Remembering Michael Jackson: Nobody Beats ‘The Wiz’

As the world bids farewell to Michael Jackson today, I want to take a moment here on MTV Movies Blog to look back at the pop sensation’s first foray into film. Sidney Lumet’s “The Wiz,” released in 1978, is an urban reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s literary classic, “The Wizard of Oz.” The film is actually adapted from Charlie Smalls’ award-winning mid-70s musical.

Diana Ross stars as Dorothy in “The Wiz,” opposite Michael Jackson’s brainless Scarecrow. The songs have more thump than they do in the 1939 adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz” (the one starring Judy Garland) and Lumet’s otherworldly “Oz” setting is clearly a fantastical reworking of New York City. I’ve assembled a small gallery of images here for your perusal; if you’ve never seen “The Wiz,” I recommend sitting down with it today as we look back on Jackson’s good old days.

Here’s Diana Ross as Dorothy looking confused and unsure of what’s going on. She ain’t in Kansas anymore, that’s for sure. Then again, this is “The Wiz.” She never WAS in Kansas.

Here we see Dorothy further along in her adventure. Those dudes with the oversized crow noses scared the crap out of me as a kid. Then again, I was scared of “Ghostbusters.” So take that for what it’s worth.

A pair of images featuring Lena Horne, who plays Glinda the Good in “The Wiz.” Horne did a lot of cool stuff in film over the course of her career. My favorite is this political short film by Santiago Alvarez; I was introduced to it in film school and its followed me around ever since.

Is there any better choice in 1978 for the titular Wiz than Richard Pryor? Non-believers… are you convinced yet that you need to see “The Wiz”?

Finally, here’s a shot of Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow. Surrounded by those terrifying crows. Shudder.

All images provided courtesy of Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images