The Wizard of Oz is undoubtedly one of the best-loved movies of all time. We all know that it was adapted for the screen in 1939 from L. Frank Baum's classic American fairy tale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which he wrote in 1900. But have you ever given any thought as to how the MGM movie version came to be -- who decided to make this film, and when?
This page was created in order to compile some chronological data in answer to those questions. There are also two additional sections, one of which include parts of the film which ended up on the cutting-room floor and the other listing the awards given to The Wizard of Oz. (The sources
consulted appear at the bottom of the page.)
Special Thanks to Jim Whitcomb for creating and supplying the timeline.
This timeline starts in the year 1924 when only the idea existed for making a film version of The Wizard of Oz and continues through the year 1939 when the film was completed and released in theaters.
The Year is 1924:
- 1924: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) considered making a movie of The Wizard of Oz as early as 1924 when Frank J. Baum was peddling the silent film rights.
They couldn't agree on terms so Frank J. Baum sold the rights to Chadwick Pictures.
The Year is 1933:
- 1933: While Frank J. Baum was negotiating with Samuel Goldwyn for a musical comedy feature, MGM wanted to option the
Oz books for a series of animated cartoons, but like before they couldn't agree on terms.
The Year is 1934:
- January 26, 1934: Samuel Goldwyn bought the film rights to The Wizard of Oz from Frank J. Baum for $40,000.00.
The Year is 1935:
- 1935: Judy Garland signed a contract with MGM.
The Year is 1937:
- 1937: MGM once again looked into the idea of purchasing the rights to all of the Oz stories, but the first for animated shorts.
- 1937: Louis B. Mayer asked Mervyn LeRoy and Arthur Freed which book each would like to make into a movie, they both expressed
an interest in The Wizard of Oz.
- 1937: Producer Arthur Freed wanted to find a good film property for Judy Garland. Agent Frank Orsatti told him that Samuel Goldwyn
had The Wizard of Oz.
The Year is 1938:
- January 1938: While concentrating on other numerous pre-production details, Mervyn LeRoy turned the book over to his assistant,
William Cannon, in early January, to get his thoughts on how best to dramatize the story.
- January 1938: MGM announced that Judy Garland would be cast in the role of Dorothy.
- January 31, 1938: Ray Bolger is assigned to be the Tinman while Buddy Ebsen is assigned to the role of the Scarecrow. Bolger insists
the roles be switched and they were shortly thereafter.
- February 3, 1938: Mervyn LeRoy signed a contract to produce The Wizard of Oz.
- February 18, 1938: Samuel Goldwyn agreed to sell the rights to The Wizard of Oz to MGM.
- February 24, 1938: Variety announced MGM's purchase of the rights to The Wizard of Oz and the casting of Judy Garland
in the role of Dorothy.
- 1938: Irving Brecher served as the first screenwriter for the film, but was immediately taken off to begin work on At the Circus.
- February 28, 1938: Herman Mankiewicz is assigned as screenwriter for the film. He worked on the script until March 23, 1938.
- March 7, 1938: Ogden Nash joined Herman Mankiewicz to write the script for The Wizard of Oz, but he made no important
contributions. He was released on April 16, 1938.
- March 11, 1938: Writer Noel Langley joined Ogden Nash to work on the script for the film.
- April 5, 1938: Noel Langley completed the first script for MGM's The Wizard of Oz.
- April 19, 1938: Writer, Herbert Fields was assigned to work on the script for The Wizard of Oz between April 19 and 22, 1938, but made no important
- May 7, 1938: Lyricist Edgar Yipsel "Yip" Harburg and composer, Harold Arlen, began work on the musical score for MGM's film.
- May 31, 1938: Writer Samuel Hoffenstein worked on the screenplay for The Wizard of Oz, but made no important contributions. He
was released on June 1, 1938.
- June 3, 1938: Samuel Goldwyn officially sold The Wizard of Oz to Loew's Incorporated, MGM's parent company, for $75,000.00.
- June 4, 1938: Noel Langley's script is marked with what he considered to be his last revisions.
- 1938: Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf immediately replaced Noel Langley as screenwriters to MGM's The Wizard of Oz.
- June 13, 1938: Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf submitted first scripts for the film.
- July 25, 1938: MGM announced that Bert Lahr would be cast in the role of the Cowardly Lion.
- July 27, 1938: Arthur Freed took Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf off The Wizard of Oz to work on his new picture, Babes in Arms.
- July 30, 1938: Noel Langley returned as screenwriter. He worked on the script through March 3, 1939.
- August 3, 1938: Writer Jack Mintz is assigned to work on the script for The Wizard of Oz. He stayed on through September 2, 1938.
- August 12, 1938: MGM announced that Charley Grapewin would be cast in the role of Uncle Henry.
- August 20, 1938: MGM announced that Gale Sondergaard would be cast in the role of the Wicked Witch of the West.
- September 17, 1938: Richard Thorpe is assigned to direct MGM's The Wizard of Oz
- September 22, 1938: MGM announced that Frank Morgan would be cast in the role of the Wizard.
- September, 1938: MGM announced the final member to star in The Wizard of Oz and that was Terry, the cairn terrier who played Toto.
- October 1, 1938: Leo Singer signed a contract to supply MGM with his troupe of "The Singer Midgets" to play Munchkins in MGM's The Wizard of Oz.
- October 4, 1938: MGM announced that Pat Walsh would be cast in the role of Nikko, Head Winged Monkey.
- October 8, 1938: The final shooting script for MGM's The Wizard of Oz was completed.
- October 10, 1938: MGM announced that Margaret Hamilton would be cast in the role of the Wicked Witch of the West to replace Gale
Sondergaard who decided she didn't want to play an ugly witch.
- October 12, 1938: Richard Thorpe began directing MGM's classic film, The Wizard of Oz.
- October 21, 1938: Buddy Ebsen suffered from a near fatal allergic reaction to the aluminum dust used
in his Tinman make-up. He never returned to the film and is replaced by Jack Haley.
- October 22, 1938: George Cukor replaced Richard Thorpe, but for only seven days, as interim director for
The Wizard of Oz.
- November 3, 1938: Victor Fleming started directing The Wizard of Oz. He brought John Mahin in
to help with the script.
- November 11, 1938: Leo Singer's "Singer Midgets" arrived on the set to begin shooting the Munchkinland scene.
- December 18, 1938: The Munchkinland scene is completed.
- December 23, 1938: Margaret Hamilton is severely burned during a mishap while filming her departure
in the Munchkinland scene. She left the film for six weeks.
The Year is 1939:
- February 1939: King Vidor directed The Wizard of Oz during the last three weeks of filming.
- February 11, 1939: Margaret Hamilton returned to the set of The Wizard of Oz to resume filming.
- February 28, 1939: The last revisions on a dated script of MGM's The Wizard of Oz are marked.
- March 16, 1939: Principal filming of MGM's The Wizard of Oz is completed.
- June 1939: The first sneak preview of The Wizard of Oz is held in San Bernadino, California.
- June, 29 1939: NBC Radio Premiere broadcast of The Wizard of Oz takes place.
- August 7, 1939: MGM's The Wizard of Oz was granted its first copyright. The 101 minute film
cost $2,777,000.00 to produce.
- August 12, 1939: The world premiere of MGM's The Wizard of Oz is held at the Strand Theatre in
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. It is shown through September 16, 1939. It should be noted that this is considered the "official" anniversary date for The Wizard of Oz.
- August 15, 1939: The Hollywood premiere of MGM's The Wizard of Oz is held at Grauman's Chinese
Theater in Hollywood, California.
- August 17, 1939: The Wizard of Oz opened at the Loew's Capitol Theatre in New York City where
Judy Garland, along with her frequent film partner, Mickey Rooney, performed each night on stage.
Is it possible to even imagine The Wizard of Oz being a better film that it already is? I personally doubt it. During the many
versions of the script that were written and some scenes that were filmed, several items were cut from the final version. Below is a list of
some of the scenes that didn't make the final cut. You can decide for yourself if these would have added anything to the film.
* means this scene was actually filmed, but cut from the final version of the movie.
** means this scene was written by one of the scriptwriters, but was never filmed.
- **Kansas sequence scenes with additional characters: In the book, The Wizard of Oz : The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History,
the authors mention several scenes written into earlier versions of the script that called for additional characters in the Kansas sequence. One such scene
was to have the character of Miss Gulch having a son named Walter in the Kansas sequence while this same actor would play the Wicked Witch of the West's son, Bulbo,
in the Oz sequence. Another was to have a Kansas farm helper named Lizzie Smithers being a love interest for Jack Haley's character Hunk while having
her be an assistant to the Wizard in Oz. None of these additional characters evolved for this reason according to the authors, "Above all, the scripts were padded by the activities of nonessential characters."
- *The Scarecrow's Dance: One scene that was filmed, but was cut from the final version was a more elaborate
dance number for Ray Bolger's role as the Scarecrow. This included Toto jumping onto a large pumpkin that started it rolling toward the
Scarecrow. It hit him from behind causing him to fly high into the air. The Scarecrow landed back onto the Yellow Brick Road and ran
off bouncing back and forth along the fence until he broke through it. Then, the same shot was done in reverse action.
- *The Tinman and the Beehive Scene: One scene that was cut that proved the Wicked Witch's powers involved
the Tinman after the Wicked Witch of the West said she would turn him into a beehive. In the movie we hear the Tinman say, "I'll see you
reach the Wizard, whether I get a heart or not. Beehive--bah! Let her try and make a beehive out of me!". The scene that was cut would have
allowed audiences to hear a buzzing sound coming from inside the Tinman. He bangs on his chest only to have the buzzing increase. He coughs
and a couple bees fly out of his mouth. Then, a whole swarm of bees fly out of his ears, mouth, and funnel on top of his head.
- **The Cowardly Lion Fighting with a Dragon: Some of the screenwriters thought it necessary for the Cowardly Lion to engage
in some sort of battle to prove his courage. In earlier versions of the script, some of the writers had the Cowardly Lion fighting with a dragon.
- *The Jitterbug: Unfortunately, this elaborate dance number was cut from the film after its first sneak preview in June
1939 in San Bernadino, California. All that is left is some rare footage on home movies. When Dorothy and her friends approach the Haunted Forest they
are greeted by human Jitter Trees. This resulted in them engaging in a five minute song and dance number. Even though this scene was cut, it is still hinted
at when the Wicked Witch says to her Winged Monkeys before they fly off to capture Dorothy and Toto, "I've sent a little insect on ahead to take the fight out of them."
- *Reprise of "Over the Rainbow" in the Witch's Castle and The Rainbow Bridge: While Dorothy was locked up in the Witch's Castle she
did a reprise of "Over the Rainbow". The reprise contained a portion of the song that wasn't heard when Dorothy sang this song in the Kansas sequence.
In addition, a Rainbow Bridge forms between the two towers of the Witch's Castle. Dorothy, desperate to escape from the Wicked Witch, sets out on the
bridge despite its thinness. The Ruby Slippers start to glow and carry her safely to the arms of her friends down below.
- *The Triumphant Procession: Another elaborate scene that was filmed, but cut was when Dorothy and her friends
returned to the Emerald City after having killed the Wicked Witch of the West. As they are returning a large procession comes forward to greet them.
Dorothy and her friends are surrounded by flower girls while the Scarecrow proudly carries the Witch's broomstick high above his head for all to see.
They all reprise the song, "Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead!" as was done in Munchkinland to celebrate the death of the Wicked Witch of the East.
- Can you believe "Over the Rainbow" was almost deleted from the film?: It's true! This scene was cut because
Louis B. Mayer didn't like the fact that Judy Garland would be singing this song in a barnyard. It was producer Arthur Freed's pleading with Mayer
that got the song put back into the film. Thank goodness!
The Wizard of Oz had some stiff competition at the Academy Awards in 1939. One of its toughest contenders was Victor Fleming's,
Gone With the Wind, which won best film. However, The Wizard of Oz did get recognized. And, most importantly, perhaps, it went on to become one of the most prolific
films of all time, touching many folks and having influences in many aspects of our culture.
- At the 1939 Academy Awards, The Wizard of Oz received the following awards:
- Best Song for "Over the Rainbow"
- Best Original Score
- A Special Award for Outstanding Juvenile Performance which went to Judy Garland
- The Wizard of Oz made history by being the first movie to be shown on commercial television annually. It first appeared on CBS on
Saturday, November 3, 1956 and last aired on Friday, May 8, 1998. The film will still be telecast on television, but on the Turner cable
channels of either Turner Classic Movies (TCM) or Turner Broadcasting System (TBS).
- Several years ago, a National Registry was established that inducted The Wizard of Oz into its registry. This means that the
film cannot be edited or otherwise altered without full disclosure and only within certain limits.
- On the CBS television airing, Tuesday, June 16, 1998, the AFI (American Film Institute) revealed its choices for the 100 greatest
films from the past 100 years. The Wizard of Oz was chosen as the no.6 best film of all time!!!
- In the August 8-14 issue of TV Guide, The Wizard of Oz came in as no.4 in TV Guide's "Nifty Fifty", The 50 Greatest Movies on TV and Video.
- In anticipation of the 60th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, the film will be re-released in over 2000 movie theatres nationwide on November 6, 1998. This will be
its first theatrical re-release in over forty years.