The lavish MGM production of L. Frank Baum's children's book may have lost a million dollars on its initial release, but its songcraft, technical artistry, star-making performance from Judy Garland, and unexpected TV success turned it into a perennial classic. With future ace MGM musical producer Arthur Freed lending producer Mervyn LeRoy an uncredited hand in pre-production, Cedric Gibbons' art direction, Adrian's costumes, and Hal Rosson's sparkling cinematography maximized the creative potential of Technicolor film, as Dorothy goes "over the rainbow" from a sepia-toned black-and-white Kansas to a fantastically rendered Oz of ruby slippers, emerald cities, and yellow brick roads. Lent ample support by vaudeville vets Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr, neophyte Garland delivered a touching performance as Dorothy, proving that she had the acting talent to match her superb singing. As with Gone With the Wind, the film went through several directors and Victor Fleming got the credit; King Vidor directed the Kansas sequences, including Garland's solo "Over the Rainbow." Almost cut for the sake of pacing, "Over the Rainbow" became an Oscar winner for Best Song and a Garland standard. Although the 2.7-million-dollar film wilted at the box office, The Wizard of Oz was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture (which it lost to Gone With the Wind), winning for Herbert Stothart's score and Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg's song. It was the first feature sold for prime-time TV telecast, and its 1956 TV debut was a ratings hit, finally turning it into the crowd-pleasing blockbuster that MGM had always meant it to be.
by Lucia Bozzola review