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Wizard of Oz Timeline

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The Wizard of Oz 1939 poster

This Wizard of Oz Timeline charts the making of the MGM film through 1938 and 1939.

1938

  • January: MGM personnel begin planning for the studio's film of The Wizard of Oz, even before the property is officially theirs. In a 31 January memo, Arthur Freed's initial casting suggestions include Judy Garland and Frank Morgan, plus Buddy Ebsen as the Scarecrow and Ray Bolger as the Tin Woodman.
  • 3 February: Mervyn LeRoy's MGM contract takes effect. He is announced as the film's producer on 24 February.
  • 18 February 1938: the date of the contract by which Samuel Goldwyn sells the film rights to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to MGM.
  • 26 February: William H. Cannon submits his four-page treatment of the story.
  • 28 February: Herman J. Mankiewicz is the first screenwriter assigned to the job of writing an Oz script. Soon Noel Langley and Ogden Nash are also assigned, separately and in ignorance of each other.
  • 3 March: Mankiewicz turns in a 17-page treatment of the Kansas portion of the story.
  • 7 March: Mankiewicz submits a 56-page partial script. Separately, Ogden Nash is assigned to write a treatment of the story.
  • 11 March: Noel Langley is assigned to work on the Oz script, separate from Mankiewicz and Nash.
  • 22 March: Langley turns in a 43-page treatment. Mankiewicz is taken off the film the next day.
  • 5 April: the date on Langley's first finished script.
  • 16 April: Ogden Nash submits a four-page treatment.
  • 4 May: the date on Langley's second script.
  • 9 May: Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen report the the MGM studio to begin writing songs for the film.
  • 13 May: director Norman Taurog signs a longterm contract with MGM.
  • 14 May: the date on Langley's fourth script.
  • 3 June: the screenwriting team of Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf is hired to work on the script. They work on the project through July.
  • 4 June: Langley turns in what he then believes is the final script for the film.
  • 13 June: Ryerson and Woolf's first script.
  • 29 June: the songs for the film are done.
  • 5 July: Ryerson and Woolf's second script.
  • Summer: Bolger convinces Louis B. Mayer to switch his role, from the Tin Man to the Scarecrow.
  • 27 July: Ryerson and Woolf finish their work of the screenplay. Langley resumes work on the script three days later.
  • 9 September: the date of Bert Lahr's MGM contract to play the Cowardly Lion.
  • 17 September: Richard Thorpe is assigned to direct the movie, replacing Norman Taurog.
  • 22 September: Gale Sondergaard does screen tests for the beautiful-but-evil version of the Wicked Witch of the West. Buddy Ebsen tests the Tin Woodman costume for the first time. Frank Morgan wins the role of the Wizard of Oz.
  • 30 September to 11 October: Bolger, Ebsen, Garland and Lahr report to Herbert Stothart and his assistant George Stoll to pre-record musical numbers.
  • October and December: tests on the flying monkeys.
  • 3 October: Sondergaard re-tests for an ugly version of the Wicked Witch. She and the producers agree she is wrong for the part.
  • 10 October: the casting of Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch is announced.
  • 12 October: principal photography on the film officially begins.
  • 21 October: Richard Thorpe completes filming in the entrance hall of the Witch's castle. His footage will later be discarded and re-shot by Victor Fleming. Buddy Ebsen is hospitalized from breathing in the aluminum dust in his Tin Man makeup.
  • 24 October: Richard Thorpe is fired as director.
  • 26 to 31 October: George Cukor serves as interim director.
  • 1 November: Victor Fleming is announced as director. He and his screenwriter John Lee Mahin begin revising the script, and continue during the film's shooting.
  • 4 November: Jack Haley replaces Buddy Ebsen. the Scarecrow's cornfield scene is being filmed on Stage 26.
  • 8 November: Haley records the Tin Woodman's solo song, "If I Only Had a Heart."
  • 11 November: publicity photos record the arrival of little people to play the Munchkins.
  • 16 November: Frank Morgan begins costume and makeup tests for his multiple roles.
  • 19 November: Garland, Bolger, and Haley film their chorus of "We're Off to See the Wizard."
  • 22 November: Munchkins rehearse their dance numbers under choreographer Bobby Connolly and his assistant Dona Massin.
  • early December: construction begins on the Munchkinland set during the first week of December.
  • 9 December: Ken Darby begins music rehearsals and pre-recordings for the Munchkins; through 22 December.
  • 22 December: recording of the "Jitterbug" song begins.
  • 23 December: Margaret Hamilton suffers her accident.
  • 25–26 December: the production shuts down for 2 days for Christmas.
  • 30 December: Munchkinland shooting is finished.

1939

  • January: rehearsal and filming of the "Jitterbug" production number fills five weeks in late 1938 and early 1939.
  • 14 January: a Saturday; protagonists reach the Emerald City and begin work with Frank Morgan ("Who rang that bell?").
  • 1 February: Clara Blandick's casting as Aunt Em is announced.
  • 9 February: Charley Grapewin is cast as Uncle Henry.
  • 10 February: Margaret Hamilton returns to work after her burns have (mostly) healed.
  • 11 February: Betty Danko has her accident.
  • 17 February: Fleming is given an on-set goodbye party as he leaves to direct Gone With the Wind.
  • 19 February: King Vidor films the Kansas scenes over the space of a week.
  • 16 March: principal photography on the film officially ends.
  • 17 March: the film's Kansas set is dismantled.
  • March–May: Blanche Sewell and Victor Fleming edit the film.
  • late March: Sewell and Fleming complete the rough-cut print.
  • April: Buddy Gillespie and his team add special effects shots.
  • 11 April: Herbert Stothart, George Stoll and their staff begin recording sessions for the background musical score and song arrangements. (Songs were previously recorded as vocals and piano accompaniment only.) Ten recording sessions follow in the next three months.
  • 12, 13 April: final vocal tracks for the Munchkins are recorded.
  • June: audience previews.
  • 16 June: a test screening of the film, at the Pomona Fox Theater.
  • 27 June: another test screening, possibly in San Luis Obispo. The film ran 112 minutes, but is eventually cut to 101 minutes.
  • 5 July: editing is complete.
  • 9 July: Stothart and associates complete the film's music track.
  • 7 August: MGM copyrights the film.
  • 9 August: MGM screens the film for the press; reviews are highly positive.
  • 15 August: The Wizard of Oz premiers at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
  • 17 August: the film opens in New York City.
  • 14 September: the film opens in Canada.
  • 17 November: the film opens in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.

References

  • John Fricke, Jay Scarfone, William Stillman. The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History. Warner Books, 1989.
  • Aljean Harmetz. The Making of the Wizard of Oz: Movie Magic and Studio Power in the Prime of MGM and the Miracle of Production #1060. New York, Knopf, 1977.

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