The Wizard of Oz. 1939 MGM. The Wizard of Oz. The MGM production, The Wizard of Oz, was taken from the same books written by L. Frank Baum.
The Wizard of Oz
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The MGM production, The Wizard of Oz, was taken from the same books written by L. Frank Baum.
The story goes…he came up with the name Oz because of a filing cabinet. As he was thinking of the name he glanced at the filing cabinet drawer that said O- Z. Thus came the name Oz.
Oz became the end of his financial struggles for his family (1898).
Baum wrote several Oz books…The Marvelous Land of Oz, The Further Adventures of The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, Ozma of Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, The TikTok Man from Oz
How it began
In 1937, MGM songwriter Arthur Freed wanted to produce a film that would feature a young star, Judy Garland.
Freed approached MGM boss Louis Mayer. Mayer said that Samuel Goldwyn held the screen rights to the story. So, a deal was made.
Mayer hired away from Warner brothers, Mervyn Leroy and Leroy said he wanted to do The Wizard of Oz.
Disney and OZ
Because of the huge success of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs by Disney, children’s fantasy movies became a big thing to movie producers.
Mayer knew that this movie would be a gamble and….an expensive gamble too.
Because of the cost, Mayer felt that Freed should not produce it and Leroy should.
Judy Garland was always at the top of the list.
Some people felt that a bigger star was needed to play Dorothy and Shirley Temple was suppose to be that star. Temple would have to be loaned to MGM from Fox. Temple was tested and, although, could sing it was felt that Garland was the singer/voice that would do the best job.
Others that were looked at were Deanna Durbin and a non-singer Bonita Granville.
Ray Bolger (Scarecrow) was cast but originally as the Tin Man. Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Scarecrow originally.
Bolger felt that his style of dancing better suited the role of the Scarecrow.
The Lion character was not introduced till later and the memo read, “a Bert Lahr-esque Cowardly Lion.”
Originally Frank Morgan was the choice in the Wizard role but others were looked at…Ed Wynn, Wallace Beery, W.C. Fields and others. It seemed like every character actor in Hollywood wanted the role.
There were a few actresses that were considered for the role….Fanny Brice (a comedienne), Beatrice Lillie (Broadway comedienne),Gale Sondergaard and then Margaret Hamilton.
Billie Burke was the only choice for Glinda.
The script idea for the Witch was suppose to be comical but turned to a mean and evil Witch when Hamilton was signed to play that role.
It was up to Leo Singer to provide the midgets (little people) to play the Munchkins.
Other little people came to Hollywood to interview/audition for the role.