Almanac: "The Wizard of Oz"

The cast of "The Wizard of Oz": Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, Judy Garland, Frank Morgan and Bert Lahr.

(CBS News) And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac . . . February 24, 1938, 75 years ago today, the day Hollywood set off down the Yellow Brick Road.

A small item in Variety that day told the world MGM had acquired the film rights to "The Wizard of Oz," and had cast Judy Garland as Dorothy.

Based on a beloved children's book by L. Frank Baum, "The Wizard of Oz" was a big-budget film for its time, costing nearly $2.8 million to produce and distribute . . . a price tag driven up by its use of the still-new medium of Technicolor to highlight Dorothy's arrival and adventures in Oz.

Dorothy's journey with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion unfolded across a fantasy landscape, and concluded with the clicking together of those ruby red slippers.

Despite a veritable tornado of publicity, including a personal appearance by Judy Garland at the New York opening, the tale of her time in the Emerald City did not immediately strike box office gold.

In fact, it barely made a profit on its initial release, and it lost Best Picture honors to "Gone With the Wind" . . . though "Over The Rainbow" DID win the Oscar for Best Original Song.

But thanks to TV presentations and home video releases over the years, "The Wizard of Oz" has gone on to become the most-watched motion picture ever made, according to the Library of Congress.

Jerry Maren, one of the last surviving Munchkins, once offered a theory about the secret of its success:

"It's America's fairy tale: 'There's no place like home,' and that's the truth."

If ever a hit of show biz there was, "The Wizard of Oz" was one because . . . well, just BECAUSE.

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