Wednesday, December 4, 2013


So the 1939 legendary film The Wizard Of Oz has been written about endlessly. The film has been dissected and reviewed numerous times. However, if I am talking about a film that started my film passion then The Wizard Of Oz would be it. It is not my favourite movie, and at times I don't think it was that great, but I must have watched the movie once a year from the first time I can remember (around age 2 to now). I have watched the film annually for about 35 years, and now that I have children I have watched it even more times. When I was growing up, it seems like CBS always aired the movie around Easter, which is kind of odd because it is not an Easter movie. I remember watching The Wizard Of Oz at Easter and The Sound Of Music at Christmas!

Anyways, The Wizard Of Oz oddly was not a hit when audiences first saw the film in 1939. Although the film received largely positive reviews, it was not a box office success on its initial release, earning only $3,017,000 on a $2,000,000 budget. The film was MGM's most expensive production up to that time, but its initial release failed to recoup the studio's investment. Subsequent re-releases made up for that, however. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It lost that award to Gone with the Wind, but won two others, including Best Original Song for "Over the Rainbow".

Everyone knows the back stories about the film - how Shirley Temple was almost Dorothy, WC Fields was almost The Wizard, and Buddy Ebsen was supposed to be the Tin Man. Gale Sonderaard was also originally cast as The Witch, but she was too glamorous for a role that Margaret Hamilton was perfect in.

One of the most interesting stories from the film was the story about Frank Morgan's wardrobe. According to studio insiders, when the wardrobe department was looking for a coat for Frank Morgan, they decided that they wanted a once elegant coat that had "gone to seed." They went to a second-hand shop and purchased a whole rack of coats, from which Morgan, the head of the wardrobe department and director Fleming chose one they thought had the perfect appearance of shabby gentility. One day, while he was on set wearing the coat, Morgan turned out one of the pockets and discovered a label indicating that the coat had once belonged to Oz author L. Frank Baum. Mary Mayer, a unit publicist for the film, contacted the tailor and Baum's widow, who both verified that the coat had indeed once belonged to the writer. After filming was completed, the coat was presented to Mrs. Baum.

The Wizard Of Oz to me was an escape. My childhood was not the happiest one. I had two parents that were constantly at odds with each other, so they had little time for me. This movie, as a young boy, showed me that even though things were dark and gloomy in Kansas, there was a whole other life in beautiful technicolor. If I was Dorothy I would have wanted to stay in Oz, but the movie did show me that although I did not have the happiest times at home, that there were people like my grandparents and extended family that loved me. It also did seem like every year this film was shown on television that for the two hours at least, that there was no yelling and screaming, and we sat together watching this film fantasy on the screen.

Decades now since I first saw the film, I now have a family with little children, I not only make it a point to introduce them to classic films like The Wizard Of Oz, but I want them to realize that in their lives, there is no place like home...


  1. Movies are like people. You never know which ones are going to have the greatest impact on us. I'm so glad you found a home in "Oz" and are able to make a home a happy place for your family.

  2. Movies do take us to other worlds and it sounds as if the "The Wizard of Oz" was able to take you and your family "over the rainbow" for at least a little while. Plus you got the message that there was a big, wide world beyond the four walls you lived in at the time. So happy you're sharing "The Wizard of Oz" and other classics with your own children.

  3. Beautiful! You are so right about the movies taking us out of our own lives. Your story is very touching and so glad that you are completing the circle and passing your love of classic film down to your children.

  4. David, when I first started watching OZ as a kid, I had no idea it was a classic film. I just knew I loved it! Like you, I watched it every year--it was a special event I looked forward to. Though I love watching faves when I want, I sometimes miss the days of "event television," when the anticipation of watching a film was almost as much fun as watching it.

  5. David,
    It's been many years since I have seen this but as a kid it was on TV at least once a year and we always watched it. OZ, like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, is one of the greatest films where families can bond and appreciate each other. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here!

  6. I have read that the movie had a lot of paying customers at the time of its release, but many of them were children and therefore admitted at reduced prices. This of course meant a lower box office total than if it had been a film that attracted the same number of adults at full prices.

  7. Thanks so much for your poignant memories and your loving tribute to The Wizard of Oz. Love the coat story!

  8. Wow – that is a fascinating story about Frank L. Baum's coat. Who knew!

    I'm sorry to hear you did not have a good childhood, but how wonderful that you were able to see, though the movie, that your extended family loved you. That is a remarkable thing for a kid to grasp.

    Thanks for sharing your personal memories of this film.

  9. Wow, I'd never heard that story about Baum's coat before!

    Oz was one of the first classic films I ever saw, if not the very first. I didn't have the best childhood either and I agree with you that it's the movie's theme of a sense of home that is resonating. Great article!

  10. " times I don't think [Wizard of Oz] was that great...."

    Now THERE is another blog post waiting for you to write.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    - Java

  11. I'm totally convinced that The Wizard of Oz is the starting point for a majority of classic film fans. In fact, I'm reading Aljean Harmetz's The Making of The Wizard of Oz right now (promotional freebie) and it is really fascinating stuff.

    My mother hates the movie. But then again, she likes Steven Segal and Jean Claude von Damme flicks, so you know...broken home and all that. Great write-up, David.

  12. The priceless escape our movies provide us regardless of the circumstances. Touching post and it's a wonderful gift to pass to your children - a love of film.


  13. Very sweet, David! This made me smile very much. "Decades now since I first saw the film, I now have a family with little children, I not only make it a point to introduce them to classic films like The Wizard Of Oz, but I want them to realize that in their lives, there is no place like home.."

    With regret I watched the remake recently and I hated it. After seeing it I thought, "I hope that children have seen the original and they're memories of the wonderful Baum book aren't from this mess!" ha ha

    Nicely done!

  14. David, I adore "The Wizard of Oz" for so many reasons. I remember sitting on my Dad's lap and being frightened when Dorothy is at the Witch's castle and sees her Aunt Em and is calling to her so earnestly but the Witch mimics her with such cruelty with her "Aunty Em, Aunty Em!" I never tire of this classic with its heartfelt characters and enjoyed seeing it on IMAX a few months ago. Thanks for sharing Oz with a fellow Oz enthusiast.