Today In History

Studio musicians recording the score of  The Wizard of Oz.

Studio musicians recording the score of The Wizard of Oz.

July 18, 1939: The song “Over the Rainbow” is restored for a sneak preview of The Wizard of Oz in Westwood, CA. Producers had cut it from the version shown to a Pomona audience the month before because they felt it slowed things down.

The Harold Arlen tune was put back in by demand of Arthur Freed, who went on to run MGM’s signature musical unit. (From Edward Jablonski’s Harold Arlen: Rhythm, Rainbows, and Blues.)

“Over the Rainbow” ranks first in the American Film Institute’s tribute 100 Years…100 Songs (2004).

To give the producers their due, another cut they made improved the movie, dropping a song called “The Jitterbug” and a scene in the original script featuring a series of musical contests:

A spoiled, selfish princess in Oz had outlawed all forms of music except classical and operetta and went up against Dorothy in a singing contest in which her swing style enchanted listeners and won the grand prize.

8 thoughts on “Today In History

  1. When CBS used to show The Wizard of Oz every year (I think it was Easter?), I didn’t always watch it all the way through, but I made sure to be plopped in front of the TV for “Over the Rainbow.”

    Strangely, I liked the movie even though our TV was B & W.

  2. I don’t remember what time of year they used to show The Wizard of Oz, but I remember it being “hosted” by Danny Kaye. I also knew that it was in black and white, since our television was a black and white set. The first time I ever saw the film projected, it was part of the film program during Noreascon (retroactively referred to as “Noreascon 1”, but that wasn’t its name), and I was totally astounded when the door opened in Oz and the movie turned into color. I suspect that this was similar to the effect it had on the original theatrical audiences, but I think it was probably stronger for me, because I had seen the movie in black and white so many times, and “knew” that it wasn’t in color.

  3. A friend’s daughter was in a high school production of The Wizard of Oz. The jitterbug song was part of the script. It was a nice number and I’m sure the movie version was great but it was a very long sequence (end of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie long) and served no dramatic purpose whatsoever. It’s too bad the footage is lost but the producers were right on this one.

  4. So many fond memories of The Wizard of Oz annual showing. Often saw it with my cousins, a.k.a. my “real” siblings. We made popcorn.

  5. @Morris Keesan, my husband had the exact same experience; his father was colorblind so saw no reason to get a color TV set, which, for the father, had a noticeably worse picture than black-and-white at a much higher expense. So when my husband saw the movie in a dorm room at college (as one did in those days; everyone crowded into the room of the one friend who had a TV) he turned, astonished, to his friends. “Isn’t this film in black and white…?”

    I kind of envy him the epiphany; I’d watched it annually since I can remember, on a color TV, and so the magic was ordinary to me.

  6. Morris: I also had a similar experience watching this with a friend when it showed on campus at our college. He had always been so terrified of the tornado scene* that he had never made it through the black and white section of the movie. He gasped aloud when the movie turned into color. It was kind of amazing to be with someone having this revelation in the mid 1980s!

    *I was terrified of the tornado as well, but also kind of fascinated. It fueled a childhood interest in weather, especially extreme weather, and a fear of tornados despite living in South Jersey, which very rarely has them, and where hurricanes are a much more immediate threat. Ironically, now that I live in the South, where tornados happen a lot more frequently, I’ve become a bit blasé about the whole thing. But I still have the occasional tornado nightmare, and the tornado inevitably looks like the one in the Wizard of Oz — dark funnel moving back and forth along the horizon as I struggle to convince everyone around me that there is a real danger and we need to go to the basement.

    Amazing to read years later that the terrifying tornado in the movie was created with a muslin sock and some big fans.

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