How 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' was almost cut, then influenced a movement

Marilyn Malara
Judy Garland performing Over the Rainbow in the classic film The Wizard of Oz. Screenshot photo by Wikimedia Commons
Judy Garland performing "Over the Rainbow" in the classic film "The Wizard of Oz." Screenshot photo by Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON, July 16 (UPI) -- Seventy-six years ago on July 18, producers were keen on cutting "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from 1939's The Wizard of Oz.

They felt the two-hour film was just too long and cutting the song would put it just under their desired 100-minute length. Associate producer Arthur Freed is credited with championing the song's necessity.


Not only did the song arguably become the most memorable performance of Judy Garland's career, it also contributed to the evolution of the rainbow flag as a gay icon.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Garland acted as an unofficial mascot for a generation of gay men, who flocked to Garland's many performances, referring to themselves as "friends of Dorothy."

"She sometimes seemed to relish [her popularity among gay men], once bragging, 'When I die I have visions of fags singing 'Over the Rainbow' and the flag at Fire Island being flown at half mast,'" The Atlantic's Michael Joseph Gross wrote in 2000.

Later, Garland would outspokenly accuse her lovers of being gay, using the term "fag" negatively.

But still, her iconic song may have been a precursor to the creation of the LGBTQ community's rainbow-colored flag.


The rainbow didn't become an official symbol of the gay community until the 1970s. Gilbert Baker apparently designed the first gay pride flag in 1978, originally incorporating eight stripes into the fabric, differing from today's version which has six.

Baker, a Vietnam War veteran and a drag queen, once told MoMa in an interview that "a flag is different than any other form of art. It's not a painting, it's not just cloth, it's not just a logo -- it functions in so many different ways.

"I thought that we needed that kind of symbol, that we needed as a people something that everyone instantly understands...that influence really came to me when I decided that we should have a flag, that a flag fit us as a symbol."

The idea of using the rainbow as a symbol may not have come directly from Garland's celebrated performance, but "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" did act as a cultural catalyst, propelling the eventual embrace of the rainbow symbol by the world's LGBTQ communities.

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