The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
The Wizard Of Oz (1939) Herbert Stothart, Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg
I don’t even remember the impetus behind deciding to release this book. I’ve always been enamored of the score, and now that I have children who have watched the film, I felt more emotionally attached to it. At my disposal, I had the Royal Shakespeare Company version for musical theater, the condensed conductor score, a piano reduction, and several recordings, not to mention the film itself as the ultimate guide. In addition, I had also acquired many outtakes from various recording sessions throughout 1938-39. In many cases, these outtakes were exactly the same as the film, and oftentimes didn’t include the singers, which resulted in a clear source. As a bonus, there existed daily music reports that listed the instrumentation for many of the arrangements. The only source I didn’t have were the original scores. No one really knows where they ultimately exist, but by all accounts, they ended up in a landfill for a golf course in L.A. The demise of MGM’s intellectual property is well-documented, but as the story goes, props, costumes, sets, music, etc. were either trashed, or auctioned for cheap. Therefore, while not a total reconstruction, it could be described as such through detective work and careful listening. This score was the most challenging to get right, but the outtakes revealed detail that might have been otherwise lost. For example, during specific takes, the conductor cuts off the musicians, however some players continue a little afterwards. There were many instances of this occurrence that it made transcribing certain sections that much easier. Plus, with the orchestra isolated from the singers, an amazing amount of detail popped out.
What makes The Wizard Of Oz great? It’s all about the story and the characters. At its core, the film is a coming-of-age story, and no matter how you dress it up, every person can identify with the protagonist in this classic story. It just happens to be about a simple farm girl who yearns for even just a glimpse of what life would be like in other lands. She is joined by familiar friends who help her triumph over evil and understand the most important message in the story: There’s no place like home!
By the time Judy Garland sings her famous anthem, we know everything there is to know about Dorothy; her dreams and fears, all poetically captured by E.Y. Harburg. With that octave leap, Dorothy pleads, to no one in particular, to be shown a life she can only dream.
In a book, only one person is telling the story: the author. When Hollywood tells a story, it requires many people doing many disparate jobs. With The Wizard Of Oz, you have an instance where the parts are greater than the whole. And everyone was united under the talented leadership of director Victor Fleming. Using all the camera tricks and special effects of the day, and even inventing new ones along the way, we are left with a seamless story told through dazzling visuals, vibrant costumes and sets, and timeless music. It’s a magical experience, and perhaps why audiences are still in love with this film. It has enjoyed successes beyond all expectations, the likes of which have never been duplicated.
Film composer Herbert Stothart left an indelible mark on countless generations with his careful handling of the songs penned by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. In addition to arranging all the material with the aid of his staff, he was also tasked with adapting existing music to round out the score. He penned what is unquestionably the most famous “evil” theme ever for the witch.
Now musicians, music students, conductors – any music lover – can study The Wizard Of Oz in this durable, high-quality edition, carefully reproduced and edited from the original handwritten manuscript.