1938 Variety announces big news about The Wizard of Oz On this day in 1938, the entertainment trade newspaper Variety reported that the film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) had bought the rights to adapt L. Frank Baum’s beloved children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the screen, and that the studio has cast 16-year-old Judy Garland in the film’s central role, Dorothy Gale. Born Frances Gumm on June 10, 1922, Garland was the daughter of former vaudeville performers. As a child, she toured with her older sisters in a musical act called the Gumm Sisters. In 1935, she signed a contract with MGM using her new stage name, Judy Garland. After some early film work, she co-starred with Mickey Rooney in a string of popular movies, beginning with Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937) and Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938). At the age of 16, she won the role that would make her a star: Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. Production of The Wizard of Oz was beset by challenges from the beginning. The script went through numerous rewrites, and by filming’s end no fewer than four directors (Richard Thorpe, George Cukor, Victor Fleming and King Vidor) had worked on the movie. Casting the film produced its own unique problems. By the time that Variety announced Garland’s casting, Ray Bolger had already been assigned the role of the Tin Man, and Buddy Ebsen had been picked to play the Scarecrow. At Bolger’s insistence, he and Ebsen soon swapped parts. Just nine days after filming began, however, Ebsen dropped out of the production after he suffered a near-fatal allergic reaction to the aluminum dust used in his Tinman makeup. Jack Haley replaced him. The all-important role of the Wicked Witch of the West was also recast, as the original actress, Gale Sondergaard, objected to playing such an ugly, evil character; Margaret Hamilton replaced her. In the end, The Wizard of Oz emerged from these challenges as one of history’s most enduring and best-loved films, ranking sixth on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest films of all time (compiled in 1999). The Wizard of Oz was especially honored for its pioneering use of the film process known as Technicolor, as well as for its now-iconic soundtrack. As Dorothy, Garland first performed what would become her signature song, “Over the Rainbow”–a yearning ballad that only became more poignant over the years, as the iconic actress struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. She died at the age of 47 on June 22, 1969. Alamo defenders call for help On this day in 1836, in San Antonio, Texas, Colonel William Travis issues a call for help on behalf of the Texan troops defending the Alamo, an old Spanish mission and fortress under attack by the Mexican army. A native of Alabama, Travis moved to the Mexican state of Texas in 1831. He soon became a leader of the growing movement to overthrow the Mexican government and establish an independent Texan republic. When the Texas revolution began in 1835, Travis became a lieutenant-colonel in the revolutionary army and was given command of troops in the recently captured city of San Antonio de Bexar (now San Antonio). On February 23, 1836, a large Mexican force commanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana arrived suddenly in San Antonio. Travis and his troops took shelter in the Alamo, where they were soon joined by a volunteer force led by Colonel James Bowie. Though Santa Ana’s 5,000 troops heavily outnumbered the several hundred Texans, Travis and his men determined not to give up. On February 24, they answered Santa Ana’s call for surrender with a bold shot from the Alamo’s cannon. Furious, the Mexican general ordered his forces to launch a siege. Travis immediately recognized his disadvantage and sent out several messages via couriers asking for reinforcements. Addressing one of the pleas to “The People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” Travis signed off with the now-famous phrase “Victory or Death.” Only 32 men from the nearby town of Gonzales responded to Travis’ call for help, and beginning at 5:30 a.m. on March 6, Mexican forces stormed the Alamo through a gap in the fort’s outer wall, killing Travis, Bowie and 190 of their men. Despite the loss of the fort, the Texan troops managed to inflict huge losses on their enemy, killing at least 600 of Santa Ana’s men. The brave defense of the Alamo became a powerful symbol for the Texas revolution, helping the rebels turn the tide in their favor. At the crucial Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 910 Texan soldiers commanded by Sam Houston defeated Santa Ana’s army of 1,250 men, spurred on by cries of “Remember the Alamo!” The next day, after Texan forces captured Santa Ana himself, the general issued orders for all Mexican troops to pull back behind the Rio Grande River. On May 14, 1836, Texas officially became an independent republic. 1786 Wilhelm Grimm is born On this day in 1786, Wilhelm Karl Grimm, the younger of the two Brothers Grimm, is born in Hanau, Germany. As young men, the two brothers assisted friends in compiling an important collection of folk lyrics. One of the authors, impressed by the brothers’ work, suggested they publish some of the oral folktales they’d collected. The collection appeared as Children’s and Household Tales, later known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, in several volumes between 1812 and 1822. Tales in the Grimm collection include “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Rapunzel,” and “Rumpelstiltskin.” The brothers developed the tales by listening to storytellers and attempting to reproduce their words and techniques as faithfully as possible. Their methods helped establish the scientific approach to the documentation of folklore. The collection became a worldwide classic. Wilhelm continued his study of German folklore and published a new edition of ancient written tales. In 1829, Jacob and Wilhelm became librarians and professors at the University of Gottingen, and Jacob published another important work, German Mythologies, exploring the beliefs of pre-Christian Germans. In 1840, King Frederick William IV of Prussia invited the brothers to Berlin, where they became members of the Royal Academy of Science. They began work on an enormous dictionary, but Wilhelm died in 1859, before entries for the letter D were completed. Jacob followed four years later, having only gotten as far as F. Subsequent researchers finished the dictionary many years later.