On this Day in Movie History, November 3, 1956: The Wizard of Oz First Seen on TV

On this day, November 3, 1956, the classic MGM film, “The Wizard of Oz”, was first seen on television. The film cost CBS $250,000 to show. First shown as the last installment of the Ford Star Jubilee, it was the first uncut Hollywood film shown in one evening on a commercial television network.

The Oz scenes were shown in color (posters still exist advertising the broadcast and they specifically say in color and black-and-white), but because most television sets then were not color sets, few members of the TV audience saw the film that way. An estimated 45 million people watched the broadcast. However, it was not rerun until three years later.

On December 13, 1959, the film was shown (again on CBS) as a two-hour Christmas season special at an earlier time, to an even larger audience (commercial breaks were much shorter then, enabling the film to run in a two-hour time slot without being cut). Encouraged by the response, CBS decided to make it an annual Christmas tradition, showing it from 1959 through 1962 always on the second Sunday of December.

The film was not shown on December 8, 1963, the second Sunday in December of that year, as might have been expected. This was perhaps due to the proximity of the John F. Kennedy assassination, which had occurred on November 22 of that year and plunged the U.S. into a period of mourning. Whatever the reason, the telecast was moved from December 1963 to the evening of January 26, 1964. The 1964 broadcast marked the end of the Christmas season showings, but The Wizard of Oz was nevertheless still televised only once a year for nearly three decades.

The movie was shown 18 times between 1956 and 1976.

1921 – Charles Bronson (Buchinsky) (actor: Death Wish series, The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, The Valachi Papers, Sandpiper, Raid on Entebbe, Miss Sadie Thompson, Battle of the Bulge, House of Wax, You’re in the Army Now; husband of actress Jill Ireland; died Aug 30, 2003)

1928 – (Dixie) Wanda Hendrix (actress: My Outlaw Brother, The Admiral Was a Lady, Welcome Stranger; died Feb 1, 1981)

1930 – Peggy McCay (actress: A Death of Innocence, Eleanor and Franklin, Bustin’ Loose, Amityville: The Evil Escapes; TV panelist: Who’s the Boss?)

1931 – Monica Vitti (Maria Louisa Ceciarelli) (actress: Immortal Bachelor, Tigers in Lipstick, An Almost Perfect Affair, Blonde in Black Leather, The Red Desert)

1933 – John Barry (Prendergast) (Academy Award-winning composer: soundtracks: Born Free [1966], The Lion in Winter [1968], Out of Africa [1985], Dances with Wolves [1990]; The Cotton Club, The Day of the Locust, Eleanor & Franklin, Indecent Proposal, Midnight Cowboy, Peggy Sue Got Married, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shampoo, Somewhere in Time, James Bond movies, The Persuaders theme; died Jan 20, 2011)

1933 – Ken Berry (actor: Mayberry RFD, F Troop, Mama’s Family, The Ken Berry “Wow” Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Ann Sothern Show, The Cat from Outer Space, Mountain Man, Herbie Rides Again; singer, dancer)

1949 – Mike Evans (Jonas) (actor: The Jeffersons, All in the Family, The Practice, The House on Skull Mountain, The Voyage of the Yes, Rich Man, Poor Man-Book 1; died Dec 14, 2006)

1953 – Kate Capshaw (actress: How to Make an American Quilt, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, Private Affairs, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Best Defense, A Little Sex, Duke of Groove, Black Tie Affair)

1957 – Dolph Lundgren (actor: Johnny Mnemonic, The Shooter, Universal Soldier, Red Scorpion, A View to a Kill, Rocky 4)

1961 – Lee Montgomery (actor: Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Pete and Tillie, Ben)


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