Arthur Freed had approached L.B. Mayer in 1937 to get permission to buy the movie rights to The Wizard of Oz expressly as a vehicle for Judy Garland. Everyone on the lot was certainly aware of Judy’s talents, and they were all determined to make Judy into a major star. The Shirley Temple story has been greatly exaggerated over the years. Shirley was never seriously considered for the part of Dorothy. Executives at Loewes, Inc., owner of MGM, were nervous about having Judy in the lead of such an expensive film, since her box office popularity was — as yet — not well established. So they insisted that Mayer test Shirley Temple for the part. Shirley was the biggest box office draw in Hollywood at the time. Roger Edens, Judy’s vocal coach and greatest supporter was sent to Twentieth Century-Fox to test Shirley’s singing voice, and of course he reported back to MGM-boss Louis B. Mayer that there was no way Shirley could play the part. Besides, there was no way Fox would even consider loaning her out. So that’s all there was to that.
Judy won a special miniature Oscar for “most outstanding performance by a juvenile.” It was the only Academy Award Judy ever received, though she was nominated on two other occasions. She referred to the miniature statuette as her “Munchkin Award.”
Judy was sixteen years of age when she made The Wizard of Oz. She was not seventeen, as is so often indicated. This misconception probably comes from the fact that the movie was released in 1939 and Judy was born in 1922: 17 years difference, voila! But the fact is that by the time Judy’s 17th birthday came around on June 10, 1939, she was busy at work on Babes in Arms. Principal filming on Oz began in September 1938, and was completed around the end of March 1939.
No other movie or song is as completely associated to an actor or actress than Judy Garland and the Wizard of Oz and Somewhere Over the Rainbow.