An evening conversation: Cheers, Toto!

By Stephen Cameron

Sure, we’re a day late, but let’s raise a glass to Dorothy, her lovable pooch and even that ghastly witch.

Happy anniversary, gang!

It was 75 years ago Sunday that shooting began on “The Wizard of Oz,” and it’s safe to say that Kansas has never been the same.

OK, 16-year-old Judy Garland actually recorded “Over the Rainbow” on Oct. 7, 1938 — six days before production officially began -— but who cares if we fudge a few days?

The film actually made its debut on Aug. 12, 1939, in the bizarre setting of the Strand Theatre in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin (really), followed by the more famous premiere three days later in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

No word on what the good folks of Oconomowoc thought of the Munchkins, monkeys and the ominous Wizard himself — but as for the rest of the world…

Well, “The Wizard of Oz” is as popular now as it’s ever been, and that’s saying something.

Where do we start?

How about the fact that a 3-D Imax “restoration” of the film was released at the beginning of this month, and Warner Home Video has unleashed a 3-D/Blu-ray/UltraViolet box set?

It’s not exactly correct to say that Dorothy and Toto are enjoying a renaissance, simply because they’ve never gone away.

Here’s the summation of Time magazine reviewer Richard Corliss: “Multiple generations have been enthralled by ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ People of every age, from toddler to centenarian, know the dialogue by heart.”

Three different lines from the film appear on the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 movie quotes.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”


“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too.”

Of course. And the third…

No, wait, we’ll save that one for a grand finale.

Believe it or not, “The Wizard of Oz” won only two minor Academy Awards — mostly due to the bad fortune of popping up the same year as “Gone With the Wind” — but it’s left all filmdom in its wake through the years.

In 2001, the Recording Industry of America chose “Over the Rainbow” as the best song of the 20th century.

Oh, and a 1999 poll done by People magazine pronounced “The Wizard of Oz” tied with “The Godfather” as the best movie of all time.

Wait, there’s more.

Very few movies become TV classics, but when NBC ran it in 1967, the iconic “Wizard” drew a whopping 64 million viewers.

Here’s Corliss again, describing the transition to 3-D: “Now it’s back in movie theaters, where a big, colorful film like this should always be seen.

“…The thousand or so technicians who worked for 16 months on the conversion were not trying for the shock effects of a 3-D horror film. They wanted to clarify – or in their words ‘optimize’ — the original visual effects.

“And that’s what you get: a clearer view of the freckles on Dorothy’s face, of the rivet between the Tin Man’s eyebrows, of the Scarecrow’s burlap skin.

“The ruby slippers, shinier than ever, sparkle like a million bucks.”

It feels all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it, having the “The Wizard of Oz” making headlines and bringing the world back to Kansas all over again?

So let’s wrap up our little celebration with the third of those historic movie quotes.

All together now…

“There’s no place like home!”

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