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It has been called a “timeless” motion picture. Because it is.
Produced in 1939 and televised at least once annually since 1956, the movie claims a truly rabid, multi-generational audience. Why? Because, as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith once observed, we’re all kids at heart. And we all love music…and fantasy.
On Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18 at 8pm in the Schuster Center, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Neal Gittleman will conduct the entire score to the MGM film The Wizard of Oz as it projects on a large screen above the orchestra, providing orchestral accompaniment to the film with the soundtrack stripped of all orchestral music; only the actors’ dialogue and vocals remain.
Many of us know the words to the movie’s songs by heart, the result of anywhere from one to 55 years’ worth of exposure. E.Y. Harburg’s lyrics set to Harold Arlen’s music with Herbert Stothart’s Academy Award winning (for Best Original Score) incidental music and instrumental underscore (some of it based on the songs, some borrowed from classical composers), are as familiar to us as our own family (hence, the derivation of the term).
With its use of Technicolor film, extraordinary characters, fantasy storytelling, and special effects, The Wizard of Oz won two Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Picture of the Year (Frankly, my dear, it lost to Gone with the Wind). And, believe it or not, it was a box office failure at first, failing to earn back the studio’s investment. In time, the trend reversed, and later re-releases compensated MGM for its initial poor showing.
It has become one of the most famous films ever made. The Library of Congress named it the most-watched motion picture in history. Viewer/critic polls often rank it as one of the Top 10 Best Movies of All-Time. And, of course, it is the source of many memorable quotes: I’ll get you, my pretty…and your little dog, too!; Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore; and There’s no place like home, to name a few..
This Kettering Health Network SuperPops Series concert reprises (always loved the sound of that word: re-pree-ses), or brings back, the event, originally performed before a sold-out Mead Theater in the Schuster Center in November, 2006. It was The Bomb. I know. I was fortunate to be there with my extended family, and we – along with the overwhelming majority of other attendees – sang our little hearts out. Most of us were even on key!
There’s an old axiom familiar to we Writers Guild members: “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage,” meaning “you can’t damned well make a movie without a screenplay!” Strangely, it sometimes works the other way around: “It may be on the page, but that’s no guarantee it’s gonna’ make it to the film.” In short, the film winds up markedly different than the source text, in this case L. Frank Baum’s book.
Here’s what’s different. And, since we all know the movie so well, I’ll just cover what was in the book that got changed.
In the book, Oz was a real place. Glinda the Good Witch of the North had no name; she was actually two people, Glinda the Good Witch of the South and the Queen of the Field Mice. There were places called the China Country and people called the Hammerheads. The Wicked Witch of the West was only mentioned several times before she appeared one chapter towards the end. Dorothy rescued her friends, not the other way around. And she wore silver shoes, not ruby slippers.
Other than that….
Director Victor Fleming filmed the Oz sequences in three-strip Technicolor; the opening/ closing credits, the Kansas sequences, and Aunty Em’s appearance in the Wicked Witch’s crystal ball in black and white and colored them using sepia tone.
The Beverly Hillbillies pater familias Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Man and joined the cast in recording the film’s songs in a studio before principal photography began. Then, problem of problems, Ebsen got sick…from the aluminum powder makeup of all things, and MGM dropped him from the cast and replaced him with Jack Haley.
But Ebsen’s singing voice stayed in the soundtrack.
The beauty of having watched a film like The Wizard of Oz sooooo many times as quite a few of us have is that, when we hear a song from the film, we can just about place it in its proper sequence in the story. Read the list of songs in sequence as they are heard in the film, and see if you remember where (i.e., which scene) each song was sung:
Over the Rainbow; Come Out, Come Out…; It Really Was No Miracle; We Thank You Very Sweetly; Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead; As Mayor of the Munchkin City; As Coroner, I Must Aver; Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead (Reprise; don’t you just love that word?); The Lullaby League; The Lollipop Guild; We Welcome You to Munchkinland; Follow the Yellow Brick Road/You’re Off to See the Wizard; If I Only Had a Brain; We’re Off to See the Wizard; If I Only Had a Heart; We’re Off to See the Wizard (Reprise); If I Only Had the Nerve; We’re Off to See the Wizard (Reprise); Optimistic Voices (background chorus);The Merry Old Land of Oz; If I Were King of the Forest.
A word about classical music in the film: an arranged version of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain is heard during the scene in which the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion rescue Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle.
So, grab all your Janet Weiss and Brad Majors costume paraphernalia…no, no, that’s the other long-running film.
So, even though we‘re not in Kansas anymore, we can all get to downtown Dayton for Wizard of Oz with Orchestra.
And we won’t need to wear ruby slippers to get back home.