the all-powerful Wizard of Oz, the only man in the land who can help her get home.
Along the way, Dorothy finds traveling companions in the brain-impaired Scarecrow, the heart-lacking Tin Man, and the courage-starved Cowardly Lion. The four new friends brave the dangers of the forest and the evil tactics of the Wicked Witch, finally finding the Wizard’s Emerald City home. But the imposing Wizard insists he’ll only grant the wishes of the four if they bring him the Wicked Witch’s broom, a quest too terrible to contemplate.
Danger, magic, family, friendship and vaudeville humor combined in an enchanting film that delighted children of all ages. The tune-filled score included such memorable numbers as “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” “We’re Off To See the Wizard,” “If I Only Had a Brain/a Heart/the Nerve” and the Oscar-nominated “Over the Rainbow.”
The film made a star out of Judy Garland, who played Dorothy, but the movie itself was overshadowed by MGM’s other 1939 classic, Gone With the Wind. After several years and a few disappointing re-releases, MGM sold the film to network television, setting off a run of annual airings that lasted until 1998. Watching the movie became a tradition in families across the country, and The Wizard of Oz earned its rightful place as a beloved favorite in American cinema.
If you made a tradition out of watching The Wizard of Oz on television every year, or have any other recollections you’d like to share, we welcome them all in our comments section.