You can always grab my attention with a musical, good, bad, or indifferent. Phil Hall, dug up an interesting case in this week’s entry in his always interesting column The Bootleg Files. “Where’s Charley” starred Ray Bolger, best known by far as the Scarecrow from 1939’s “Wizard of Oz,” starring in a film version of the Broadway musical that had revived his career from a post-Oz rut. The stage play had been a very successful vehicle and the movie was a hit but, according to Hall, the widow of songwriting great Frank Loesser, performer Jo Sullivan, disliked the movie so much she somehow managed to singlehandedly suppress it for all these years.
The sequence featuring the show’s break-out hit, “Once in Love with Amy,” goes on very long and during the later portions you may find yourself recalling Pee-Wee Herman as Bolger gets a bit too silly. With all that, this excerpt — which comes from a badly faded print — shows a nice piece of work. Bolger had real grace enough to get over the fact that he was 48 and playing an Oxford student.
In my experience about 95% of “lost” movies turn out to be disappointments and this looks too stagy and twee. So what? I think it’s high time we were allowed to see it for ourselves, complete with that score by Loesser. You can hear Jo Sullivan talk about her late husband’s work, which included such classic scores as “Guys and Dolls” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on this Fresh Air interview.
When it comes to movie classics, there is none more beloved than Victor Fleming’s 1939 musical, “The Wizard of Oz.” Based on the popular children’s book by L. Frank Baum, the film has been featured on numerous “best of” lists and continues to captivate people of all ages to this day. In celebration of its 70th anniversary, Warner Home Video is releasing the movie for the very first time in high definition in a special collector’s set designed exclusively for the hardcore “Oz” fan. This four-disc box set includes over 16 hours of bonus material, a 52-page commemorative book about the making of the film, a reproduction of the original 1939 campaign book, a replica of the film’s budget sheet, and a limited edition watch.
Of course, the main draw of the set is the film itself, and while many have logged complaints about the film’s new hi-def transfer following the one-night special engagement in theaters across the country, there’s no truth behind any of them. Though a movie as old as “The Wizard of Oz” is never going to look as pristine as one from the last decade, the hours of work that went into restoring the film for its Blu-ray debut can be appreciated the minute Leo the MGM Lion comes on screen. It’s not perfect, mind you, but when compared to the many reissues over the years, this version is hands down the best one yet. Colors pop off the screen without looking oversaturated, while the sepia-toned segments look sharper than ever.
As expected with a movie as legendary as “The Wizard of Oz,” Warner Bros. has crammed as many special features onto the four-disc set as possible — to the point that it’s almost overkill. Granted, one of those discs only contains a digital copy of the film, but the other three more than make up for it. Disc One features the movie, as well as a new audio commentary by “Oz” historian John Fricke and a sing-along track. The previously released TV special, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic,” hosted by Angela Lansbury also appears, as do featurettes on music, costumes and production design (“The Art of Imagination”) and the legacy of the film (“Because of the Wonderful Things It Does”).