In this installment of #CultureClassics we’re getting you in the holiday mood with one of the greatest black Christmas movies of all-time, The Wiz.
The Wiz is a musical adventure fantasy film produced by music mogul Barry Gordy and his Motown Productions, and released by Universal Pictures on October 24, 1978. A reimagining of the classic children’s novel and film The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with an all-star, all-black cast of legendary creators for The Culture including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Theresa Merritt, Thelma Carpenter, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor.
The film is also loosely adapted from the 1974 Broadway musical of the same name and follows the adventures of Dorothy, a shy 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.
It’s story was reworked from the Broadway version by Joel Schumacher and Quincy Jones who supervised the adaptation of Charlie Smalls and Luther Vandross’ original songs and several new songs, written by Jones and the R&B singing and songwriting team of Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson (aka Ashford and Simpson), were added. And of course it features one of, if not the, most famous black musical number of them all, “Ease On Down the Road”.
Slept on upon its original theatrical release, The Wiz eventually became a cult classic within The Culture and even among original Oz enthusiasts and is now required holiday viewing in many black households.
#FunFact: Certain aspects of the film influenced The Wiz Live!, a live television adaptation of the OG musical which aired on NBC in 2015.
If you enjoyed that look at a throwback R&B classic. Check out more of our #CultureClassics:
Written by @TalentedMrFord