The Wizard of Oz

USA 1939, 102 mins
Director: Victor Fleming

What’s it about?
Our Judy Garland season provides us with the perfect opportunity to travel with Dorothy, somewhere over the rainbow, from monochrome Kansas to the multi-coloured land of Oz. With the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion by her side and the Wicked Witch of the West and a hoard of flying monkeys determined to thwart her, will Dorothy find her way home?

Making ‘The Wizard of Oz’
The history of the story of Oz began a long time ago at the end of the 19th Century, when writer L. Frank Baum and illustrator W.W. Denslow created The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

L. Frank Baum, and other writers after him, produced a total of 40 books full of exciting tales about the Land of Oz.

The original story was also made into a silent film in 1924 and a cartoon in 1933. Finally, at the end of 1937, it was ready to go! During the following year the actors were cast and the composer, writers and the other people needed to make the film were recruited. There were problems with some of the cast: the actress who was originally going to play the Wicked Witch of the West changed her mind because she didn’t want to play an ugly witch, and the actor who was to play the Tin Man couldn’t do it because he was allergic to the aluminium dust make-up he had to wear. The last member of the cast to be chosen was the cairn terrier who played Dorothy’s faithful friend Toto.

Finally, at the end of 1939, The Wizard of Oz was seen by the public for the first time. When it was shown in New York, Judy Garland, the child star who played Dorothy, came on stage every night at the Loew’s Capitol Theater to sing to the audience before the film began.

Did you know?
Judy Garland won a special prize at the Oscar awards for the best films of the year for her ‘Outstanding Performance by a Screen Juvenile’.

The Cowardly Lion’s costume was made using two real lion skins. It was very heavy and became very hot for Bert Lahr, who had to wear it under the hot lights of the film studio.

Towards the end of the film, in the scenes based in Kansas, the old coat worn by Professor Marvel was in fact originally owned by L. Frank Baum, the writer of the Oz books.

The Lion’s tail was attached to a fishing line. Once every so often, a man in the stage rafters would move it around to make it look real unless it had been let loose and Bert Lahr would hold it himself.

Director: Victor Fleming
Director: King Vidor [uncredited]
Production Company: Loew’s Incorporated
Producer: Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf
Adaptation: Noel Langley
Original Book: L. Frank Baum
Director of Photography: Harold Rosson
Editor: Blanche Sewell
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons
Costumes: Adrian
Music: Harold Arlen
Lyricist: E.Y. Harburg
Musical Numbers Staged: Bobby Connolly

Judy Garland (Dorothy Gale)
Frank Morgan (Professor Marvel/The Wizard)
Ray Bolger (Hunk/The Scarecrow)
Bert Lahr (Zeke/The Cowardly Lion)
Jack Haley (Hickory/The Tin Woodman)
Billie Burke (Glinda, the Good Witch)
Margaret Hamilton (Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch of the West)
Charles Grapewin (Uncle Henry)
Pat Walshe (Nikko)
Clara Blandick (Aunt Em)
Toto (Toto, the dog)

Dona Massin
Amelia Bachelor
Margaret Raia
Tiny Doll

USA 1939
102 mins

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email