1978's 'The Wiz'
Credit: Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images
"The Wiz," the film version of the popular Broadway musical that retells the events of L. Frank Baum's classic novel, starred Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow. The 1978 film gave an urban twist to the cult classic, but it was also a blockbuster flop.
Ross insisted on playing Dorothy even though she was too old for the role. Instead of a girl from Kansas, Dorothy is a kindergarten teacher from Harlem in New York City who has never been south of 125th Street. The land of Oz is 1970s Manhattan and Dorothy's journey makes stops at the public library and the Brooklyn Bridge, among other landmarks, with World Trade Center Plaza posing as Emerald City.
The film failed to make a profit at the box office but did score four Oscar nominations. "The Wiz" has also been criticized for steering Hollywood studios away from all-black casts during that time period.
"Whatever fun this funked-up 'Wizard of Oz' had on Broadway is erased by miscasting and a hideous design [Oz as a New York slum]," Entertainment Weekly said in a review of the film, rating it a D minus. "Diana Ross' Dorothy is an emotional basket case; Michael Jackson has none of the Scarecrow's requisite aw-shucks charm."
Even director Sidney Lumet saw the film as a flop.
"''It was a disaster. I had this idea that a great fantasy could be made out of New York -- that I could make Oz out of reality. We could have the lion statue in front of the New York Public Library come to life and turn into the Cowardly Lion and things like that. But that didn't happen because I didn't know enough technically," Lumet told EW.