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On the Making of "The Wizard of Oz"

Hollywood journalist and novelist Aljean Harmetz talks about "The Wizard of Oz," one of the most enduring films in American history. This month it will be re-released in theaters. Next year will mark the 60th Anniversary of the film. Harmetz's "The Making of the Wizard of Oz" will be re-issued in paperback next month. This originally aired 8/3/89.


Other segments from the episode on November 6, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 6, 1998: Interview with Aljean Harmetz; Interview with John Lahr; Interview with Lorna Luft; Review of Judy Garland's CD box set "Judy" and album "Judy Garland in…


Date: NOVEMBER 06, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 110601np.217
Head: Interview With John Lahr
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:30

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

"The Wizard Of Oz" returned to movie theaters today digitally restored and remastered. The cowardly lion was portrayed by Bert Lahr, a star of burlesque, vaudeville theater and film. His son, Jo
hn Lahr, is theater critic for "The New Yorker" and author of a book about his father.

Before we here from John Lahr, let's listen to Bert Lahr as the cowardly lion.



If I were king of the forest
Not queen not duke not prince
My regal robes of the forest
Would be satin and not cotton
and not chintz

I command each thing the official power (ph)
With a whoosh and a whoosh
And a royal growl

As I click my heels all th
e trees would kneel
And the mountains bow
And the wolves kowtow
And the sparrow would take wing
If I If I were king

Each rabbit would show respect at me
The chipmunks genuflect at me
And my tail would lash
I would show compash
For every underling
If I if I were king
Just king


Each rabbit would show respect to him
The chipmunks genuflect to him
And his wife would be queen of the mane


I'll be monarch and I shall reign

S: I spoke with Bert Lahr's son, John, in 1992.

In writing about your book, Geoffrey Wolff (ph) said that you explore the way sadness speaks to comic genius. Do you feel you understand the connection, having written about five books about -- about people who were professionally funny?

JOHN LAHR, AUTHOR "NOTES ON A COWARDLY LION": Well, I guess it's a mystery that I'm, you know, I'm drawn to, because the thing that I could never quite understand about my father was how incredibly glorious he was onstage and
animated. And the minute he was off he was morose and still.

That's what I'm after, that kind of curious "no man's land" when an ordinary citizen moves into the limelight and into -- in front of 2,000 people and thrills them.

What happens -- the chemistry; the metabolism; the shift in personality. That's a sort of mystery to me that I'm -- you know, I don't say -- I think I understand it better than many. But I've come to no definitive conclusions.

GROSS: When you were a kid in the wings watching
your father and others go onstage was there sometime that -- sometimes that kind of one moment of transition where they'd go from, you know, the morose backstage person to the magnetic onstage person?

LAHR: Well, with an old pro like my father, he could just sort of walk on, and that connection with the audience, the audience attention brought him up: the fact that he could control them, that he was absolutely in control of them.

I -- when -- I was once backstage after he'd gotten a laugh on a conjunction
. He said something like "but" or "and," and the audience had fallen about.

And he came off, and I said: Dad, how did you -- how did you know that was funny? What told you that that was funny?

And he said: Listen; I listened to the audience, and they told me where the joke was.

And I wrote that down and didn't understand it for about five or six years until I actually got involved in the theater. And then I understood how what a profoundly simple, but -- what a simple but profound thing that was, bec
ause he had such an intimate connection with an audience that he could -- he really could feel their need and he could sort of move with them and improvise with them. And he was there kind of link to the play world.

I mean, a perfect example was in, say, "Waiting for Godot," which he premiered on Broadway -- I think in 1954 or 1956 -- anyway where he sort of actually made a connection between what was then considered a very abstruse choose and phony play to the sort of real deep sense of loss and confusion whi
ch he really felt and instinctively felt in the -- in the poetry of Beckett's play.

GROSS: John Lahr is Bert Lahr's son and theater critic for "The New Yorker."


Dateline: Terry Gross
Guest: John Lahr
High: Drama critic John Lahr talks about his father Bert Lahr, who starred as Zeke, the cowardly lion in "The Wizard of Oz. Bert Lahr died in 1967. John Lahr wrote about his father's infamous role in "Notes on a Cowardly Lion," first p
ublished in 1969. This originally aired 12/14/92.
Spec: Entertainment; Television and Radio; Art

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part withou
t prior written permission.
End-Story: Interview With John Lahr

Date: NOVEMBER 06, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 110602NP.217
Head: Interview With Lorna Luft
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:35

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Singer and actress Lorna Luft is Judy Garland's daughter. I spoke with Luft last spring, after the publication of her memoir "Me and My Shadows."

She says that when her mother was signed to MGM, the studio executives decided she di
dn't look like a movie star and needed a makeover.

There was a time when singer Lorna Luft was billed as Judy Garland's daughter and Liza Minnelli's sister. Now, she's written a new memoir about coming of age in their shadows. It's called "Me and My Shadows."

Luft has starred on Broadway in "Promises, Promises" and in national tours of "Grease," "They're Playing Our Song," and "Guys and Dolls." She's sung at the Rainbow Room, the Hollywood Bowl, and the White House. And she was a regular on "Trapper John
, M.D."

Luft's memoir includes incidents in her mother's early career before Luft was born. When Judy Garland was signed to MGM in her early teens, the studio executives thought she needed a makeover.

LORNA LUFT, ACTRESS, SINGER, AUTHOR, "ME AND MY SHADOWS: A FAMILY MEMOIR": Well, you see in those days, they had sort of a mold of what "movie stars" were supposed to look like. So, they analyzed you. Actually, in the movie of "A Star is Born," there's a wonderful scene where she goes into the makeup room, an
d basically they are doing the exact same thing that they honestly did to her when she was 14.

And they analyzed -- her nose was turned up and her teeth were a little this. And what -- and they analyzed her whole face, which I guess is all right for film, but it also is very hard as a child to hear that. And it's a bit degrading, the way that -- you know, they treated these people like -- they -- they didn't take their feelings into account.

But you also have to understand, people don't realize today how bi
g MGM was. And I think the statistics will floor people -- that MGM did 2,500 makeups an hour. Their phone bill was the same as New York City. They were a factory and they were a city unto themselves. So, they didn't really have a great deal of time to think about people's feelings; their, you know -- what they were -- what they were doing to them.

These people were products to them.

GROSS: Specifically, you say that the studio -- studio experts found your mother too short, too chubby, with a round spine
and no neck, bad bite, nose turned up too much.

LUFT: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Her eyes were the only thing that got a good review. What were the correctives that MGM found for your mother Judy Garland?

LUFT: Well, they put little -- they would put little disks sometimes in her nose to make her nose not turn up. They did make special caps for her teeth so that they wouldn't -- you know, she had a bit of an overbite. They dyed her hair different colors. They -- when she started to develop into being a young
woman, they of course bound her chest. They didn't want that. They did that throughout the whole "Wizard of Oz."

So they basically put out this product that they thought would -- you know, they thought would sell to the movie-buying audience.

GROSS: How old were you the first time you saw The Wizard of Oz and what impression did it make on you?

LUFT: I was about four. Actually, I was a little bit older -- maybe I was about five. And we were in our house in Holmby Hills. My brother Joe was about tw
o. And the movie was on television, and our nanny at the time thought it would be just wonderful to make the impression on us that that was our mother.

And she kept telling us that that was our mother. Now, my mom was in New York at the time. And when she realized that of course the movie was going to be on television, she called the house to hear two children just hysterical, crying.

And she said: what -- what's happened? What's the matter?" And we said: "The monkeys took you to New York," and we were
sobbing and the witch -- and because -- it's a frightening movie for little kids.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

LUFT: And of course, to be told "that's your mother," well, it just scared the hell out of us. So my first time watching The Wizard of Oz wasn't exactly thrilling. But then she never let us watch it without her, and she would always sit there with us and watch it with us so that we never were frightened again.

GROSS: You say that the year your mother made The Wizard of Oz was also the year that she had
her, you know -- quote -- "nervous collapse" on the publicity tour for The Wizard of Oz.

LUFT: Well, look at the movie's she -- you know, she -- they worked her so -- they worked these people so hard. They didn't really -- I mean, they did have child labor laws, but they weren't quite enforced. So I mean, they worked these people so desperately hard, because you've gotta remember something: MGM was putting out a movie a week into the theaters that they owned.

So I mean, it was extraordinary the hours that
people were kept at the studio and how they were, you know, how long they had to work.

So, that was their main concern. Their main concern was making money.

GROSS: And your mother was already a teenager when she was doing publicity for The Wizard of Oz, but she was playing much younger in the movie than she really was.

LUFT: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: You say she really hated having to have that more girlish image. And well, I'm wondering what effect do you think that had on her -- playing younger in the m
ovies than she really was?

LUFT: Well, you know, she was 16. And when you're 16, you're -- that's also a very, you know, in-between age. In fact, she sang a wonderful song called "I'm Just An In-Between." And you basically -- you're not an adult, yet you're not a child. But you -- you don't quite know what you are at the age of 16.

But to be told that you are not 16 or not to look 16 or not to look any older, and to be constantly, you know, told "you can't do this, you can't -- you have to look like this
and you have to do" -- it's hard. And again, again, it takes a toll on your self-esteem.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Lorna Luft. And she's written a new memoir called "Me and My Shadows, a Family Memoir: Living With the Legacy of Judy Garland."

What advice did your mother give you about singing when you were young?

LUFT: What she gave me about singing was basically -- I mean, when she -- when she would hear me sing, she basically would -- never -- she would never criticize me, but s
he would say things just very, very tenderly. "Try to make this sound," "try to" -- she would encourage me. She would never, ever put me down or say, you know, "that's not right," or whatever.

I didn't realize, as I've said before, that Judy Garland was giving me singing lessons. It was my mother.

GROSS: Right.

On one of her TV shows, she sang a song called "Lorna" with a lyric I think written by Johnny Mercer for you.

LUFT: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: How did the lyric go?

LUFT: The lyric was --
it's a wonderful -- well, first, the melody was written by Mort Lindsay (ph) and it was the melody to her television show. It was the theme song to her television show. And of course, there's never been a song called "Lorna."

And she was all -- she was doing a segment on the show dedicated to the three of us. And of course, you know, "Liza" was written by the Gershwins and then "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe" is a wonderful song. And then it came to my song, and there wasn't one.

So she had this s
ong especially written for me. And she never told me about it, until the night of the show, and it was at the taping. And we watched. We were sitting there, and all of a sudden, she asked me if I would stand up in the audience. And she came right down to the footlights, and she sang this song to me.

And I was so touched, and it was just -- what was really wonderful was it -- I didn't realize where I was. It was just mom and myself. And I -- I was so enraptured and I was so proud of this moment, you know, al
l -- I can't remember the audience. I don't remember cameras. I don't remember anything. I just remember that it was her and I.

GROSS: Lorna Luft -- her memoir is called "Me and My Shadows."

Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz reviews a new Judy Garland box set.

This is FRESH AIR.


Dateline: Terry Gross
Guest: Lorna Luft
High: Lorna Luft's recent memoir "Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir" was published earlier this year (Pocket
Books). Luft talks about her mom, Judy Garland, who starred as "Dorothy" in the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz." Judy Garland died in 1969. Lorna Luft is also a half sister to Liza Minnelli. This originally aired 4/29/98.
Spec: Entertainment; Art; Television and Radio; Movie Industry; Judy Garland; Children

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting c
opyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Interview With Lorna Luft

Date: NOVEMBER 06, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 110603NP.217
Head: Lloyd Schwartz Reviews "Judy"
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:48

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: The re-release of "The Wizard Of Oz" may put you in a Judy Garland kind of mood. If so, you're in luck; New Judy Garland collections are in record stores, and classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz has a review.



LLOYD SCHWARTZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC CRITIC: That was Judy Garland in 1922 at the age of 7 from the soundtrack of "Evida Phone Short" (ph). The irony of an earlier rainbow song isn't lost on the producers of "Judy," a four-disk set with videotape and a hundred page book of photos and interviews.

It was just released by 32 Records in anticipation of next year's 60th anniversary of "The Wizard Of Oz" and the 30th anniversary of Garland death at 47 from an
overdose of barbiturates.

Rhino Records has also issued a splendid out one of central Garland soundtracks, called "Judy Garland in Hollywood."

The "Judy" box is filled with amazing mementos from gardens early career. Her first commercial record -- would you have guessed a swinging version of "Stomping at the Savoy," her only known duet with Al Jolson, "Over the Rainbow," on a radio show with Oscar Levant kibitzing? And a 1939 broadcast of a little dramatic recreation of Garland hearing "Over the Rainbow"
for the first time from the people who wrote it, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg.


JUDY GARLAND, ACTRESS: Hello Mr. Harburg. Hello, Mr. Arlen.

HAROLD ARLEN, SONGWRITER: Hello, Judy. We've been waiting for you.

YIP HARBURG, SONGWRITER: Judy, we've just finished writing one of the songs your to sing in "The Wizard Of Oz," and no one's heard it yet. So we've got our fingers crossed.

GARLAND: Oh, I can hardly wait. Would you play it now?

ARLEN: Well, sit yo
u here, Judy, and lend us your ears.

GARLAND: You actually mean I'm going to be the first one to hear this?

HARBURG: That's right. But I hope you're not the last one that's going to hear it.

ARLEN: Now, this song is the theme of the entire picture. Your the little girl in Kansas, that unhappy little girl who is always yearning to be somewhere else but home.

GARLAND: Oh, but I like my home.

ARLEN: We don't mean your home in Bel Air, Judy. We mean the home in the picture.

ou mean I'm always trying to escape from myself.

HARBURG: Mm-hmm. That's it, Judy. And we try to express that yearning, the yearning of all little girls, in this song. Sing it, Harold.


Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I've heard of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dream that you dare to dream
Really do come true

GARLAND: Oh, Mr. Arlen, Mr. Harburg, that's beautiful. I can hardly wait to learn it. Will you teach
it to me please now?

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high...

SCHWARTZ: Has there ever been more beautiful singing than Garland doing that song in "The Wizard of Oz?" That velvety tone, the understated yearning, the sincerity. No pop singer was ever a better actress and no actress a better singer.

Garland was a great actress, and Hollywood knew it -- though it still couldn't bring itself to give a girl singer an Oscar for acting. She was nominated twice for her profound performance in "A Star Is Bo
rn" opposite James Mason in what might be his greatest role and her poignant supporting role as the German housewife in "Judgment at Nuremberg."

It still makes me angry that she didn't win.

I guess I fell in love with her in "The Wizard Of Oz." I think her gift for empathy with her characters and for the uncanny conviction of her phrasing made everyone empathize with her. Maybe no performer except Maria Callas had that capacity more. And it's fascinating to think about the connection between popular musi
c and opera, the way both ask their performers two confide a vulnerability that no one would confided in polite company -- especially, but not exclusively, about love, and to be masterful in those confessions.


The road gets rougher
It's lonelier and tougher
With hope you burn up
Tomorrow he will turn up
There's just no let up
The live long night and day
Ever since this world began
There is nothing sadder than
The one man (unintelligible)
looking f
or the man that got away

SCHWARTZ: Saying or singing the unspeakable outloud -- maybe one reason Garland and Callas still have such a large gay contingent among their audience. The accompanying booklet of the "Judy" set is quite frank about this association.

Yet it's hard to imagine anyone of any persuasion not giving into the seductive, but often asexual appeal of her charm, though no one was sexier than Garland when she was being explicitly erotic. Listen to "I've Got You Under My Skin" or "Do It Again"
on her Carnegie Hall album.

And no singer could be more stirring. Even with a shlocky arrangement, her rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," which she sang on her TV show just weeks after JFK's assassination, is one of the most powerful and moving demonstrations I know of public heroism on the grandest scale.


In the beauty of the Lilly
Christ was born across the sea
With a glory in his bosom
That transfigures yo
u and me
As he died to make men holy
Let us die to make men free
While God is marching on

SCHWARTZ: One can't overlook the sort of sacred monster Garland turned into. "Over the Rainbow" became "Over the Top." But these recordings show that she could transcend even her own excess. Something in that voice, that little catch still remains irresistible.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the "Boston Phoenix." He reviewed "Judy," a four-CD set and videotape just released by 32 Records.


Dateline: Terry Gross; Lloyd Schwartz
High: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews a reissue of Judy Garland's songs titled "Judy: on the label 32 Records. It is a four-CD set with a video and 100-page book of photos and interviews . Also Rhino records has reissued "Judy Garland in Hollywood."
Spec: Entertainment; Art; Television and Radio; Movie Industry; Music Industry; Judy Garland

Please note, this is not the
final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Lloyd Schwartz Reviews "Judy"

Date: NOVEMBER 06, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 110604NP.217
Head: John Powers Reviews "Velvet Goldmine"
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:56

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: "Velvet Goldmine" is the new movie written and directed by Todd Haynes about the "glam rock" scene in London during the early '70s. Haynes other films include "Poison" and "Safe."

Our film critic, John Powers, has a

JOHN POWERS, FILM CRITIC: "Velvet Goldmine" is about the allure of surfaces: how they lie, but also how they tell the truth. It stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Brian Slade, an enigmatic David Bowie-like rock God who fakes his own assassination during a 1974 concert.

Ten years later, a newspaper wants a piece on what ever happened to Brian Slade, and the assignment falls to English journalist Arthur Stewart. He's played by Christian Bale.

As Arthur interviews the stars old cronies, a la "Citize
n Kane," we see flashbacks to Slade's career: his bisexuality and drug use; his marriage to an American ex-pat, played by Toni Colette; and his worship of an Iggy Popish rocker named Curt Wild, charismaticly portrayed by Ewan McGregor.

Yet the longer Arthur tries to find the real Brian Slade, the more we grasp that the movie's actually about Arthur's experience of the glam rock era, a utopian moment when sexual identity became fluid and people revealed who they really were by the masks that they chose to wear.

Like all movies by Todd Haynes, "Velvet Goldmine" is nothing if not audacious. Whether he's using Barbie dolls to tell the story of Karen Carpenter or exploring environmental illness, Haynes is always subverting our expectations, always looking for ways to bring the avant-garde into the multiplex.

Although officially about the '70s rock scene, this new movie begins in outer space, ends in Reagan-era America, and features a cameo by the patron saint of glam rock -- Oscar Wilde.

A true filmmaker of ideas,
Haynes uses Arthur's quest for Slade as a way to explore sexual identity, the history of gay culture, ideas of artifice and the mechanics of pop stardom -- as when Slade's manager, played by comedian Eddie Izzard, explains how you become a pop idol.


EDDIE IZZARD, ACTOR: That man sitting over there in the white suit is the biggest thing to come out of this country since (unintelligible). Outside this country no one knows who the hell he is. You people, you're
going to change all that.

You guys, you're -- you're the actors. It's up to you to change Brian Slade, pop singer, into Maxwell Demon, space age (expletive) superstar.

Nothing fantastic about it. Why? Because the secret of becoming a star is knowing how to behave like one.

POWERS: While "Velvet Goldmine" is the year's brainiest picture, what grabs you first is its sheer joy and spectacle. Haynes clearly adores glam rock's flamboyance, and he uses his movie to celebrate '70s high style.

He uses
platform shoes and faces painted with glitter. He gives his hairdos the color of Fruit Loops and silvery costumes that sprout iridescent plumage.

He gives us men dressed as women, women dressed as men, and musical numbers so deliriously gaudy they're like a "Hello Dolly" revival in Oz.

But while the movie is always a joy watch, the story itself is often cold and abstract, too aware of its intellectual meaning.

Haynes never takes us inside his characters juicy passions. The camera lingers on Reese Mye
rs pouting beauty as Slade, but we never feel the singers excitement as he seduces the crowd or slides into bed with whoever suits him.

We understand how glam helped the journalist Arthur to discover his gayness, but we don't share his quivering thrill as he sees his own forbidden longings enacted on stage.

Nor does the movie capture rock'n'roll's visceral power. Although handsomely mounted, the musical sequences are so studied that I began longing for the Bacchanalian energy that Oliver Stone brought to "
The Doors." Such primal excitement happens here only once, when Kurt Wild tears off his trousers and dives through flames into the roaring crowd.

For all its intellectualism, "Velvet Goldmine" is about the liberating power of pop culture. It shows how a movement like glam rock can tear through suffocating traditions and offer its fans a doorway to new ways of living.

Haynes would clearly like his movie to do the same thing for today's moviegoers. This is a lofty goal, and it leads him to cram too many id
eas into a single film.

He introduces a key character, a dandyish clubber named "Jack Fairy (ph)," then drops him. He mimics the structure of "Citizen Kane," but doesn't deliver a Rosebud. He stages so many MTVish numbers, they eventually swamp the story.

But while these flaws drag down the film's second hour, there are a side effect of a willingness to take huge artistic risks.

"Velvet Goldmine" is too ambitious for its own good, but in a week where they are re-releasing "The Big Chill" as a classi
c, I won't fault Todd Haynes for aiming too high.

GROSS: John Powers is film critic for "Vogue."

I'm Terry Gross.


Dateline: Terry Gross; John Powers
High: Film critic John Powers reviews "Velvet Goldmine," the new film written and directed by Todd Haynes. The film looks at the early '70s "glam rock" scene. Haynes earlier film was "Safe" about a suburban housewife who becomes allergic to nearly everything.
Spec: Movie
Industry; Music Industry; Entertainment

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: John Powers Review
s "Velvet Goldmine"
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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