Much like an Albion first-year, 75 years ago a Kansas girl named Dorothy found herself on her own and a long way from home.
Based on the 1900 L. Frank Baum book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the film adaptation became wildly popular, due to its musical numbers, magical world, and use of Technicolor to portray the colorful settings of the story.
Upon its release, The Wizard of Oz initially didn’t make as much money as was hoped. It had a big budget for the time (estimated at about $2.8M, or almost $48M today), and only ended up making an estimated profit (subtract the budget from the gross earnings) of $280,000 ($4.8M in today’s market) in its original release.
Although no reason has been given or discovered for the film’s originally poor box office showing, late August of 1939 was full of tension leading up to the start of World War II on Sept. 1. It is very possible that U.S. citizens were more focused on whether their country would get involved or not, therefore neglecting the movie during its original run in theaters.
It was only after many re-releases that the film became a huge monetary success. The first re-release in 1949 may have had success due to the post-World War II era. It would’ve been comforting for families to see a simple, beautiful movie in a not-so-beautiful time period.
Despite its initial box office results, the movie received great critical acclaim upon its release for things like individual acting, plot, and magical elements.
The Wizard of Oz has had a huge cultural impact since its release. Countless corny spinoffs have been made (most recently, last year’s Oz the Great and Powerful), the songs have been re-recorded, Technicolor became a huge tool for many years in the filmmaking industry partly because of it, and I still see people dressed up as Dorothy Gale every year for Halloween. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Snooki.)
It is understandable that the film has had such a huge legacy. The stunning scenery, the masterful acting by Judy Garland and company, and, of course, the outstanding soundtrack (including the Academy Award-winning “Over the Rainbow”) have made The Wizard of Oz into a movie that will live on forever.
The story deals with childhood, and the lessons learned still apply to today’s children. Dorothy runs away at the beginning, only to find herself on a journey to get back to her aunt and uncle’s farm upon her arrival in Oz. Her journey symbolizes a child not realizing what they have until it’s gone. The Land of Oz itself represents the foreign world away from home (just as Albion does for many first-years), and Dorothy quickly realizes that she would rather be back with her family. (You’ll be fine. I promise.)
Even today, many film adaptations of Baum’s stories (he wrote a lot of sequels to the original) are being made, in hopes of perhaps capturing the magic that the 1939 film created. However, the original is the only one that will ever stick in the hearts and minds of movie lovers.
It’s like if somebody were to make a sequel to Forrest Gump with the title character showing up in the important scenes of the 1980s. It just wouldn’t work.
The only thing that might come close to the success of the original Oz would be if a movie was made based on the Broadway hit, Wicked, was made (or perhaps a reboot where the witches and Oz himself went to Hogwarts, but one can only dream so much).
Anyways, The Wizard of Oz continues to live on in the hearts of many, due to its frequent showings on cable television. It has been 75 years since it first whisked audiences and the movie industry away to the Land of Oz and along on a golden journey that will forever be one of the greatest in Hollywood history.
The lessons that were taught and the little dogs that were threatened gave Americans a model story that will continue to live on through the power of the internet.
I’m going to find a lollipop.
There is one surviving cast member: Jerry Maren (94), who played one of the members of the Lollipop Guild.
The role of the Tin Woodman was cast three times. First it was to be Ray Bolger, who instead became the Scarecrow. Then, it became Buddy Ebsen until he had a severe allergic reaction to the makeup. Finally, it became Jack Haley, who played the Tin Woodman we all know and love.
There was a bit of a legend that one of the Munchkins had hung himself on the set, and that you could see him swaying in the background of one of the scenes in the movie. In reality, it was a stork that the producers had borrowed, in order to make the wilderness seem more real.
Photo via NBC