I would have thought the event would've been held in Hollywood or Manhattan's Radio City. But, no. It premiered in the Midwest. Depression era moviegoers, used to seeing films in black and white, saw MGM's The Wizard of Oz on this day in 1939. The film, with its rich Technicolor, made a star out of Hollywood newcomer, teen singer/actress Judy Garland, and began her ascent to becoming a show business legend. In The Wizard of Oz, she introduced what would become her signature song, "Over the Rainbow."
1939 was a magical year for Hollywood. Not just because of that fantasy adventure. That year saw no shortage of films that went on to become classics. Even some of the movies considered minor films went on to become classics. It's been said that The Wizard of Oz wasn't a box office hit when it came out -- not like MGM's other releases such as The Women, Ninotchka and its longtime box office champ, Gone With The Wind. The real story is, The Wizard of Oz was pretty popular. However, most of the folks who went to see it were youngsters accompanied by adults. Kids paid half price. Or maybe even less than half price. That's why the box office receipts weren't the same as for the features aimed at grown-ups. It was a hit with the half price set.
Annual network TV airings made The Wizard of Oz an even more beloved classic.
The untimely death of Robin Williams and the outpouring of affection for him made me think of a line from The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard says it to Tin Man. Tin Man wants a heart. The Wizard tells him that "hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable." When he kindly presents one to Tin Man, he gently adds this line that made me think of Robin:
"And remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others."
Robin Williams had a great heart. I wish we could've kept it from breaking.