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Oz on Film, Part Eighteen: More on Meglin

At a Meglin Kiddies reunion in 1938; the circled faces are Ethel Meglin herself and Judy Garland.
At a Meglin Kiddies reunion in 1938; the circled faces are Ethel Meglin herself and Judy Garland.
Photo property of Will Stewart for

Ethel Meglin and her Kiddies went on to success after success, on stage, film (including Gene Kelly's An American in Paris), and television, even starring in their own show, entitled The Meglin Review. The Meglin Studio dance schools, ranged across the country, eventually numbered over fifty. In time, they all closed, but her legacy lived on in the recorded performances of her students.

Ethel lost her husband Richard in 1963, the same year the last of her studios closed. She retired at that point and lived quietly until 1988, passing away at the age of 93.

Many famous performers began in Ethel Meglin's troupe, such as Gwen Verdon, Ann Miller and Melody Thomas Scott. But three entertainers in particular were to have enormous impacts not only in the world of showbuisness in general, but of Oz in particular-- which was ironic, as none of them had been in Meglin's Land of Oz.

One was Shirley Temple, inarguably the greatest child star in history. Although she was passed over for the role of Dorothy Gale in a later screen version of Wizard, she went one better in 1960 when she played Ozma/Tip in her own televised production The Land of Oz.

Another, Mickey Rooney, would amaze audiences with his wit, his energy, and his chameleon-like versatility in hundreds of movie and television roles throughout his long life. He played two Oz luminaries; he was the voice of the Scarecrow in the 1974 animated feature Journey Back to Oz (another loose retelling of Marvelous Land with Dorothy in it), and the title humbug in a 1998 national tour of the MGM/RSC The Wizard of Oz.

The third was Frances, the youngest of a troupe of singing sisters named Gumm. She had an extraordinarily powerful voice for one so young, and was an adept jazz singer. She it was who secured the role of Dorothy Gale that had not gone to Shirley Temple, and in fact defined the character for generations after.

However, that triumph came under Frances's screen name: Judy Garland.

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