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The Wizard of Oz on Television
WIZARD OF OZ TV EDITS:
The Dick Van Dyke Wizard of Oz TV broadcasts cut the scene where Dorothy (Ms. Garland) and Toto (Terry) meet Prof. Marvel aka The Wizard (Mr. Frank Morgan) at his encampment to fit the timeslot.
The Danny Kaye broadcast edited a long panning shot of Munchkinland.
Wizard of Oz cast members were reunited in 1970. Why were they not asked to host the TV broadcasts as a group? And why was Judy Garland not asked (probably because she was bitter that she got no money when Oz aired).
Thanks to Albert Sanchez Moreno for additional info.
During the summer of 2007, the Turner Classic Movies cable network began a sunday night series entitled Funday Night At The Movies where they aired reruns of classic family films. The first installment in the series was The Wizard Of Oz.
Actor and voice over performer Tom Kenny (best remembered as the voice of Spongebob Squarepants) was the host/narrator for the series, he performed some comedy bits and talked about the film with a group of kids at the beginning and at the end of the telecast.
November 3, 2011 marks the 55th anniversary of the release of MGM's movie musical version of The Wizard of Oz to television.
Since 1949, MGM had been leasing a number of its huge backlog of films to TV stations all over the USA. Yet, among its listing of 770 movies, the two that the studio would not consider leasing were Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz.
CBS attempted to obtain the broadcast rights to the film version of Margaret Mitchell's story but Metro ultimately refused to offer Gone With The Wind for broadcast (that took another 20 years). Undaunted, CBS managed instead to make a deal with MGM for the TV rights to The Wizard of Oz for a fall screening.
On November 3, 1956, The Wizard of Oz made its video debut on 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.)
There was one problem in presenting this classic tale to home viewers. The film's original running time was 101 minutes so the network needed to air the film in a two-hour block in order for the sponsor to present their twenty minutes of commercials. Network heads decided to have guest hosts entertain the viewers before the film began to fill time.
Ms. Garland's daughter Liza Minnelli and one of the Oz cast members Bert Lahr served as the film's first hosts/narrators. They were joined by Oz historian and collector Justin Schiller (Mr. Schiller founded The International Wizard of Oz Club in 1957 and served as its first president).
Together the trio provided comedic patter and info about the creation of the film along with the history of the Oz books. They also provided some insight into the life and career of the story's author L. Frank Baum.
Despite the fact that the broadcast aired after the normal bedtime for its young audiences (9-11pm), The Wizard Of Oz was a massive hit with TV viewers.
CBS decided to withhold the next screening of the film for another four years - until Sunday December 13, 1959 (sponsored by Schrafts candy). Again they hired another well-known performer to serve as host - Red Skelton (who was still starring in his popular comedy/variety show on CBS). He appeared on the broadcast with his daughter Valentina.
The pair performed their segments against the backdrop of a 19th century library, clad as an 1800's storyteller and his daughter; they also appeared as themselves. Their hosting segments were pre-taped on October 16, 1959.
The second airing of the film was just as successful as the premiere and it garnered fantastic reviews - including one from the New York Herald Tribune's top TV critic Mr. John Crosby.
Actor and dialectician Richard Boone (Paladin on Have Gun Will Travel) and his son Pete MC'd the December 11, 1960 broadcast which the pair taped on location at Apache Junction Arizona on November 13, 1960.
The next two broadcasts were hosted by Dick Van Dyke and his family (Mr. Van Dyke was just beginning his successful sitcom stint on CBS). The Van Dyke family pre-taped their hosting segments set against a recreation of their home on November 12, 1961 and November 11, 1962 for airing on December 10, 1961 and December 9, 1962.
The film was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble and, once again, Oz won the night.
Instead of airing The Wizard of Oz during the Christmas season of 1963, CBS broadcast the film in January of 1964. Danny Kaye, who was filming the second season of his popular variety show for the network, served as the MC.
Mr. Kaye's hosting segments were pre-taped against a recreation of the Yellow Brick Road and The Emerald City at CBS Television City in Los Angeles on January 13, 1964 for a Sunday January 26, 1964 screening. Danny Kaye's hosting segments were repeated until 1967.
At that point, MGM raised it's price for the TV rights to an unheard of one million dollars per showing; that would be about six million in today's dollars.
CBS originally paid $225,000 for the right to screen the motion picture - they refused to accept the higher price tag. Rival NBC wanted to acquire the TV rights to Oz and negotiated with Metro for a more reasonable price - $800,000. As a result, NBC aired the film from 1968 to 1975.
Unlike the previous broadcasts, NBC aired the movie without a guest host, opting instead to add extra commercials and edit out short segments from the movie (a brief shot outside Professor Marvel's encampment and a panning shot of Munchkinland).
In 1976, CBS regained the rights to The Wizard of Oz and aired the film for the next 22 years.
On Tuesday, February 20, 1990, CBS revived the concept of using a guest host/narrator for the film. Angela Lansbury, the star of CBS's popular Sunday night crime drama Murder She Wrote was the last guest MC for the annual TV broadcast of Oz.
That year, the film opened with some pre-taped footage of well-known performers and personalities attending a special screening of the film at the new Columbia Pictures studios (formerly the MGM lot) in Culver City; performers and personalities Lindsey Wagner, John Forsyth, Leonard Maltin and Marlee Matlin offered their recollections about seeing the film. The scene then shifted to Ms. Lansbury talking about the making of the film and its unique history.
The Lansbury footage was actually part of a documentary produced by Jack Haley Jr. (son of the entertainer who played Hickory Twicker / the Tin Man in Oz) and David Niven Jr. to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original theatrical screening of the movie in 1989.
Ms. Lansbury's hosting segments were screened again in 1996 to commemorate the film's 40th anniversary on CBS; the network would air the film in prime-time for two more years.
In 1999, Ted Turner and his three cable channels TCM, TNT and WTBS obtained the TV rights to The Wizard Of Oz; all three networks aired the film. Film historian, critic and celebrity interviewer Robert Osborne continued the tradition of guest hosting for TCM's annual broadcasts.
In more recent years, the Warner Bros. TV network 'The WB' (now known as CW) broadcast the film during the Thanksgiving holidays with many of the network's stars filming their recollections of watching the film to be shown during commercial breaks.
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