The film was released by Universal Pictures on October 24, 1978 and is an American musical adventure fantasy film.The film was inspired by the Broadway musical of the same name and features an all-black cast.It follows the adventures of a shy, twenty-four-year-old Harlem teacher who finds herself magically transported to the Land of Oz, which resembles a dream version of New York City.She travels through the city to seek an audience with the mysterious Wiz, who they say is the only one powerful enough to send her home.
Filming took place in New York from October to December of 1977.The film was produced by Rob Cohen and directed by Sidney Lumet.The adaptation of Charlie Smalls and Luther Vandross’ songs was supervised by Quincy Jones.A number of new songs written by Jones and his team were added to the project.
The film’s failure marked the end of the resurgence of African-American films that began in the early 1970s.Despite its initial failure, it became a cult classic among black audiences and Jackson’s fans.The Wiz Live!, a live television adaptation of the musical, aired on NBC in 2015.
In November 1978 a crowded Thanksgiving dinner brings a host of family together in a small Harlem apartment, where a shy, twenty-four-year-old elementary teacher namedDorothy Gale lives with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry.She is teased by Aunt Em for never having been south of 125th Street, as she has delayed moving out to start her own life as an adult.It was written for the film.
A dog runs out of the open kitchen door into the snow as his owner cleans up after a meal.She was trapped in the storm after retrieving him.The work of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, brings them to the city realm of Oz.As she descends from the atmosphere, she smashes through an electric “Oz” sky sign, which falls upon and kills Ever Mean, the Wicked Witch of the East.She freed the Munchkins who populate the playground because they had been painted graffiti by Evermean.
Miss One, the Good Witch of the North, is a “numbers runner” who gives Evermean’s silver slippers to her when she is on her feet.She doesn’t want the shoes and just wants to get home to Aunt Em.Miss One wants her to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City and seek the help of the powerful “Wiz” who she believes holds the power to send the girl back to Harlem.After telling her to never take the silver shoes off, Miss One and the Munchkins disappear and she is left to search for the road on her own.
After saving him from being teased by a group of crows, the Scarecrow is friends with the Cowardly Lion, who happens to be made of garbage.They discover the yellow brick road and begin to follow it together.The Scarecrow thinks that the Wiz might be able to give him a brain that he doesn’t have.The Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion are at an abandoned amusement park along the way to the Emerald City.The Tin Man and Lion are on a quest to get a heart and courage.The subway is controlled by a homeless man who controls evil puppets.Other monsters awaken and try to kill the group, but the Lion saves his friends by fighting off the monsters.They narrowly escape the subway, only to encounter prostitutes known as the “Poppy” Girls.They tried to put the three of them into an eternal sleep with a perfume called “Be a Lion”.
The four friends were able to get into the city because of their owner.They enjoy the spectacle of the city and its dancers.They are given an audience with the Wiz, who lives at the very top of the Towers and appears to them as a giant fire-breathing metallic head.He will only allow their wishes if they kill the sister of the Wicked Witch of East, Evillene, who runs a sweatshop in the underground sewers of Oz.Before they can reach her domain, Evillene learns of their plan to kill her and sends out the Flying Monkeys to keep them at bay.
The Flying Monkeys captured their targets and brought them back to Evillene after a long chase.She avenged the death of her sister by dismembering the Scarecrow, flattening the Tin Man, and hanging the Lion from his tail.When the Scarecrow tells her to use the fire sprinkler switch, she almost gives in, but she did.The sprinklers put out the fire, but also melted Evillene, who is made of ice.The lid of her throne slams shut as she is flushed down it.The Winkies are free from their permanent costumes and sweatshop tools when Evillene is dead.They praise their emancipator and break into song and dance.The Flying Monkeys gave her and her friends a ride back to Emerald City.
Herman Smith, a failed politician from Atlantic City, New Jersey, who was transported to Oz in a balloon to promote his campaign to become the city, was discovered to be a fake when the quartet took a back door into his quarters.The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion are distraught that they won’t get their brains, hearts, or courage, but they already have these things.As it seems as if she will never be able to get home, Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, appears and implores her to find her way home by searching within and using the silver slippers.She reminisces about home after thanking Glinda and saying goodbye to her friends.She clicks her heels three times.She looks up and sees that she is near her home and repeats the phrase “There’s no place like home!”
The film was produced by the film/TV division of Berry Gordy’s record label.The teenaged future R&B singer, who originated the role on Broadway, was wanted by Gordy to be cast asDorothy.Diana Ross asked Gordy if she could be cast in the role ofDorothy, but he said that she was too old.Ross convinced Rob Cohen at Universal Pictures to make the film if he was cast as the Cowardly Lion.Cohen and Gordy agreed to the deal.Ross’s efforts to get the film into production was described by a film critic as the strongest example of sheer will in film history.
John Badham decided not to direct the film after learning that Ross was going to play the part of Dorothy, and Cohen replaced him with Sidney Lumet.John Badham told Cohen that he thought Ross was a wonderful singer.She is a terrific actress and a great dancer, but she is not this character.She is not the little girl in The Wizard of Oz.Universal was able to finance the film because 20th Century Fox exercised their first refusal rights to the stage musical.Universal didn’t set a budget for production because they were so excited about the film’s prospects.It was .
The script for The Wiz was influenced by the teachings of Werner Erhard, as both Schumacher and Ross were very enamored of him.Rob Cohen said that before he knew it, the movie was becoming an est-ian fable full of est buzzwords about knowing who you are and sharing and all that.I didn’t like the script very much.It was hard to argue with Ross because she knew all of the things that she had worked on in est seminars.He was “eternally grateful” for learning that he was responsible for his life after the est training.He complained that everyone stayed the same and spouted all the bull shit.Glinda the Good Witch’s speech at the end of the film was noted as “a bunch of est-like platitudes” by The Grove Book of Hollywood.None of the Broadway play’s writing was included in the film.
The finished film would be an absolutely unique experience that nobody has ever witnessed before, according to Lumet.”There was nothing to be gained from the 1939 film other than to make sure we didn’t use anything from it,” said Lumet.Even though our concept is different, they made a great movie and we wanted to make sure we didn’t overlap.
Michael Jackson is a close friend of Diana Ross.Jackson had yet to make a solo album since the release of his fourth album, Michael, though he and his brothers had left the label after the tenth album Moving Violation.Rob Cohen approached Berry Gordy with the idea that Jackson would be perfect for the role of the Scarecrow, but Sidney Lumet was not easy to convince.Lumet wanted the Good Times star to tell Cohen about Michael Jackson.Quincy Jones was skeptical of Jackson, but after Cohen arranged a meeting, Lumet and Jones saw the qualities that Cohen saw.The project was seen as a threat to the Jacksons group by Jackson’s father.Cohen moved Michael and his sister La Toya Jackson into a Manhattan apartment, allowing them to be on their own for the first time.He was a frequent visitor to New York’s famous studio 54.Jackson watched videotapes of animals to learn graceful movements for his part in the movie.The long hours of makeup did not bother him.During the production of the film, Jackson asked Quincy Jones who he would recommend as a producer on a yet un recorded solo album project.Jones was impressed by Jackson’s professionalism, talent and work ethic and offered to be the producer of Off The Wall.
Ted Ross and Mabel King reprised their roles from the stage musical, while Nipsey Russell was cast as the Tin Man.The mother-in-law of Lumet was cast in the role of Glinda the Good Witch.Louis Johnson was the film’s choreographers.One of the cast members was friends with Liza Minnelli.
Filming for The Wiz ended on December 29, 1977.It was filmed in Queens, New York.The New York State Pavilion, Astroland at Coney Island, and the World Trade Center were used in the movie.650 dancers, 385 crew members and 1,200 costumes were used in the scenes filmed at the Emerald City.Costume designer Tony Walton enlisted the help of high fashion designers in New York City for the Emerald City sequence, and obtained exotic costumes and fabric from designers such as Oscar de la Renta.The film’s visual special effects were created by Albert Whitlock.
Quincy Jones worked on the film as a musical supervisor and music producer.He later wrote that he did the film as a favor to Lumet.The film production marked Jones’ first time working with Jackson, and Jones later produced three hit albums for Jackson: Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad.Jones spoke of Jackson’s dedication to his role, comparing his acting style to Sammy Davis, Jr., and had a brief appearance in the Emerald City sequence.
The $24 million production was a flop, as it only earned $13.6 million at the box office.Though prerelease television broadcast rights had been sold to CBS for over $10 million, the film produced a net loss of $10.4 million for Universal.It was the most expensive film musical ever made.The all-black film projects that had become popular during the blaxploitation era of the early to mid-1970s were discouraged by the film’s failure.
The film was released on VHS home video in 1989 by Universal Home Video and broadcasted on CBS on May 5, 1984 to coincide with Michael Jackson’s massive popularity at the time.It is broadcasted on a number of Black-focused networks and was the first broadcast on the Bounce TV digital broadcast network.The opening scene of The Wiz is said to be attributed to the family gathered for a Thanksgiving dinner.
The film was released on DVD in 1999 and a re-release of the film in 2008.There is a 1978 featurette about the film’s production on both DVD releases.A version of the movie was released in 2010.30
The October 1978 release of The Wiz was panned by critics.Diana Ross was criticized by many reviewers because they thought she was too old.Most agreed that what had worked so well on stage did not translate well to the screen.The Broadway musical When It Went to Hollywood was criticized by Hischak’s Through the Screen Door: What Happened to the Broadway Musical.He described Diana Ross’s portrayal as cold, neurotic and oddly unattractive, and noted that the film was a critical and box office bust.The film was described as one of the decade’s biggest failures by Harpole in his work History of American Cinema.The picture finished off Diana Ross’s screen career, as the film was her final theatrical feature.Tom Shone referred to The Wiz as “expensive crud” in his book.The author of Mr. and Mrs. Hollywood criticized the script for being too scary for children and too silly for adults.Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, was not a fan of The Wiz and said it wouldn’t have the same appeal as the MGM musical.