1938 in Film
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1938 in Film

The year 1938 in film involved some significant events.


  • January - MGM announces that Judy Garland will be cast in the role of "Dorothy" in the upcoming The Wizard of Oz film. Ray Bolger is cast as the "Tinman" and Buddy Ebsen as the "Scarecrow". At Bolger's insistence, the roles are switched between the two actors. On July 25, MGM announces Bert Lahr has been cast as the "Cowardly Lion".
  • April 5 - Noel Langley completes the first script for The Wizard of Oz.
  • April 20 - Leonard Slye appears in his first starring role as Roy Rogers in Under Western Stars. He became one of the most popular Western stars being ranked number one from 1943 to 1952 and would become known as "King of the Cowboys".
  • May 7 - Lyricist Edgar Yipsel Harburg and composer, Harold Arlen, begin work on the musical score for The Wizard of Oz.
  • October 13 - Filming starts on The Wizard of Oz.
  • October 21 - Buddy Ebsen suffers from a near fatal allergic reaction to the aluminum dust used in his "Tinman" make-up on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Ebsen is replaced by Jack Haley.
  • December 23 - Margaret Hamilton is severely burned during a mishap on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Hamilton, who was cast in the role of the "Wicked Witch", leaves the film for six weeks.
  • Orson Welles makes Too Much Johnson, starring Joseph Cotten. It is never completed and first released only in 2013.
  • Producer George Minter establishes Renown Pictures, a British film distributor.[1]

Top-grossing films (U.S.)[2]

At the time, box office numbers were reported as a percentage of business for each theater in comparison to 'normal' business. For example, Alexander's Ragtime Band performed at 227% and The Adventures of Robin Hood at 170%. This is why exact dollar grosses for films are unreliable at best.

Academy Awards

Notable films released in 1938

United States unless stated












Comedy film series

Animated short film series





  1. ^ McFarlane, Brian (2016). The Encyclopedia of British Film (fourth ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 1887. ISBN 9781526111968.
  2. ^ Box Office Digest, March 1939, p.18

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Music Scenes