WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — On this day in 1956, the “Wizard of Oz” first appeared on television.
The film, which has become practically synonymous with Kansas, was originally released in theaters on Aug. 25, 1939. Though it won two Oscars and was critically acclaimed, it wasn’t immediately successful at the box office.
As Susan King writes in the Los Angeles Times, it wasn’t until it was re-released in theaters in 1949 and 1955 that it was able to recoup all of its budget. Still, the movie was not as iconic as it is today until it was introduced to TV audiences.
In 1956, CBS purchased the right to air the film. It was first broadcast on Nov. 3 with a reported audience of 45 million viewers.
It was hosted by actor Bert Lahr, who played the farmhand Zeke and the Cowardly Lion. He was joined by Judy Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli.
It aired on CBS until 1968 when it moved to NBC before returning to CBS from 1976 to 1991. In 1985, Ted Turner bought MGM but sold off the studio and its distribution system in 1986, keeping the MGM back catalog of movies up to 1986, including “The Wizard of Oz.”
In 1994, Turner created Turner Classic Movies or TCM. “The Wizard of Oz” appears at least once a year on the network.
Today, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen or at least hasn’t heard of “The Wizard of Oz.” Also, there are not many Kansans who have traveled out of state and haven’t had someone say back to them the line about Kansas and Toto the second the person learns where they’re from.
The film is available to stream on Max, which owns TCM and the MGM catalog, or can be purchased by many online retailers in digital format or Blu-ray and DVD.