Brandywine Celebrates 75th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz
Brandywine Estates at Moorestown resident Hank Lafferty, now 89, was one of those lucky individuals who saw the film when it was initially released.
“I guess I must have been 14 or 15 years old when I first saw ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ” he recalls.
For Lafferty, who retired as the athletic director at Holy Cross High School in Delran in 1994, going to the movies was a weekly ritual during his youth.
“I grew up in the Kensington area of Philadelphia and remember my friends and I would regularly head over to what was then the Midway Theater at Kensington and Allegheny to catch the Saturday matinees,” he says.
“Back then you could get in for all of 10 cents — and for an extra penny you could get a pretzel.”
Betty McGinley, another Brandywine Estates at Moorestown resident, who recently celebrated her 96th birthday, remembers first seeing the film at a Camden neighborhood theater.
Like Lafferty, she too would routinely take in a weekend movie or two.
“I thought ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was terrific. It’s definitely one of my favorites and ranks right up there with ‘African Queen’ and ‘Gone With the Wind,’ ” says McGinley, who confesses she now prefers to stay at home and watch the classics on her 42-inch flat-screen TV.
Despite its acclaim and overwhelming worldwide popularity, “The Wizard of Oz” was met with a less-than-enthusiastic response from audiences back in 1939, a trend that continued well into the 1940s, according to DiCrescenzo.
“At that time, all the major studios like MGM, 20th Century Fox and Universal were cranking out movies by the hundreds every year. So ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ which was geared primarily toward a young female audience, was competing with proven top-rated action serials like ‘Flash Gordon’ and ‘Tarzan,’ plus any number of Westerns starring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and other stars of the day,” says DiCrescenzo.
The real break for “Oz” came in 1954 when CBS bought the rights from MGM to air it on television, a medium which was just coming of age as the newest form of entertainment. The rest, as they say, is history.