This year marks the 70th anniversary of what is arguably the greatest annum in cinematic history: 1939. It was a year when Hollywood rolled out classics like cars off an assembly line. The autos just happened to be Rolls Royces.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of what is arguably the greatest annum in cinematic history: 1939. It was a year when Hollywood rolled out classics like cars off an assembly line. The autos just happened to be Rolls Royces.

For proof, just take a gander at the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture: "Dark Victory," "Goodbye Mr. Chips," "Love Affair," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Ninotchka," "Of Mice and Men," "Stagecoach," "Wuthering Heights," "The Wizard of Oz" and that modest Civil War drama "Gone with the Wind."

"Wind" blew away the competition, so to speak, winning most of the major awards, but in any other year, any of the other nominees could have taken home the top prize.

Then there were the great films not nominated for Best Picture. This list includes "Gunga Din," "The Women," "Beau Geste, "Juarez," "Young Mr. Lincoln," "Babes in Arms," "Drums Along the Mohawk," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hound of the Baskervilles," "Dodge City," "Stanley and Livingstone," "Jesse James," "The Old Maid," "Another Thin Man," "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle," "The Three Musketeers," "Destry Rides Again," "Intermezzo," "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" and "Only Angels Have Wings."

We'll add the British classic "The Four Feathers" and the French classic "The Rules of the Game" for good measure.

Name a genre and 1939 likely produced a masterpiece in it. What were the filmmakers drinking back then? Whatever it was, they should have bottled it. Granted, not every movie released that year became a classic, it just seems that way. In an era known as "Hollywood's Golden Age," this was the Platinum Year.

For more proof, three of the movies from 1939 made the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest movies ever made: "Gone With the Wind" at No. 6, "The Wizard of Oz" at No. 10 and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" at No. 26.

For the purpose of this column, yours truly would like to focus on one of 1939's more beloved movies: "The Wizard of Oz." This is being done for two reasons first, it's yours truly's favorite film and second, the movie is in the news again as actress Anne Hathaway has signed on to play "Oz" star Judy Garland in the biopic "Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland."

Hathaway, who was nominated for an Academy Award this year for "Rachel Getting Married," proved she could sing and dance during the Oscar telecast in February. Whether she can sing and dance like Garland remains to be seen. She'll be trying to fill some very big ruby slippers. Garland is easily one of the most talented and revered performers to ever grace the screen. Give Hathaway credit for setting her sights somewhere over the rainbow.

One may wonder how much time the biopic will devote to "The Wizard of Oz." Can the special effects gurus make the 27-year-old Hathaway look like the teenage Garland when she played the role of Dorothy? The filmmakers could hire a younger actress. Regardless of who plays Dorothy, the filmmakers will have to deal with the song "Over the Rainbow." The ditty is attached to Garland like light to the sun.

Methinks the biopic will spend more time on Garland's troubled life than her singing and dancing. Of course, the filmmakers may decide not to film the song or simply dub in Garland's voice.

Incredibly, "Over the Rainbow" was actually deleted from the film after an early preview. MGM chief executive Louis B. Mayer thought the song slowed down the picture, according to the Internet Movie Database Web site.

"Losing 'Over the Rainbow' did not simply mean losing a pretty ballad," writes Aljean Harmetz in the book "The Making of The Wizard of the Oz," "it meant losing the dramatic point of the whole Kansas preface a consideration that escaped the numerous producers who complained to (producer) Mervyn LeRoy and L.B. Mayer. 'Why does she sing in a barnyard,' they asked."

Fortunately, people with brains prevailed. E.Y. Harburg, who wrote the song with Harold Arlen, credits Arthur Freed, the film's uncredited associate producer, with convincing Mayer to restore the song.

Why "Oz" has become such a cinematic phenomenon can be attributed to more factors than you can shake a wand at. Start with the story from L. Frank Baum upon which the film is based, where Dorothy discovers "there's no place like home," and continue on to the incredible cast, which in addition to Garland includes Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West, Billie Burke as Glinda, Frank Morgan as the Wizard, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Jack Haley as the Tin Man and Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow.

Add the memorable music, the dance scenes and the Munchkins and how can you go wrong? Even the "primitive" special effects work. The tornado made with a muslin stocking still terrifies.

For magical moments, we submit Dorothy's arrival in Oz where bright colors replace sepia tones and Dorothy utters the film's most famous line, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

That the film has been shown on television for more than 40 years clearly has contributed to its popularity, and made it one of, if not the most-watched movies in history. Interestingly, it was not a box-office powerhouse when it first opened. For the record, the Baum book had previously been the subject of on-stage musicals and several silent films.

Contributing to the iconic status of "Oz" today are its associations to everything from albums Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" to a Broadway musical the Tony Award-winning "Wicked." Whether Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" has an "Oz" connection may depend on your intake of hallucinogens. I have played the film in sync with the album and there are some freaky parallels even without the consumption of exotic substances.

Bay Staters have some bragging rights in "Oz" as both Haley and Bolger hail from Boston and do little to hide their accents. "I could stay young and chippah, and I'd lock it with a zippah, if I only had a haht," sings Haley's Tin Man.

Though an Ohio native, Hamilton at one time lived in Framingham. Four decades after "Oz," Hamilton spoke at Dana Hall School in Wellesley and yours truly interviewed her there.

The film wasn't a joy ride for Hamilton, however, as she was burned during the scene where she disappears among shooting flames after cackling, "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!" At least she fared better than Buddy Ebsen, who was hospitalized after suffering a severe reaction to the aluminum dust used in his Tin Man makeup. The makeup was altered to an aluminum paste for Haley, his replacement.

That "Oz" turned out so well is a minor miracle considering it had four directors and 10 screenwriters. On the opening scroll, Victor Fleming gets credited as the director but he shared those duties with Richard Thorpe, George Cukor and King Vidor. Fleming left the "Oz" set to direct "Gone With the Wind," for which he would win an Oscar.

The scroll gives screenwriting credit to Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, but other writers who had a hand in the script included Ogden Nash and Herman J. Mankiewicz, who would later win an Oscar for penning "Citizen Kane" with Orson Welles.

Baum's filing cabinet, meanwhile, can take credit for the "Oz" title. The cabinet's lower drawer contained the letters "O-Z."

As most "Oz" aficionados know, Shirley Temple was MGM's first choice for the role of Dorothy but she was under contract with 20th-Century Fox and its boss, Darryl Zanuck, wouldn't loan her out. In a cruel twist of fate, after the success of "Oz," Zanuck cast Temple in a fantasy film "The Blue Bird," a 1940 dud that "essentially ended" Temple's career, according to Harmetz.

Other casting tidbits: Bolger was initially pegged to play the Tin Man and Morgan only got the Wizard role after Ed Wynn and W.C. Fields refused it. One of the actresses considered for the Wicked Witch was the stunningly beautiful Gale Sondergaard. This was at a time when LeRoy envisioned the witch as glamorous. When that idea fizzled, Sondergaard expressed no interest in playing the part. "In those days, I was not about to make myself ugly for any motion picture," said the actress. Enter Hamilton, who had played the Wicked Witch twice before for the Junior League in Cleveland.

Actresses pondered for the role of Glinda included Edna May Oliver, Fanny Brice, Constance Collier, Gracie Fields, Una Merkel, Helen Troy and Cora Witherspoon, according to Harmetz. Burke got the part. As everyone knows, she was born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke, the daughter of a circus clown. She later married impresario Florenz Ziegfeld of Ziegfeld Follies fame.

Not that "Oz" was perfect. The continuity police would have cited the film for a few gaffes. In an early scene, Aunt Em scolds the farmhand Hickory for "tinkering with that contraption." That contraption was a tornado-stopping machine, but that reference got cut from the film. Later, the Wicked Witch, as she plans to capture Dorothy and Toto, tells one of the winged monkeys, "I've sent a little insect on ahead to take the fight out of them." That insect was the Jitter Bug, but the song referring to the critter was also excised.

"Oz" also contains two incredibly stupid lines of dialogue, both uttered by the leader of the guards. After the witch has been reduced to a wisp of smoke, he pronounces to Dorothy, "She's dead. You've killed her." Hand that man a meerschaum. Then after Dorothy asks for the witch's broom, he says, "Please. And take it with you." What else is she going to do with it, Einstein? Wait, maybe she can sweep away the smoldering remains of the witch?

Obviously, these are minor points that in no way diminish the "Oz" experience. It's a film that has "given faithful service to the Young in Heart" for 70 years and will continue to do so as long as there are rainbows for happy little blue birds to fly beyond.

It's now time for TRIVIA.

Last month's tester: As a child, he killed one bad guy and sliced off the fingers of another in a 1980s movie. Name the actor and the movie. Clue: His co-star is now a major Hollywood star.

Answer: Emily Minty, who played the Feral Child in "Mad Max 2," aka "The Road Warrior" (1981), starring Mel Gibson.

This month's tester: What Massachusetts native appeared in movies with Dustin Hoffman, Steve Zahn and Dabney Coleman and performed in a famous concert?

The first person to answer the trivia question correctly will receive a Suki Radiant Glow Deluxe Gift Tote with a retail value of $150. The cotton tote bag contains such items as a tinted moisturizer, eye cream, lip/cheek stain and professional brush set. For more information on the Northampton, Mass.-based Suki, visit www.sukipure.com.

Trivia enthusiasts can call me at 508-626-4409 or e-mail me at robt@cnc.com.

Make sure you leave your name, address and number on my message machine or e-mail so I can contact you if you answered the question correctly. The address is needed so winners can be mailed their prize. Callers should spell out their names slowly and clearly. Only one guess per household, please.

Answers will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12. Good luck!