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If Ever Oh Ever a Wiz There Was

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 10, 2006 5:33PM

2006_11wizardoz.jpgThis week marks the 50th anniversary of the first network television broadcast of The Wizard of Oz. The first CBS broadcast (which was on WBBM Channel 2 in Chicago) was introduced by Bert Lahr with a 10-year-old Liza Minnelli sitting on his lap. Back then, people were unfamiliar enough with the film that viewers were warned that it opens in black and white, lest they think something was wrong with their color televisions. Except for the years 1957-1958 and 1963 (because of JFK's assassination), it has been broadcast annually. The Wizard of Oz has been seen by more people than any other movie (an estimated one billion), and a 1998 Gallup Poll reported that 94% of American adults had seen the film.

Although the movie itself is pure M-G-M Hollywood, L. Frank Baum allegedly wrote the first Oz book at his home on the northwest side, which the lovely Oz Park commemorates. Those flying monkeys triggered many a childhood nightmare for us. Clearly the early childhood indoctrination has something to do with the blockbuster success of Wicked, which will be camped out in the Loop for the foreseeable future. And remember that whole Dark Side of the Moon sync-up deal?

We’re sad that the On Demand generations to follow will probably not grow up experiencing this annual ritual. We do admit that the recent DVD release, with its insanely beautiful restored picture and sound, is nothing short of gorgeous — but there’s still something about experiencing a live broadcast, commercials and all, that means a lot to a kid. Call us sentimental. We’d like to put the question to you out there: what memories do you have of watching Oz on TV growing up?

The Wizard of Oz airs at 7:00 this Sunday night on TBS.

dorothyoz.jpgSunday's broadcast of The Wizard of Oz won't be its only manifestation this weekend. The film will also be screening at the Hollywood Blvd. theater in Woodridge. As a matter of fact, two of the original Munchkins will be present for each show.

If that doesn't seal the deal for you, it'll interest you to know that Hollywood Blvd. bills itself as a "cinema bar and eatery" and has a full menu and bar. We took a peek at their food and drink offerings and were tickled to discover such items as "Honey I Blew up the Salad!" and the Halleberri Martini. A disclaimer on their site reads, "Hollywood Blvd. is generally an adult facility ... Children must be well behaved and not be disruptive to our feature presentation or they may be asked to leave." How come we've never been there before? We think it's time to take a fresh trip down that yellow brick road.

The Wizard of Oz screens at Hollywood Blvd. in Woodridge daily at 12, 2 and 4 pm through Sunday.