Monday, August 15, 2011
72 YEARS OF OZ!
Uncle Henry Gale: Well, howdy, Miss Gulch.
Miss Gulch: [comes into the Gales' yard] I want to see you and your wife right away about Dorothy!
Uncle Henry Gale: Dorothy? Well, what has Dorothy done?
Miss Gulch: What she's done? I'm all but lame from the bite on my leg!
Uncle Henry Gale: Oh! You mean she bit you?
Miss Gulch: No, her dog!
Uncle Henry Gale: Oh, she bit her dog, eh?
[Uncle Henry tries to shut the gate, but it hits her on the backside]
Miss Gulch: [exasperated] No!
Yes! The Wizard of Oz premiered 72 years ago today at Grauman's Chinese Theatre!
The Wizard of OZ is an exceptional example of the now vanished studio system of movie making. It's a fusion of many gifted and individuals, most them under contract with the studio. Melvin LeRoy and Victor Fleming blended their work superbly. The premiere of The Wizard of Oz was at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood August 15, 1939. I don't think of us can imagine our lives without this film. There's practically nothing left of movies being shown on regular TV beyond PBS and TCM that can be traced back to the 1930s.
Thanks, mostly in part, to its annual television showings, it has rightfully earned the right to the most watched and BELOVED film of all time! I have already written in previous blogs (see Saturday's blog on Bert Lahr) on what this film means to me and its impact on my life...which has been tremendous. It is so much a part of our consciousness. Today's blog is just celebrating those iconic images we all love.
While filming the scene where Dorothy slaps the Cowardly Lion, Judy Garland got the giggles so badly that they had to take a break in shooting. The director, Victor Fleming, took her aside, gave her a quick lecture, and then slapped her.
She returned to the set and filmed the scene in one take. Fleming was afraid that this would damage his relationship with Garland and even told a co-worker he wished that someone would hit him because of how bad he felt, but Garland overheard the conversation and gave him a kiss on the nose to show that she bore no hard feelings. In the film she can still be seen to be stifling a smile between the lines 'Well, of course not' and 'My, what a fuss you're making'."
This Version Of The Song Reached #2 On US Music Charts In 1939. Judy Garland's Version reached The Number 5 Spot.
Glenn Miller's Version Reached The Number 1 Spot That Year.
Bob Crosby Orchestra - Teddy Grace Vocal.
AKA Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
Judy Garland introduced "Over the Rainbow" in the 1939, MGM film, The Wizard of Oz. The filming of the production began in October of 1938 with premiers on August 15, 1939, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and on August 17, 1939, at the Capitol Theatre in New York City.
Within days of the two premiers, recordings of "Over the Rainbow" were climbing the pop charts with Glenn Miller and Larry Clinton leading the pack. By mid-September four recordings were in the top ten.
Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (Ray Eberle, vocal, #1)
Larry Clinton and His Orchestra (Bea Wain, vocal, #10)
Bob Crosby and His Orchestra (Teddy Grace, vocal, #2)
Judy Garland (with Victor Young and His Orchestra, #5)
And in 1960, the Dimensions' hit recording rose to number sixteen on the pop charts.
In 2001, "Over the Rainbow" was voted the best song of the twentieth century as part of the "Songs of the Century" project, a distinction created by the Recording Industry of America Association (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Three years later, in 2004, the song was voted the top movie song of all time, with the American Film Institute (AFI) declaring, "In the venerated #1 spot was Judy Garland's soulful and iconic rendition of 'Over the Rainbow' from the beloved family classic, The Wizard of Oz."
The story for the film originated in 1899 when 43-year-old L. Frank Baum authored what was to become one of fourteen Oz books, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. On the face of it, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children's book, but many scholars see the story as an allegory for the dangers of retaining the gold standard. A hot political topic of the time, the hard-money East opposed the Silverites who advocated bimetallism, the addition of silver coinage to the gold standard. It was thought that the inflationary effect of a looser monetary policy would help the farmers, and others hit hard by the 1890's depression, to reduce their debts. In this scenario, Oz is the abbreviation for "ounce" (of gold); the Scarecrow represents the Western farmer, who turns out to be more intelligent than he realizes; the Tin Woodsman represents the depleted American factory worker; and the Cowardly Lion is William Jennings Bryan who betrayed the Silverites, and so on.
Another speculation cited by Alan Lewens in his book, Popular Song: Soundtrack of the Century, equates the journey to Oz with the one of America's gold rushes, depicting how greed drove farmers (the Scarecrow), industrialists (the Tin Woodsman), and others who lacked moral courage (the Cowardly Lion) in search of the holy grail of personal wealth.
Yet another account has Baum getting the idea for the name Oz when he saw the letters O-Z on a file cabinet drawer.
George Robert "Bob" Crosby (August 23, 1913, Spokane, Washington -- March 9, 1993, La Jolla, California) was an American dixieland bandleader and vocalist, best known for his group the Bob-Cats.
Teddy Grace (June 26, 1905, Arcadia, Louisiana -- January 4, 1992, La Mirada, California) was an American female jazz singer.
Dorothy: It really was no miracle. What happened was just this...
Dorothy: [singing] The wind began to switch / The house, to pitch / And suddenly the hinges started to unhitch / Just then the Witch / To satisfy an itch / Went flying on her broomstick, thumbing for a hitch!
Munchkin: And, oh, what happened then was rich!
Munchkins: [singing] The house began to pitch / The kitchen took a slich / It landed on the Wicked Witch in the middle of a ditch / Which was not a happy situation for the Wicked Witch!
Dorothy: Now which way do we go?
Scarecrow: Pardon me, this way is a very nice way.
Dorothy: Who said that?
[Toto barks at scarecrow]
Dorothy: Don't be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don't talk.
Scarecrow: [points other way] It's pleasant down that way, too.
Dorothy: That's funny. Wasn't he pointing the other way?
Scarecrow: [points both ways] Of course, some people do go both ways.
Zeke: [to pigs] Get in there, before I make a dime bank out of you.
Professor Marvel: Better get under cover, Sylvester. There's a storm blowin' up - a whopper, to speak in the vernacular of the peasantry. Poor little kid, I hope she gets home all right.
Cowardly Lion: [noticing the snow that fallen on the poppy field] Unusual weather we're having, ain't it?
Auntie Em Gale: Almira Gulch, just because you own half the county doesn't mean that you have the power to run the rest of us. For twenty-three years, I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now... well, being a Christian woman, I can't say it!
From my friend, Wanda Fulwood Jordan, "I introduced my grandsons to the movie, and the oldest (this was when he was itty-bitty--he's 10 now) would yell, "Run, Toto, run!!!" every time he jumped out of the basket on Miss Gulch's bicycle. I would rewind it over and over just to hear him yell that! I also have wonderful memories of how amazing it was to hear you recite lines and songs from the movie so many years ago, before you left SC. Your memory always amazed me--not to mention your incredible talent!"
Samantha Perez wrote: "My favorite is when Dorothy steps into OZ. That was WOW!!!!. So colorful, beautiful, simply MAGICAL. I wanted to be there. I was transported into OZ and have never left. LOL"
Dorothy: Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!
And from my friend, Mark Watson: "When I was a kid the wicked witch scared the crap out of me. I used to hide behind the chair in the living room every time she was on the screen . Best witch EVER!"
Craig Dudley: I was fortunate to have met several members of the that magical film including a few Munchkins during my career as an actor, however Margaret Hamilton was my favorite....as a child no one terrified me more than she did...from bicycle to broomstick scared the hell out of me...she lived in Gramercy Park and telling her that was so endearing!
Dorothy: Oh please, Professor, why can't we go with you and see all the Crowned Heads of Europe?
Professor Marvel: Do you know any? Oh, you mean the... thing. Yes.
Professor Marvel: Professor Marvel never guesses, he knows!
Scarecrow: Come along, Dorothy. You don't want any of *those* apples.
Apple Tree: Are you hinting my apples aren't what they ought to be?
Scarecrow: Oh, no. It's just that she doesn't like little green worms!
Here's to the next 72 years!
Thank you for joining me on these nostalgic journeys! I'm adding a new aspect to my blog today. Every five days, I'm going to answer a question on video that YOU send to me. You can ask me ANYTHING and I will answer your question on video within my blog. Send your questions to Richard@RichardSkipper.com Next question will be answered on Saturday!
Thank you, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, and Jack Haley! I love you and I know that somewhere right now someone is watching you entertain as you did in your heyday!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE day for ALL!
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Cowardly Lion: All right, I'll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I'll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I'm going in there. There's only one thing I want you fellows to do.
Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow: What's that?
Cowardly Lion: Talk me out of it!
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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com