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'Oz' Gets A Digital Scrubbing

Most of us have already seen it once.

Most of us have seen it more than once.

After all, The Wizard of Oz has been broadcast on television 39 times.

But now, it can be seen in movie theaters, in a new digitally-enhanced incarnation, reports CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman.

Many movie mavens are excited about the re-release. But Jerry Merrin, who played the "middle guy" in Munchkinland's Lollipop Guild, seems indifferent. What did he think when he heard the movie was coming out again?

"Why?" says Merrin, who adds that he has spent a lifetime talking about Oz. "You can tell [people] anything," he explains, "but if you tell them you were in The Wizard of Oz, they want to know all about it."

Warner Brothers studio is counting on that never-fading fascination to bring American back to the box office to see the new and improved Wizard.

In a process called digital restoration, dozens of technicians spent ten months sprucing up the movie. It was a painstaking process during which every defect was corrected on every single frame of film.

Part of the reason it took so long is because (because because because because!) the original black-and-white footage was lost in a fire. So, the studio had to work from a filthy back-up copy. But they touched up every frame, right down to a tiny flash of dust on Dorothy's left eyelid.

The finished product is in theaters now. So did Merrin, Lollipop Guild member emeritus, go see it? Yes, he did. But only because a friend invited him.

"I didn't realize," Merrin said after the screening, "it was such a good picture."

Merrin isn't the only one who thinks so. The Wizard of Oz, first released in 1939, stars Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, and Margaret Hamilton as the unforgettable Wicked Witch of the West. (Less commonly reported cast notes: Toto was played by Terry the Dog. And an actor named Mitchell Lewis is listed in the credits as "Monkey Officer.")

The movie received six Academy Award nominations, winning in two categories: Best Original Score (Herbert Stothart) and Best Song for Over the Rainbow, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg.

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