Somewhere over the rainbow


Isn’t nature a wonderful thing? When we came out of the kids’ school parents’ evening on Thursday, we saw a breathtaking sight. Up above the streets and houses, a rainbow climbing high.

Readers of a certain age will recognise that I have co-opted the lyrics of the theme song from the long-running children’s TV show Rainbow, which was a seminal part of many a 40 or 50-something’s upbringing. (Geoffrey Hayes, the show’s most remembered presenter, sadly passed away two weeks ago.)

They don’t make children’s TV like they used to, do they? Some might say that’s a good thing, but being the nostalgist that I am I still have a hankering for the simpler days of my childhood.

Anyhow, continuing along a random train of thoughts brought me to another rainbow-related touchstone from my youth, The Wizard of Oz.

It’s been years – close to 30 by my estimation – since I last watched it. None of our three kids have ever seen it. I really must rectify this gap in their appreciation of cinema history.

In that way that I do, I ended up diving down a rabbit-hole of research and trivia. You think you know everything about the classic films of your youth, and then you realise you don’t. I find stuff like this endlessly fascinating. This may explain why I don’t have many friends.

Anyway, how many of the following did you know about The Wizard of Oz?

  1. According to the US Library of Congress, it is the most seen film in movie history – and yet it made a significant loss on its original release.
  2. It won two Oscars, including Best Song for Over the Rainbow. But it didn’t win Best Film – that honour went to Gone With the Wind.
  3. Judy Garland, who played Dorothy, was born Frances Ethel Gumm. (I can see why she changed her name!)
  4. Garland died of a barbiturate overdose aged just 47, following a long history of drug and alcohol addiction.
  5. She married five times and had three children, the eldest being Cabaret star Liza Minnelli.
  6. The film’s legacy lives on even now, nearly 80 years after it was first released. “We’re not in Kansas any more” and “There’s no place like home” retain a place in common parlance. “A friend of Dorothy” is a slang term for a gay man.
  7. And, of course, there are Dorothy’s ruby slippers. In L Frank Baum’s original book these were silver. However, they were changed to ruby for the film adaptation to show off the new Technicolor process.
  8. There are five pairs of the ruby slippers still in existence. One pair was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 2005. The shoes were found by the FBI only last month.

I was heading towards a particular point with this post but I appear to have wandered off on a tangent, as I am prone to do. So let’s leave it here for now. I’m off to order The Wizard of Oz. And maybe a Rainbow DVD.


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