On this day in 1938, the entertainment trade newspaper Variety reported that the film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) had bought the rights to adapt L. Frank Baum’s beloved children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the screen, and that the studio has cast 16-year-old Judy Garland in the film’s central role, Dorothy Gale. By the time that Variety announced Garland’s casting, Ray Bolger had already been assigned the role of the Tin Man, and Buddy Ebsen had been picked to play the Scarecrow. At Bolger’s insistence, he and Ebsen soon swapped parts. Just nine days after filming began, however, Ebsen dropped out of the production after he suffered a near-fatal allergic reaction to the aluminum dust used in his Tinman makeup. Jack Haley replaced him. The all-important role of the Wicked Witch of the West was also recast, as the original actress, Gale Sondergaard, objected to playing such an ugly, evil character; Margaret Hamilton replaced her. The Wizard of Oz was released on August 25, 1939. The film ranks sixth on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest films of all time (compiled in 1999). Follow the yellow brick road to the library, hoopla, OverDrive and Freegal.
On February 24, 1958, Chuck Berry’s biggest hit of the rock & roll era, “Sweet Little Sixteen,” is released. It reaches #2 on Billboard’s pop chart (held back from the top position by the Champs’ “Tequila”) and #1 on the R&B chart.