by Sean Smith
On this day in 1939 Judy Garland made her first commercial recording of the song “Over The Rainbow.” The song would not only become her signature song, but also the standout song for the film it was recorded for The Wizard of Oz.
The Wizard of Oz is an iconic American musical film. First released in 1939 by MGM Studios, it was a film adaptation of the 1900 book by L. Frank Baum “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Judy Garland played the lead role of Dorothy in the film, although this was almost not the case. MGM was in talks with Twentieth Century-Fox to allow the popular child actor Shirley Temple, who was under contract to Fox at the time, to play the part of Dorothy. The execs at Fox believed that the film would benefit greatly at the box office if it could secure the ever popular Shirley Temple in the lead role. However, with the role requiring a good amount of singing, producers from MGM wanted to make sure that Temple had the pipes required for the role. Shirley Temple sang for MGM composer Roger Edens and he reported back to his studio that in his opinion she lacked the vocal ability required to play Dorothy. This leading to Judy Garland, who had already been approved for the role by MGM, to assume the lead in the film.
“Over The Rainbow” was written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg for the film. The song comes into play in the film when Dorothy is told by her aunt to find somewhere she won’t get into trouble. She then walks off the her little dog Toto and starts singing “Over The Rainbow.” That scene almost never made it into the final version of the film, as it was almost cut in its entirety for time. Looking back it’s clear that they made the right decision to leave it in.
The lyrics for the record were written by Harburg, and it is rumored that there may be a bit of a political tinge to them. It is said that he wrote some of the hopeful lyrics with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” program in mind, believing that it provided hope and promise for America following The Great Depression.
As hard as it may be to believe, Judy Garland’s version of “Over The Rainbow” never appeared on the charts. Despite this lack of initial commercial success, critics began to recognize the song almost immediately. It won the 1939 Academy Award for Best Original Song, and at the turn of the century was named the number one on the “Songs of the Century” list put out by the Recording Industry Association of America, the National Endowment of the Arts, and Scholastic in 2001. It was also named the top song by the American Film Institute on their list of the top 100 songs from the past 100 years of film released in 2004.
So with Judy Garland first making a commercial recording of “Over The Rainbow” on this day in 1939, this week we take the time to remember that classic track. Enjoy.
Judy Garland As Dorthy
“Over The Rainbow”
From The Wizard Of Oz (1939 Film)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc./Loew’s Inc.