“Somewhere over the rainbow, Way up high, There’s a land that I heard of, Once in a lullaby. . .” It has been seventy years since a young Judy Garland first sang “Over The Rainbow” in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), but the song continues to impact millions of people. However, would “The Wizard of Oz” still be a classic if the song had been cut from the film as Louis B. Mayer initially intended?
It was after a special preview of “The Wizard of Oz,” that the studios and audience felt it was too long. Executive producer and MGM Studios mogul Louis B. Mayer wanted to cut “Over The Rainbow” out of the film because he felt it slowed the film’s pace and he did not like that Garland sang it in a barnyard. The song’s composer Harold Arlen, lyricist E.Y. Harburg and the film’s executive producer Arthur Freed were successful in changing Mayer’s mind. They insisted that the song was important because its instrumental theme was orchestrated throughout the film. Thankfully, the song’s placement was left untouched.
However, another portion of the song did make the final cut. In the scene when Dorothy is imprisoned in the witch’s castle and after seeing Aunty Em’s face in the witch’s orb, Dorothy was supposed to sing the following, “Someday I’ll wake and rub my eyes, And in that land beyond the skies, You’ll find me, I’ll be a laughing daffodil, And leave the silly cares that fill, My mind behind me.” Reportedly, while filming the scene, Garland along with the crew broke down into tears. The studios eliminated the reprise from the film because of its stark sadness. Fortunately, a rehearsal recording of the portion was preserved and re-mastered for “The Wizard of Oz” original soundtrack.
Amongst the six Academy Award nominations, “Over The Rainbow” won in the “Best Music, Original Song” category for film composer Harold Arlen and lyricist E.Y. Harburg. Soon “Over the Rainbow” was recorded by a number of Big Band singers and orchestras and as a testament to the song’s message, it became an inspiration to American soldiers fighting overseas during World War II.
Today, “Over The Rainbow” is one of the first songs every child recognizes. The AFI Institute made the song its #1 pick on their list of “100 Greatest Songs In American Films.” “Over The Rainbow” has become a famous choice for “American Idol” television show contestants, but Judy Garland will always be the singular voice people will associate with “Over The Rainbow.”