As “The Wiz” celebrates its 40th anniversary this week, the film is easing on down to influencing another generation.
The film adaptation of the groundbreaking musical first hit the big screen on Oct. 24, 1978. The classic represents a staple that defined black culture with a star-studded cast, including Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the scarecrow and Richard Pryor as The Wiz.
It displayed several New York City landmarks in the 1970s, such as the World Trade Center, Shea Stadium and Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Rhonda Ross Kendrick, daughter of Motown legends Diana Ross and Berry Gordy, spoke to PIX11 about the film’s impact two decades later.
Ross Kendrick, the eldest of her mother’s five children, said her family shared many memories in the Big Apple among such “amazing spaces.”
“You can’t pass that library on 42nd Street without thinking about the film,” Kendrick said referring to the legendary scene with a replica set outside The New York Public Library.
The 47-year-old musician shared how passionate she gets when pointing out venues from “The Wiz” while walking the city streets. Other venues displayed as a backdrop in the Sidney Lumet-directed film were the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station, Coney Island and Brooklyn Bridge.
Carol Brown, a fan of the film, was in her 20s when she first saw it. Brown, who lived in New Jersey before relocating to Pennsylvania, has witnessed the film’s true impact over the last few decades. She’s even highlighted this retelling of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” with her grandchildren.
“It has a message of hope and self-belief … anyone can appreciate the value of believing in oneself despite all odds,” Brown said.
Ross Kendrick emphasized how it not only left a mark on the world, but her family as well.
“In so many ways, the film echoed what was happening in our lives as a family,” she told PIX11.
Her mother’s powerful performance of the song “Home” is one that Ross Kendrick said still moves her. “I can’t watch it without crying,” she said.
Considering today’s political climate, she believes the film’s “message of the power is within you is more important than ever.”