History Book: The Wizard of Oz, and Woodstock

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, August 12th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

25 years ago today, Major League Baseball players go on strike. And, 50 years ago this week, a three day music festival that defined the hippie generation.

EICHER: But first, this week marks the 80th anniversary of the premiere of one of the most beloved films of the 20th century. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today on August 15th, 1939.

TRAILER: Many, many miles east of nowhere lies the amazing land of Oz…

The movie version of L. Frank Baum’s children’s book: The Wizard of Oz opens in Hollywood, California. 

SONG: OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD [LYRIC]—You’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz…”

The cast of memorable characters include a cowardly lion, a tin man without a heart, and a brainless scarecrow:

SONG: IF I ONLY HAD BRAIN [LYRIC]—And my head I’d be scratching while my thoughts were busy hatching if I only had a brain…

MGM reportedly hoped Shirley Temple would play the 12-year old Dorothy. But the studio eventually gave the part to the much older Judy Garland.

SONG: IF I ONLY HAD BRAIN [LYRIC] With the thoughts you’d be thinkin’ you could be another Lincoln if you only had a brain…

The producers shot the film in the relatively new technology of Technicolor. And while not the first, the film exploited color in ways few films had done before. The decision affected production in novel ways. Including spending a whole week trying to find the perfect color for the yellow brick road. Shooting in vivid color also led writers to change certain details of the story to play up the technology, including the color of Dorothy’s shoes…

CLIP: Aren’t you forgetting the ruby slippers?

Members of the Academy nominated The Wizard of Oz for Best Picture, but it lost to Gone With the Wind. Though the film still earned two awards: Best Original Score and Best Original Song.


The Wizard of Oz cost $2.8 million to produce. Initially, MGM lost money on the film. But after the studio re-released it in 1949, the film turned a significant profit. In 1956, CBS paid MGM nearly a quarter-of-a-million dollars for the rights to broadcast the feature. The first airing earned CBS a 53 percent audience share. And it became an annual tradition.  

SONG: OVER THE RAINBOW [LYRIC]—Somewhere, over the rainbow, blue birds fly…

Next, August 15th, 1969. More than 400,000 people attend a three-day music festival near Bethel, New York—known as Woodstock.

SONG: COMING INTO LOS ANGELES, ARLO GUTHRIE [LYRIC]—Coming in from London from over the pole…

YASGUR: I’m a farmer…

Dairy farmer Max Yasgur opened his 600-acre farm to the festival—unaware of just how many people would actually show up.

YASGUR: I don’t know how to speak to 20 people at one time, let alone a crowd like this…but I think you people have proven something to the world…

Thirty-two acts performed on the outdoor stage, including Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Joe Cocker:

SONG: A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS, JOE COCKER [LYRIC]—Have a little help from my friends…

Due to the large number of attendees, poor sanitary conditions plague the event. Food and water quickly run out, but most people put up with the challenges without much complaint. The large crowds annoy local business owners and residents and some even threaten legal action against the organizers. But when the community hears of the event conditions, many make their way to the festival to help out as they can. Audio here from CBS news:

CBS NEWS CLIP: Housewives handed out hot coffee to stranded youngsters who had not eaten in days. Catholic nuns passed around sandwiches made by Jewish mothers…

In light of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, organizers planned a three-day commemoration festival for this week, but after venue challenges, production problems, and band cancellations, producers pulled the plug on “Woodstock 50.” 

SONG: A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS, JOE COCKER [LYRIC] – “Have a little help from my friends…”

And finally, August 12th, 1994, 25 years ago today. 

CLIP: Well it is now official, no more regular season, no extended version of the playoffs, and for the first time since 1904, no World Series…

Audio courtesy of The Sports Network. After months of failed negotiations between Major League Baseball owners and players over salary caps, the players go on strike. Acting baseball commissioner Bud Selig responds by cancelling the remaining 47 games of the season. 

CLIP: We just can’t continue to do business as usual…

In an interview last year with USA Today, Selig said it was the hardest thing he ever did.

SELIG: It was painful. It was a work stoppage that had been long coming, we had already had seven work stoppages, the atmosphere between the parties could not have been any worse. We lost a World Series. And it was a really heartbreaking situation. 

Eventually, the U.S. Congress got involved, introducing five bills they hoped would end the strike. Even President Clinton chimed in, demanding players and owners return to the bargaining table:

CLINTON: The American people are the real losers. Major league cities, the Spring Training communities…

The strike lasted 232 days. It ended when then U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction against the owners on March 31st, 1995. 

While the strike may have improved conditions for players, it took nearly a decade before ticket sales recovered and fans came back to stadiums to support their teams.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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