Undoubtedly, The Wizard of Oz is one of the best-loved movies of all time. We all know that the film was adapted for the screen in 1939 based on L.Frank Baum's classic American fairytale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which he wrote in 1900. Have you ever given any thought as to how the MGM movie version came to be? Who decided to make this film? And, when? Well, I have created this page in order to compile some chronological data to answer those questions. In addition, there are two other sections on this page which include parts of the film which were cut from the final version and awards that were given to The Wizard of Oz. The sources that I consulted in order to create this page can be found at the bottom.

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 contributions.

  • 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 Walshe 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 as being a better film than 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."

  • *Surrender Dorothy: During the skywriting scene in The Wizard of Oz we see the Wicked Witch of the West spell out Surrender Dorothy as she flies overhead on her broomstick. However, it was originally filmed as Surrender Dorothy or Die WWW. This was shortened in the final version of the film in order to save time.

  • *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 was re-released in over 1800 movie theatres nationwide on November 6, 1998. This will be its first widely theatrical re-release in over twenty-five years.

  • The restored version of The Wizard of Oz was re-released by Warner Home Video on VHS and DVD on October 19, 1999. Single VHS and DVD as well as VHS and DVD giftsets were made available.

  • On Sunday, November 21, 1999, The Wizard of Oz began another traditional journey down the Yellow Brick Road and into our living rooms when the restored version of the film aired on the TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) Superstation.

  • On Monday, July 3, 2000, The Wizard of Oz aired for the first time ever 'commercial-free' on televison on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). This was the beginning of an annual tradition. In addition, during one of the subsequent airings the alternate soundtrack of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon was made accessible on the SAP (Second Audio Program) channel, available to DIRECTV customers and viewers in markets with cable operators who feature DVS. This allowed fans to 'experience' the synchronicity between the MGM film and Capital Records rock music soundtrack.

  • On Sunday, November 19, 2000, The Wizard of Oz aired on TNT (Turner Network Television). The film was followed by a 'premiere' 8-minute short entitled "We All Dream of Oz" with director Ron Howard reflecting on his memories of Oz.

  • During the week of March 5, 2001 the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) released their list of the most celebrated "Song of the Century". Judy Garland's rendition of Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz was chosen as no.1. Was there any doubt?

  • The March 24-30, 2001 issue of TV Guide was devoted to [The 50 Greatest Movie Moments of All Time]. The Wizard of Oz took the no.7 place for THE MELTDOWN; the Wicked Witch of the West melting scene. This particular scene starts at one hour:26 minutes into the film by the way.

  • More kudos for The Wizard of Oz!! On the June 12, 2001 CBS telecast of AFI's 100 Years / 100 Thrills the classic film was ranked as the 43rd most thrilling movie. Scenes of the Wicked Witch in Munchkinland and the Winged Monkeys capturing Dorothy and Toto in the Haunted Forest were shown.

  • The July 3, 2001 airing of The Wizard of Oz on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) included a new exclusive documentary called 'Memories of Oz'. The half-hour program included behind the scenes trivia about the film along with interviews from contemporary Oz historians, collectors, descendants, and seven of the surviving Munchkins.

  • The October 12, 2001 issue of Entertainment Weekly was devoted to The 100 Best Movie Soundtracks. The Wizard of Oz took the no.5 spot. Much thanks to Harold Arlen and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg for their wonderful tunes.

  • The January 11, 2002 issue of Entertainment Weekly was devoted to The 100 Must-See DVDs. The Wizard of Oz was highly recommended for the following reasons: "We love it ... because of the wonderful things it does! Those songs! Those effects! That cinematography! Every time we see Judy Garland step into Munchkinland we marvel at how the once-gimmicky use of color was instantly reborn as a cinematic necessity--you can't have ruby slippers, a yellow brick road, or an emerald city without it--and at how movies forevermore became synonymous with magic."

  • July 4, 2002 saw an innovative twist presented along with the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) airing of The Wizard of Oz. This year's broadcast included a sing-a-long version with the words to the popular songs appearing at the bottom of the tv screen so folks could sing along. This special airing of the film required producer Dena Kurpinsky and her team to spend about 45 days watching the musical, matching lips and lyrics to original song sheets and digitally adding the words to the film. Their goal: "to have [our lyrics] read the way Judy Garland saw them," Krupinsky says. "With all the slashes, dashes, and misspelled words and stuff."

  • The months of November and December, 2002 were monumental for M-G-M's The Wizard of Oz. First, the film returned to network television on the WB Network on November 24, 2002. The first time since it aired on CBS on Friday, May 8, 1998. Next, in the November 30 - December 6, 2002 issue of TV Guide the film was among the critics choice of 'the 50 DVDs you must own', and finally, during these two months the classic film aired at least six times on network and cable television channels. In addition to the November 24, 2002 airing on the WB the movie also aired on TBS on November 28 (Thanksgiving Day!) and December 1 and on TNT on December 8, 13, and 25 (Christmas Day!). What an Ozsome holiday season it was.

  • The American Film Institute ranked The Wicked Witch of the West as the no.4 villain in their 100 Years / 100 Heroes, 100 Villains special which aired June 3, 2003 on CBS. Actress Kathy Bates had this to say about the role ... "it was pure unadulterated evil" ... "Margaret Hamilton played it to the hilt" ... "It was the quintessential Witch that we think of in the classic sense".

  • Once again The American Film Institute paid tribute to The Wizard of Oz on June 22, 2004 when their 100 Years / 100 Songs aired on CBS. Over the Rainbow was ranked the no.1 song in American film! Several celebrities appearing in 'sepia-tone' commented on the results. Some of these included: Celine Dion ~ " ... [the song] is part of everybody's life"; Lorna Luft ~ " ... perfect artist with the perfect song."; Bette Midler ~ " ... universality of what she's [Judy Garland] singing."; Barbra Streisand ~ " ... It's about longing, a piece of magic.". Another Wizard of Oz movie song got kudos when Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead got ranked at no.82. Lorna Luft had this to say about it, "It's a very fun and sweet and lovely song then you realize what they [the Munchkins] are singing about." Several other movies in which Judy Garland sang songs were ranked in the top 100 as well as a couple by daughter Liza Minnelli. For the complete list of AFI's 100 Years / 100 Songs visit: http://www.afi.com/tvevents/100years/songs.aspx.

  • On June 21, 2005 The American Film Institute (AFI) presented its movie countdown called 100 Years / 100 Movie Quotes honoring classic lines of dialogue from the movies. From the 400 nominees six were from The Wizard of Oz The three hour program aired on CBS. The six classic quotes nominated (along with there rankings) from The Wizard of Oz included: Dorothy Gale: "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." (no.4); Wicked Witch of the West: "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!" (no.99); Dorothy Gale/Scarecrow/Tin Man: "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" (no ranking); Wicked Witch of the West: "I'm melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!" (no ranking); The Wizard of Oz: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" (no ranking); Dorothy Gale: "There's no place like home. (no.23). For the complete list of AFI's 100 Years / 100 Quotes visit: http://www.afi.com/tvevents/100years/quotes.aspx.

  • On June 14, 2006 The American Film Institute (AFI) presented a new movie countdown called "100 Years / 100 Cheers" honoring America's most inspiring films. The Wizard of Oz was among 300 nominees and ranked no.26 as most inspirational movie. The three hour program aired on CBS. For the complete list of AFI's 100 Years / 100 Cheers visit: http://afionline.org/tvevents/100years/cheers.aspx.

  • The Wizard of Oz ranked no.3 out of 180 nominees as part of AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals which was held September 3, 2006 at the Hollywood Bowl. For the complete list of AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals visit: http://www.afi.com/Docs/tvevents/pdf/musicals25.pdf.

    The sources that I consulted in order to compile this page are listed below.

    • The Wizard of Oz Collector Cards produced by DuoCards [accompanying trivia information on verso of cards], 1997.
    • Fricke, John. The Wizard of Oz : The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History; with Jay Scarfone, William Stillman; introduction by Jack Haley, Jr. New York, NY : Warner Books, 1989.
    • Harmetz, Aljean. The Making of The Wizard of Oz. New York, NY : Dell Publishing, 1977, 1989.
    • Langley, Noel, et al. The Wizard of Oz : The Screenplay. Edited and with an introduction by Michael Patrick Hearn. New York, NY : Dell Publishing, 1989.
    • McClelland, Doug. Down the Yellow Brick Road : The Making of The Wizard of Oz, New York : Pyramid Books, 1976
    • I want to extend a "special" thank you to Jane Albright for allowing me to use some of the data for this timeline from The Oz Chronology which exists on The International Wizard of Oz Club Website. For anyone wanting more information about The World of Oz, you must check this out. It is OZSOME! It's a chronicle of events in the history of Oz from 1842 to the present.




Jim's "Wizard of Oz" Website Directory


[Birthdays in Oz] [Bloopers] [Care of Collectibles] [Cast Members] [Down the YBR] [Emerald City]
[Fans in Costume] [Favorite Character] [Interpretations] [L. Frank Baum] [Margaret Hamilton] [Miss Gulch]
[Movie Trivia] [Munchkins Pt.1] [Munchkins Pt.2] [My Collectibles] [Oz Bibliography] [Oz Canon]
[Oz Clubs] [Oz from A-Z] [Oz Jeopardy!] [Oz-lore] [Oz Mouseovers] [Oz Postcards] [Oz Quilts] [Oz Stamps]
[Oz Vegas Pt.1] [Oz Vegas Pt.2] [Oz Vegas Pt.3] [Ozzy Links] [Picture Story] [Play-on-Words]
[Ruby Slippers] [Scarecrow's Formula] [Seek-n-Find Game] [Sights and Sounds] [Spiritual-Ozity]
[Timeline of Filming] [Toto] [It's a Twister!] [WB Collectibles] [Witches of Oz]

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