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Tue, 10.24.1978

The Movie ‘The Wiz’ Opens

*On this date in 1978, the movie The Wiz opened theaters globally.  The Wiz was an American musical adventure fantasy film produced by Universal Pictures and Motown Productions.  

It was a reimagining of L. Frank Baum's classic 1900 children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz featuring an all-Black cast, the film was loosely adapted from the 1974 Broadway musical of the same name. It follows the adventures of Dorothy, a shy, twenty-four-year-old Harlem schoolteacher who finds herself magically transported to the urban fantasy Land of Oz, which resembles a dream version of New York City. Befriended by a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion, she travels through the city to seek an audience with the mysterious Wiz, who they say is the only one powerful enough to send her home.  

Produced by Rob Cohen and directed by Sidney Lumet, the film stars Diana RossMichael JacksonNipsey Russell, Ted RossMabel King, Theresa MerrittThelma Carpenter, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor. Its story was reworked from William F. Brown's Broadway libretto by Joel Schumacher, and Quincy Jones supervised the adaptation of Charlie Smalls and Luther Vandross' songs for it.

A handful of new songs, written by Jones and the songwriting team of Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, were added.  Upon its original theatrical release, the film was a critical and commercial failure and marked the end of the resurgence of Black films that began with the blaxploitation movement of the early 1970s.  Despite its initial failure, it became a cult classic among Black audiences, Jackson's fanbase, and Oz enthusiasts.  


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