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Five things you didn’t know about “Over the Rainbow”

“Over the Rainbow,” with music by Harold Arlen and E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, is one of the most beloved songs of all time, especially as sung by Judy Garland in her role as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz.  The song itself is familiar all over the world. But some things you probably didn’t know:

1. Before Arlen and Harburg wrote this ballad in June 1938, another composer on MGMS’s staff named Roger Edens had drafted a totally different song for this place in the screenplay, a jaunty tune in which Dorothy celebrates the values of her home in Kansas rather than a magical land somewhere else. Its refrain went:

Mid Pleasures and palaces  
In London, Paris, and Rome, 
There is no place quite like Kansas 
And my little Kansas home-sweet-home.   

2. “Over the Rainbow” was cut during previews of The Wizard of Oz in June 1939 because Louis B. Mayer, the studio chief, felt it slowed up the film and that no one would want to hear a girl sing a slow ballad in a farm yard. The associate producer, Arthur Freed, a key figure on the film’s staff, told Mayer, “’Rainbow’ stays—or I go!” “Rainbow” stayed and went on to become the film’s most popular song.

image credit: “Judy Garland Over the Rainbow 2” Trailer Screenshot, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

3. Less than a year after The Wizard of Oz premiered, MGM used the song again in another film, the social comedy The Philadelphia Story. Katherine Hepburn, playing a wealthy socialite on the eve of her wedding, and James Stewart, a tabloid reporter sent to get a scoop on the event, share a drunken midnight swim at her family estate. As he carries her back to the house, Stewart sings a garbled version of the song:“Some day over the rainbow,” he croons, much to the delight of a groggy Hepburn.

4. “Over the Rainbow,” though a very serious number, has been subjected to numerous parodies, including by Judy Garland herself. On October 8, 1944, at a dinner for the Hollywood Democratic Committee, accompanied by Johnny Green at the piano, she sang a version in which the opening melody had the ill-fitting lyrics:

The Democratic Committee 
Loves you so. 
You’re cute, you’re smart, and you’re pretty, 
Also we need your dough.    

In the decades since, “Over the Rainbow” has been subject to many more parodies. In one YouTube video, a man plays the tune on an “organ” comprised of differently pitched stuffed cats. In a different video, Judy Garland’s original scene from The Wizard of Oz is given a death metal voice over.

5. “Over the Rainbow” has also been a source of solace and reassurance at times of trouble. In January 2013 the singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson assembled a group of children from Newtown, Connecticut, to sing “Over the Rainbow,” just weeks after the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The message was one of rootedness, of determination that they would not allow their community to be disrupted by the act of a crazed shooter. In a similar spirit, on June 4, 2017, the pop star Ariana Grande sang “Over the Rainbow” as the encore at her One Love Manchester concert in England. A benefit for victims of the recent suicide bombing at that city’s arena, the event was attended by 50,000, and broadcast and live-streamed to millions more worldwide. Members of the mostly young audience wept during the number, and Grande herself almost broke down in the coda.

Featured image: “Streamers” by Nicholas A. Tonelli. CC by 2.0 via Flickr.          

Recent Comments

  1. Jules F Levin

    You overlooked another uniqueness: the dog Toto gave an academy award winning performance by following Dorothy’s head movements during the song, instead of keeping an eye on his trainer. Overall his performance in the film. on the set ready to work every day, no doubles, was the greatest canine acting in cinematic history.

  2. Gregory Tzanetos

    Reacting instantly to the Article about ”Over the Rainbow” I find myself responding to what is ‘’live‘’ (as something appearing freedom in its own state of life), I felt the necessity to respond briefly and by any means that are available to my possession, just at the time of reading of the Article calling me for what is ‘’live’’; and that is why I am writing this, here, and just now, creating an open space for me interacting, to feel that I (we) live as free, namely being in something ‘’living’’ as society, corresponding to the call: ”LIVE”!

    ‘’Live’’as something in state of life, is an experience and therefore, expressing me, it means that I am capable for motion appearing freedom by myself, either by using my body, or in my notional subject independently from body.

    That further means motion of a thing (as being) that can determine itself in its own state by a motive which forwards the being to attain its own state in reference to others, and therefore presenting capacity to interact due to that sense of self determination (attaining its state with reference to other things as living); and by that meaning life express freedom of the being, either in animals which we may consider that they have a sense of freedom, or in humans which have grasped the sense of freedom in many levels of their existence (while the trees we may consider that have no sense of freedom deprived of any capacity of motion by self-determination); and thus something ‘’live’’ as categorical means a being with capacity for freedom in its own motion, developing, thus, relations of multi complex interdependence with number of items by equal nature of freedom, as group of individuals, appearing living existence by sense of freedom in their own physical motion; which means that a being appears capacity to be in the state of ‘’live’’ expressing self determination by its own physical state and thus having sense of freedom – in its own physical state of life and together, in group, by developing interrelations presenting collective life of a society, while a number of individuals interact developing interdependence among each other by will -.

    And, thus, a number of beings express something ”live’’ by the meaning of their own motion, while each one attains the definition of its own state with reference to the others showing equally freedom by equal capacity for motion; namely showing group of items, of which each one expresses equal capacity for self determination in its own state of life (and therefore, each one appearing equal freedom in its own motion); namely, showing entities of ‘’live’’ (living) beings by capacity for self determination in their own motion, as free, and presenting beings in forms as number of individuals shaping group of a living species. That capacity shows our nature to be expressed in our free motion, as living beings.

    Thus, we express our sense of something ‘’live’’ by remaining in freedom, while we interact to define our state of life, in reference to others, in order to remain in freedom as the physical state of our life.

    And, therefore, we may say that the animals have a sense of freedom as ‘’live’’.

    However, anything ‘’live’’ as being in human gains more complexity appearing developed notional subject by embedded capacity for judgement and choice by will, and expressing sense in the judgement between the right and the wrong state of the things, as of its own state. That capacity makes humans to create their own laws by which they attain to provide justice in their own state of freedom, recognizing the measure that defines the right from the wrong by choice in their motion.

    And therefore, humans present living beings endowed with reason of judgement in their freedom, revealing the embedded ‘’logos’’ of their conscience, by a sense of universal validity in their free motion; and by that capacity for conscience and reason humans can develop organized form of life, in group, by their own laws defining the space of freedom among them, as society, appearing a developed species expressing intellect, by its own capacity to define its state individually and collectively in the space of freedom as ‘’live’’; and thus to define its own space of existence developing rules and principles corresponding to the sense of its own freedom in a good state by the necessity of a measure of justice.

    Then, we may also consider that it could not be anything ‘’live’’ in being without its own motion, revealing at least an elementary subject providing the decision to the body, appearing freedom by its own physical state as ‘’live’’; and there would not be human judgement without motion of the developed notional subject directing the being in form of human independently from any other thing.

    That is the deference between a natural from an artificial intellect, namely something out of the state of freedom in its own motion (out of the state of a living being).

    And in the motion, by self determination of the beings, is the difference between the true society representing live entities, from a ‘’robot order’’ operating an imitation of society pretending beings, but not live.

    So, what remains ‘’live’’ (namely alive) is the sense of freedom, in the motion of Whoever (or Whatever) lives.

    Thank you for reading this and for your available time.
    Gregory Tzanetos.

  3. […] Five things you didn’t know about “Over the Rainbow”  #3 – Less than a year after The Wizard of Oz premiered, MGM used the song again in another film, the social comedy The Philadelphia Story. Katherine Hepburn, playing a wealthy socialite on the eve of her wedding, and James Stewart, a tabloid reporter sent to get a scoop on the event, share a drunken midnight swim at her family estate. As he carries her back to the house, Stewart sings a garbled version of the song:“Some day over the rainbow,” he croons, much to the delight of a groggy Hepburn. […]

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