Why on Earth would anybody review The Wizard Of Oz? The film is probably one of the most popular movies of all time, it’s so well known that most people can give you the dialogue word for word and it’s been either remade or parodied as much, if not more than any other movie ever made. So what could possibly be left to say about this classic?
Actually, quite a lot.
For starters, very few people know that when the movie was first released, it was not a commercial success. The movie only made about $3 million dollars. Even in 1939, this was not a lot of money by any stretch of the imagination. So to say Oz was an instant hit would be the farthest thing from the truth.
Then there is the strange popularity that this film brought to only one of its stars. Even though all of the featured actors and actresses in the movie, which included Judy Garland, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke, Charley Grapewin and Clara Blandick, had successful careers even before Oz, only Judy Garland became known mostly for this movie and this movie alone. That was the great impression that she made. It was like she had never done anything before or since, in spite of the fact that she was only a young child at the time. He adult years almost faded into obscurity.
The movie, which was adapted from the book of the same name, was actually made into movies many times before the 1939 version which became the most famous. There was The Wizard Of Oz from 1908, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz from 1910, three more titles in 1914, another Wizard Of Oz in 1921 and yet another one in 1925 which stared Oliver Hardy of the comic team Laurel and Hardy, in the role of the Tin Woodsman. None of these other movies are even seen anymore. And there were many more, too many to list here. None were as good as the 1939 version or shown as much.
The Wizard Of Oz was not without its problems. There was the near fatal burning of Margaret Hamilton, who played the wicked witch of the West. Fortunately she was still able to complete the movie. Another problem was that they couldn’t seem to keep a director for the filming of this movie. A total of four directors were used, including Victor Flemming who was literally stolen by David Selznick to direct “Gone With The Wind”. Then of course there was the recasting of the Tin Man. Buddy Ebsen was originally cast in the part but had to quit because he was allergic to the Tin Man costume. He was replaced by Jack Haley. Ray Bolger who was originally cast as the Tin Man, changed his mind and decided instead that he wanted to play the cowardly lion.
These problems were only the tip of the iceberg in a production that almost never got off the ground and yet the 1939 version of The Wizard Of Oz turned out to be the most beloved movie of all time. Who would have ever thought it possible?