You had to know I was going to go for this. I’ve always loved the film version of The Wiz, in no small part due to Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow. It’s notable that while the original Broadway version of The Wiz was a commercial smash, the film was nearly a complete bomb, making only half of it’s budget back in ticket sales. I still hold that the film’s lack of success had a lot to do with replacing the 18 year old Stephanie Mills (who originated the Broadway role) with a 33 year old Diana Ross (which was done over the objections of producer Berry Gordy, strangely enough).
The Wiz tanked hard enough to almost completely derail the then-bustling blaxploitation film genre, even though The Wiz was very much meant to be a mainstream film. Of course, it didn’t help that Hollywood had a terrible track record in the 70’s when it came to translating stage to screen, and many elements of the film feel almost TV movie like today. Of course, the world simply didn’t understand the danger that screenwriter Joel Schumaker posed to us all at the time, so maybe his script had a little to do with it.
So what worked? Quincy Jones, that’s what. The best thing that came out of The Wiz was that it was the introduction of Jones to a newly solo Michael Jackson. Barely a year after the release of The Wiz, Jackon and Jones teamed up to deliver what I consider one of the greatest pop albums of all time, Off the Wall, and for that I’m eternally thankful.
To the right, you’ll find my favorite bit which is (of course) the introduction of Jackson’s Scarecrow and his introductory song. But of course, what post about The Wiz would be complete without including its signature tune, ’Ease on Down the Road‘? Dig on its awesomeness down below.