Angela Lansbury is the hostess for documentary written by Jack Haley, Jr....
Everything you ever wanted to know about the making of THE WIZARD OF OZ, the original premiere, the Academy Awards dinner in February of 1940 (at which GWTW was the big winner), the reception the film received when it opened at New York's Capitol theater with Garland and Rooney as the stage attraction--it's all here, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at cast members discussing their participation in the MGM classic. A brief look too at all the film titles that made 1939 such a memorable year.
ANGELA LANSBURY narrates the whole thing with her usual charm, taking us on a brief tour of the history of the Oz stories by Frank L. Baum and the casting decisions that had to be made regarding the film. RAY BOLGER and JACK HALEY talk about the difficulties of wearing the heavy make-up and costuming under bright Technicolor lights and their inability to eat in the studio commissary; JUDY GARLAND is shown in a couple of TV clips exaggerating stories about Victor Fleming and The Munchkins while daughter LISA MINNELLI observes that her mother had a marvelous sense of humor but stretched the truth; director MERVYN LeROY talks about working with directors Richard Thorpe and George Cukor before choosing VICTOR FLEMING to direct the opus; and Garland and Rooney are shown being surrounded by mobs of photographers and fans at Grand Central Station when they arrived for their personal appearances at the Capitol theater in NYC and Judy and Mickey are both shown with Mayor LaGuardia at 1939's New York World's Fair in Flushing, Queens. Garland is also shown receiving her special Oscar for Best Juvenile performance that year at the Academy dinner.
Filled throughout with scenes from the film illustrating various points, it's a fascinating glimpse into movie-making magic. Especially of BUDDY EBSEN's make-up for The Tin Man causing him to be hospitalized and replaced by JACK HALEY; and MARGARET HAMILTON's account of suffering severe burns when her disappearing trick through fire and smoke went awry. She recalls how her agent told her they were interested in her for a role in the film and she was delighted. "Who do I play?" she asked. "The Witch--naturally. Who else?" Actually, at first they visualized a beautiful witch and had GALE SONDERGAARD doing make-up tests as a lovely Wicked Witch of the West but this idea was scrapped and they even tried "ugly" make-up on her but nobody was happy with the result. Sondergaard never regretted it because she didn't want to appear ugly at that early stage of her career. There's even an illustration of how the special effects for the cyclone were handled.
It's the kind of documentary you would want to have about the world's most famous children's classic--as entertaining as it is informative.
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