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The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 musical fantasy film based on L. Frank Baum's turn-of-the-century children's story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which a resourceful American girl is snatched up by a Kansas tornado and deposited in a fantastic land of witches, talking scarecrows, cowardly lions, and more. It stars Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton.

Filming started on October 13, 1938 and was completed on March 16, 1939. The film premiered in Los Angeles, California on August 15, 1939. It was shown on television for the first time on November 3, 1956 with a viewing audience estimated at 45 million people.

The movie was adapted by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf, Irving Brecher, (uncredited), William H. Cannon (uncredited), Herbert Fields (uncredited), Arthur Freed (uncredited), Jack Haley (additional dialogue) (uncredited), E.Y. Harburg (uncredited), Samuel Hoffenstein (uncredited), Bert Lahr (additional dialogue) (uncredited), John Lee Mahin (uncredited), Herman J. Mankiewicz (uncredited), Jack Mintz (uncredited), Ogden Nash (uncredited) and Sid Silvers (uncredited). It was directed by Victor Fleming, Richard Thorpe (uncredited) and King Vidor (uncredited).

It won Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Score and Best Music, Song (Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg for Over the Rainbow).

Buddy Ebsen had originally been cast in the role of the Tin Woodsman, but the metallic paint used in the makeup caused him an allergic reaction, and he had to leave the movie. The role of Dorothy, which Judy Garland made her own, had originally been earmarked for Shirley Temple.

The movie was only moderately successful in its initial theatrical run. According to some interpretations, the script was written to support the Isolationist position regarding America's entry into World War II. Decades later it began to be shown regularly on television, and it is through those showings, as well as rereleases in theaters, that it achieved its present iconic status.

The Wizard of Oz has generated many rumours and stories, some of which have reached the level of urban legends. The most common of these, which refuses to die, claims that one of the cast or crew hanged himself on the set, and can be seen in the Enchanted Forest scene. This is not true. It is in fact an animal handler recapturing an escaped animal.

According to another story which appears to be true, the coat Frank Morgan wore as Professor Marvel, which was handpicked from a second-hand clothing rack, once belonged to L. Frank Baum (the author of the Oz series of books). The inside pocket had his name on it. After completion of the film, the coat was presented to Baum's widow who confirmed it was indeed his.

The movie continues to generate a cult following, despite its age and original creative intent as a musical cinematic fable for children. Director John Boorman utilized aspects of the film in his 1974 Science Fiction classic Zardoz."Wizard of Oz" collectibles, such as autographs and memorabilia, related to the film are actively pursued. On May 24, 2000, a pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the film (with red sequins; seven pairs may exist) sold at auction for $666,000.

Several film scholars have written interesting interpretations of the film, including several attempts by structuralist semiologists suggesting that the film was intended to prepare America for entry into war. Such obscure and esoteric interpretations usually posit Dorothy as representing a depressed, monochrome America, turning to FDR's New Deal (the flim flam magician) for hope. She enters a more colorful Europe {Munchkinland), threatened by the Wicked Witches of the East (Stalinism) and West (Fascism). She defeats Stalinism when her house falls upon the Eastern Witch early on, which suggests the overwhelming power of commercial capitalism and its precedence in Western Europe. To defeat Fascism, she receives the aid of Britain (Glynda), the naive peasantry (the Scarecrow), the dehumanized Proletariat (the heartless Tin Man), and the emasculated nobility (Cowardly Lion). The Wizard who encourages and profits from the defeat of the Western Witch turns out to be another version of the same flim flam man she met at home, a cynical politician who realizes that none of Dorothy's allies truly require anything that they didn't already have. He is both a supreme humanitarian and a misanthrope, in that he excels at detecting the weaknesses of others, because he knows his own so well. He is, in fact, the spirit of democracy.

There is an apparent, but coincidental, correspondence between scenes in the movie and songs from the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon. The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

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