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Liza & Lorna

When Judy Garland’s Daughters
First Saw The Wizard of Oz

by Billy Ingram

In interviews with the American Film Institute, Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft, Judy Garland’s two daughters, both highly regarded entertainers, recalled the fist time they saw their mother as a teenager starring in one of the most beloved classic movies of all time.

The two young girls watched the movie when CBS broadcast it in primetime on November 3, 1956 as the last installment of Ford Star Jubilee, a series of entertainment specials that had a moderate degree of success on the network. (Ironically, Oz star Judy Garland's first TV special aired as the very first broadcast of Ford Star Jubilee in 1955.)

That broadcast of The Wizard of Oz was a huge ratings winner and the movie would return to CBS many times afterword.

Liza: The Wizard of Oz, to me, is what it is to everybody else, because I certainly didn't know my mom when she was 13. So I just see this little girl up there.

Lorna: Because when you're a child, you never see your parent as a child. So when I first saw The Wizard of Oz, it was very, very difficult for me to understand that that was my mother.

Liza: And the story gets me and the way his photograph gets me, and it scares me. You know, I remember getting very scared of the, those monkeys that flew.

Lorna: And I've told this story before, but we had a very well-meaning nanny at the time who said to us, my little brother and myself and my sister, “your mom's gonna be on TV tonight. Your mom's gonna be on TV tonight.” Now my mom was in New York City and we watched The Wizard of Oz without her. And I proceeded to get so hysterical and so scared, and I was crying, and I was a wreck. And she [Judy] called on the phone to see how we liked it and she got two screaming children. And she said, “no, I'm in New York.” And I remember saying, “the monkeys took you to New York!” She said, “no, no, no, no, no, no, I, no, I'm in New York.” I said, “but the witch and the monkey…”

Liza: Jack Haley Jr. Who was a dear, dear man, and I was so lucky to be married to him. And he was alive when that was made. And he went onto the set to visit his father, Jack Haley, who played the Tin Man. And they were doing the Flying Monkey scenes and they, what they had gotten was jockeys because they were little <laugh> and put them in these rubber suits. Now it's 150 degrees on the set cuz it was Technicolor and it had to be… and they're up in the rafters with the heat rising. And Jack said he was looking up and suddenly one of the monkeys went, and this head popped out, and he said, “it's hot up here. Let's go.” <laugh>. And he started to cry. They have to take him off the set. It scared him so bad.

Lorna: For a little kid. It's a scary movie but it also has the most fantastic message. And it's a message of hope and it's a message of home and it's a message of courage and it's a message of knowledge and a message of heart. And when you put all of those together, you have The Wizard of Oz.

Yip Harburg wrote Over The Rainbow, here he performs it beautifully...


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