Frank Morgan, today remembered best (and by most people, only) as the foolish but lovable wizard of Oz, died in 1949. One prominent obituary, in listing the actor's credits, declined to even mention that particular role. After all, the film - only marginally attended and mildly received on its initial release ten years earlier (I don't think it even recouped its production costs) - had been largely forgotten.
Television changed that dramatically in the 1950s - as it would later transform a long-overlooked late Capra gem into the linchpin of its filmmaker's (and perhaps even its star's) lasting legacy. Both The Wizard of Oz and It's a Wonderful Life owed their newfound popularity and eventual ubiquity to the medium that was ostensibly a threat to the cinema. I'm not sure TV is capable of such a transformation today, there's too many channels, attention is too divided, and if people want to watch a movie they're more likely to rent the DVD anyway than to tune in for a special showing.
Given the diversity and fragmentation of present pop culture, are mass rediscoveries of forgotten films still possible? I'd like to think so, but I'm not sure how. This phenomenon persists in critical and scholarly culture - fueled by retrospective screenings, new books, and DVD restorations, among other things - but while this reappraisal can eventually trickle down into public consciousness, it doesn't seem to have the same impact. In some ways, this is its own phenomenon, overlapping to a cetain extent with the other form of rediscovery but with its own history and icons. (Vertigo, The Searchers, and to a certain extent Citizen Kane come to mind).
In the long run, there's a place for obscure films celebrated by the devoted, for mishandled or unjustly criticized works being reappraised, and for movies which came and went to re-colonize the mass imagination. However, while the first two trends continue as strongly as ever I'm having trouble locating any examples of the third in recent years, even recent decades.
So then, do any recent Wizard of Ozs come to mind? Or any films (from any era) which, while not actually beloved icons, feel like they have that potential? Share your thoughts below.