A Summary of the Movie "The Wiz" with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross

by Nathaniel Williams
Ace producer Quincy Jones supervised the music in

Ace producer Quincy Jones supervised the music in "The Wiz."

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In 1978, Motown Records and Universal Pictures teamed up to adapt "The Wiz," the hit Broadway version of "The Wizard of Oz," for the silver screen. They put together an all-star cast and crew: director Sidney Lumet, musical supervisor Quincy Jones and stars Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor. The film retold the classic L. Frank Baum tale in a stylist urban environment.

Thanksgiving in Harlem

The Wiz opens on Thanksgiving Day in Harlem, where Dorothy (Diana Ross) eats with her Aunt Em and uncle. Her little dog, Toto, runs outside during a blizzard. When Dorothy goes out into the storm after him, they are both swept up in a tornado to the land of Oz. However, this Oz is a fantasy environment that is still rooted in the urban atmosphere of New York City.

The Yellow Brick Road

Dorothy's arrival has killed the Wicked Witch of the East, and the liberated Munchkins celebrate their good fortune. The Good Witch of the North, known as "Miss One," arrives and tells Dorothy her only way to get back home is to follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, where the Wizard might help her. She gives Dorothy magical slippers (silver, as in Baum's novel, rather than the 1939 film's ruby) that will protect her.

New Friends

Along her path, Dorothy finds similarly troubled friends, including the Scarecrow (Michael Jackson), the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. Each of them has something he hopes to obtain from the Wizard -- a brain for the Scarecrow, a heart for the Tin Man and courage for the Lion. Together, they thwart several obstacles, all of which adapt Baum's original obstacles to uniquely urban themes, including homelessness, drug addiction and prostitution.

The Emerald City

Dorothy and her friends finally reach the Emerald City and are brought before the allegedly all-powerful Wizard (Richard Pryor). The Wizard appears in the form of an enormous metal head that speaks in booming tones. The Wizard promises to fulfill their requests if they kill the Wicked Witch of the West, who lives in the New York sewers. The Witch, however, takes the initiative and captures the party with her Flying Monkeys.

Confrontation and Return Home

The Witch tortures the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man, and threatens to harm Toto, in hopes that Dorothy will relinquish her magical silver slippers. Dorothy douses the Witch in water from an overhead fire sprinkler, and the Witch melts. The Flying Monkeys and the Witch's other slaves are freed. They all return to the Emerald City and present the Wizard with their success. They discover he is a fraud and has no magic, but the Good Witch of the North returns to tell Dorothy she has the power to return home in her own heart. Dorothy clicks her heels and returns home.

Photo Credits

  • Andreas Rentz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images