E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen's song
Over the Rainbow



Herbert Stothart's Score to
"The Wizard of Oz"

Twelve-year-old Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) lives in rural Kansas with her Aunt Em (Clara Blandick), Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin), and three farm hands, Hickory (Jack Haley), Hunk (Ray Bolger), and Zeke (Bert Lahr).

When irascible townswoman Miss Almira Gulch, (Margaret Hamilton) is bitten by Dorothy's dog Toto, she gets a sheriff's order and takes Toto away to be euthanized. He escapes and returns to Dorothy, and fearing for his life, she runs away with him.

Dorothy soon encounters a fortuneteller named Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan in the first of five roles he plays in the film). He guesses Dorothy's situation, acting as if he knew all along. Going in his traveling trailer, he commands her to close her eyes so that he can tell her fortune. While her eyes are shut, Professor Marvel sneaks a look at a photo of Dorothy and Aunt Em, deciding to trick Dorothy into going back home. He tells Dorothy that Aunt Em has fallen ill from grief, causing her to rush back to the farmhouse just as a sudden twister rolls in. Unable to join her family in the locked storm cellar, she takes shelter inside the house and is knocked unconscious by a window that comes loose.

Dorothy apparently awakens to discover the house being carried away by the tornado, with her and Toto inside. It eventually drops back down on the ground intact. Opening the door and stepping outside, Dorothy finds herself in a strange village. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke) arrives magically via a bubble. She informs Dorothy that she (or rather her falling house) has killed the Wicked Witch of the East. The timid Munchins, come out of hiding to celebrate the demise of the Witch by singing a medley that includes Ding, Dong, The Witch is Dead.

Their celebration is interrupted when the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) magically appears and tries to claim her sister's powerful ruby slippers. However, Glinda uses her powers to transfer the slippers from the dead witch onto Dorothy's feet and reminds the Witch of the West that her power is ineffectual in Munchkinland. The Witch vows revenge on Dorothy (uttering her famous line, "I'll get you, my pretty. And your little dog, too!") before leaving the same way she arrived.
Glinda advises Dorothy to seek the help of the mysterious Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan) in the Emerald City, which she can reach by following the yellow brick road. She warns Dorothy never to remove the slippers or she will be at the ercy of the Wicked Witch.

On her way to the city, Dorothy meets a Scarrecrow (Ray Bolger) with no brain, a Tin Man (Jack Haley) with no heart, and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), who can all talk, and the three decide to accompany Dorothy in the hopes that the Wizard will also give them their desires. Along the way, they behave in ways which demonstrate that they already have the qualities they believe they lack: The Scarecrow has several good ideas, the Tin Man is kind and sympathetic, and the Lion is ready to face danger, even though he is terrified.

After Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion nearly succumb to one of the Witch's traps, the foursome finally enters the Emerald City. They are given an audience with the Wizard of Oz, who appears as a disembodied and imposing head. In a booming voice, he states that he will consider granting their wishes if they bring him the Wicked Witch's broomstick.

They set out for the Witch's castle, but she detects them and dispatches her army of flying monkeys; they carry Dorothy and Toto back to her. When the Witch threatens to drown Toto, Dorothy agrees to give up the slippers, but a shower of sparks prevents their removal. While the Witch is distracted, Toto escapes. The Witch says that the shoes cannot be removed unless Dorothy dies; she leaves to ponder how to accomplish this without damaging the shoes.

Toto finds Dorothy's friends and leads them to the castle. After ambushing some of the Winkie guards, they disguise themselves in the guards' uniforms, enter, and free Dorothy. The Witch and her soldiers pursue and corner the group on a parapet. The Witch sets the Scarecrow's arm on fire, and Dorothy throws water on her friend to put out the flames, accidentally splashing the Witch. To the Witch's horror and everyone's surprise, the Witch melts away. The soldiers are delighted, and their Captain (Mitchell Lewis) gives Dorothy the broomstick.

Upon their triumphant return to the Emerald City, Toto exposes the Wizard as a fraud, opening a curtain and revealing a non-magical man operating a giant console of wheels and levers. They are outraged, but the Wizard solves their problems with common sense and a little double talk. He explains that they already had what they had been searching for all along and only need things such as medals and diplomas to confirm it. The Wizard reveals that he too was born in Kansas and that he was brought to Oz by a runaway hot air balloon. He offers to take Dorothy home in the same balloon, leaving the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion in charge of the Emerald City.

Just before takeoff, Toto jumps out of the balloon's basket to chase a cat. Dorothy follows him, and the Wizard, unable to control the balloon, leaves without her. She is resigned to spending the rest of her life in Oz until Glinda appears and tells her that she has always had the power to return home. Glinda explains that she did not tell Dorothy at first because she needed to find out for herself that she doesn't need to run away to find her heart's desire. Dorothy says a tearful goodbye to her friends and then follows Glinda's instructions, closing her eyes, tapping her heels together three times, and chanting "There's no place like home."

Dorothy awakens in her bedroom in Kansas, surrounded by family and friends, suggesting she was unconscious the whole time. They tell her she no longer has to worry about Miss Gulch, who has now gone. Dorothy tells them of her journey, but Aunt Em tells Dorothy that it was all a dream, but Dorothy pleads otherwise. In any case, Dorothy promises everyone that she will never leave home ever again, for she loves them all, and that there's no place like home.
Oscar
6 Nominations
2 Awards
Best Song
Best Score

Golden Globes
0 Nominations
0 Awards
“The Wizard of Oz” has become, over the years, one of the best known of all films and a true classic. But it was not without it’s problems plagued from the beginning. In January 1938, MGM bought the rights to the hugely popular novel from Samuel Goldwyn, who had toyed with the idea of making the film as a vehicle for Eddie Cantor, who was under contract to the Goldwyn studios and whom Goldwyn wanted to cast as the Scarecrow.

The script went through a number of writers and revisions before the final shooting. Originally, Mervyn LeRoy's assistant William H. Cannon submitted a brief four-page outline. Because recent fantasy films had not fared well at the box office, he recommended that the magical elements of the story be toned down or eliminated. In his outline, the Scarecrow was a man so stupid that the only way he could get employment was to dress up as a scarecrow and scare away crows in a cornfield, and the Tin Woodman was a hardened criminal so heartless he was sentenced to be placed in a tin suit for eternity. The torture of being encased in the suit had softened him and made him gentle and kind. All in all, after 17 writers worked on the script, the final draft of the script was completed on October 8, 1938, following numerous rewrites.

Mervyn LeRoy, the producer, had always insisted that he wanted to cast Judy Garland to play Dorothy from the start; however negotiations took place early in pre-production for Shirley Temple to play the part of Dorothy, on loan out from 20th Century Fox. The documentary “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic” states that Mervyn LeRoy was under pressure to cast Temple, then the most popular child star; but at an unofficial audition, MGM musical mainstay Roger Edens, listened to her sing and felt that an actress with a different style was needed. Actress Deanna Durbin, who was under contract to Universal, was also considered for the part of Dorothy.

Casting “The Wizard of Oz” was problematic, with two actors swapping roles prior to the start of filming. Ray Bolger was originally cast as the Tin Man and Buddy Ebsen was to play the Scarecrow. Bolger, however, longed to play the Scarecrow. Now unhappy with his role as the Tin Man, Bolger convinced producer Mervyn LeRoy to recast him in the part he so desired. Ebsen did not object; after going over the basics of the Scarecrow's distinctive walk with Bolger, he recorded all of his songs, went through all the rehearsals as the Tin Man, and began filming with the rest of the cast.
Ten days into the shoot, however, Ebsen suffered a reaction to the aluminum powder makeup he wore; the powder he breathed in daily as it was applied had coated his lungs. Ebsen was hospitalized in critical condition, and subsequently was forced to leave the project; in a later interview, Ebsen recalled the studio heads initially disbelieving that he was seriously ill, only realizing the extent of the actor's condition when they showed up in the hospital as he was convalescing in an iron lung. Ebsen's sudden medical departure caused the film to shut down while a new actor was found to fill the part. No full footage of Ebsen as the Tin Man has ever been released — only photographs taken during filming and test photos of different makeup styles remain. MGM did not publicize the reasons for Ebsen's departure until decades later, in a promotional documentary about the film, and even his replacement, Jack Haley, did not initially know the reason. Also, W. C. Fields was originally chosen for the role of the Wizard, but the studio ran out of patience after prolonged haggling over his fee; instead, another contract player, Frank Morgan, was cast.
Gale Sondergaard was originally cast as the Wicked Witch. She became unhappy when the witch's persona shifted from sly and glamorous (thought to emulate the wicked queen in Walt Disney's “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”) into the familiar "ugly hag." She turned down the role and was replaced by MGM contract player Margaret Hamilton.

Margaret herself had problems while filming. She was severely burned in the Munchkinland scene. There was a little elevator that was supposed to take her down, with a fire erupting to dramatize and conceal her exit. The first take went smoothly, and that was the one eventually used in the film. For the second take, the timing was off, and she was exposed to the flames. Her copper-based makeup had to be completely and quickly removed before her face could be treated, and her hands were also severely burned.
Directing “The Wizard of Oz” had its share of problems also. The original director was Norman Taurog who was reassigned to another MGM film “Boys Town” with Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy right after filming began. Then came Richard Thorpe who became the new director and shot for a total of 9 days. Mervyn LeRoy felt that Thorpe was ‘rushing the picture along’ and had him replaced. During the reorganization, George Cukor temporarily took over, under LeRoy's guidance. Initially, the studio had made Garland wear a blond wig and heavy, "baby-doll" makeup, and she played Dorothy in a glamorized exaggerated fashion; now, Cukor changed Judy Garland's and Margaret Hamilton's makeup and costumes, and told Garland to "be herself." This meant that all the scenes Garland and Hamilton had already completed had to be discarded and re-filmed. It was during this time that Buddy Ebsen had gotten sick and it was Cukor that suggested he be replaced with Jack Haley from 20th Century Fox. Cukor did not actually shoot any scenes for the film, merely acting as something of a "creative advisor" to the troubled production, and, because of his prior commitment to direct “Gone with the Wind” he left and at which time Victor Fleming assumed the directorial responsibility. As director, Fleming chose not to shift the film from Cukor's creative realignment, as producer LeRoy had already pronounced his satisfaction with the new course the film was taking. After many problems on the set of “Gone With The Wind”, Victor Fleming was sent over to Selznick Studios to replace George Cukor in directing “Gone with the Wind”; the next day, King Vidor was assigned as director by the studio to finish the filming. In later years, when the film became firmly established as a classic, Vidor chose not to take public credit for his contribution until after the death of his friend Fleming.
One song that was almost deleted was Over the Rainbow. MGM had felt that it made the Kansas sequence too long, as well as being far over the heads of the target audience of children. The studio also thought that it was degrading for Judy Garland to sing in a barnyard. Producer Mervyn LeRoy, associate producer Arthur Freed, and director Victor Fleming fought to keep it and eventually won. The song went on to win the Academy Award for Best Song of the Year.

The film was nominated for several Academy Awards upon its release, including Best Picture and Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. It lost the award in the Best Picture category to “Gone with the Wind”, but won in the category of Best Song and for Best Original Music Score. Although the Best Song award went to E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen, the Best Original Score Award went to, not the songwriters, but Herbert Stothart, who composed the background score.
Judy Garland received a special Academy Juvenile Award that year, for "Best Performances by a Juvenile”, an award that was also meant for her role in the film version of “Babes in Arms”. “The Wizard of Oz” did not receive an Oscar for its now famous special effects, that award went to the film “The Rains Came” for its monsoon sequence.

Telecasts of the film began in 1956, and because of them the film has found a larger audience, where its television screenings are an annual tradition and have re-introduced the film to the public, making “The Wizard of Oz” one of the most famous and beloved films ever made.