In 1937, MGM gave songwriter and aspiring producer Arthur Freed the green
light to make a movie he had always dreamed of bringing to the silver
screen. It was a fantasy based on the popular storybooks by L. Frank Baum
about a girl from Kansas who is transported to a magical land called Oz.
For decades Baum's books had been translated into stage productions, radio
shows and even film, but nothing would come close to the spectacular that
MGM would create using a brand-new invention: Technicolor®. Freed had
another motivation for making The Wizard of Oz. He wanted a vehicle
to promote the talents of an up-and-coming ingenue named Judy Garland.
MGM would spend an unprecedented $2.77 million making The Wizard of
Oz -- almost three times the cost of an average film at the time.
(That year, only the epic Gone With the Wind exceeded Oz's
budget at $4 million.) Although the film would perform modestly at the box
office when it was first released in June, 1939, it would prove its staying
power a decade later when MGM re-released the film and more than recouped
its investment. By that time, Arthur Freed had become a major producer of
some of MGM's biggest musicals and had succeeded in propelling young Judy
Garland over the rainbow into super-stardom.