11 Fun Facts about “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and The Wizard of Oz

August 22, 2014

Believe it or not, the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz is upon us.  The ubiquitous classic that immortalized Judy Garland’s face and voice while simultaneously giving children everywhere flying-monkey-related nightmares had its Hollywood premiere on August 15, 1939.  To honor this huge and greatly loved film, here are 11 of our favorite facts about the movie, its star, and the smash hit song that still touches hearts to this day.

11. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was picked by RIAA as the #1 Song of the 20th Century and by AFI as the Greatest Movie Song Ever.


10. It was written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, who also wrote “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” and more.


9. Harburg hated the music at first, so Arlen consulted with Ira Gershwin who convinced him to speed up the tempo, after which Harburg wrote the words.


8. The “Over the Rainbow” sequence, along with all of the Kansas scenes, was directed by King Vidor, though his name does not appear in the credits.


7. The song was initially deleted from the film, but associate producer Arthur Freed and Roger Edens (Garland’s vocal coach) persuaded the producers to keep it in.


6. Eleven versions have charted on Top 100 lists around the world.


5. The original Judy Garland version is not among the many versions of the song to chart.


4. Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm.  Not sure why she changed that….


3. The lyrics have a real-world subtext.  Harburg used the song to express hope for America under FDR’s New Deal, as the nation was still suffering through the Great Depression.


2. Shirley Temple was, at one point, slated to play Dorothy, but she could not get out of her contract with Fox and could not hit all the high notes anyway.


1. Victor Fleming directed both The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, the latter of which beat the former for several Oscars, including Best Picture.  Mr. Fleming was probably OK with that.


These are some of our favorite facts, what about you?








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  • Reply Darlyn Farris January 1, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    I was born in 1949. When I was around 4 years old, my Mother would take me to see all the great movies of that era, especially musicals. To this day, The Wizard of Oz and Gone With Wind are the 2 greatest productions. Thank you for your words of information. I greatly appreciate them.

  • Reply Fred Owen July 1, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Thank you for your knowledge and expertise.
    There sure won’t be a 75th celebration of the €%₩&* that is being produced today!

  • Reply Vicki Crenshaw August 21, 2017 at 4:17 am

    I was told there is a narrative that preceeds the song. Can you tell me what they are talking about?

    • Reply Jen Tolnay August 22, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      Hi Vicki, I’m not sure – spoken word or something that’s sung? There’s a very short verse that precedes the familiar chorus. And I would imagine that in the movie there is dialogue that precedes the song.

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