There can't be very many Americans who haven't seen "The Wizard of Oz." But plenty of them -- perhaps most of them -- have never seen it on the big screen.

The National Theatre is giving Washingtonians a chance to rectify that. Their latest mini film festival, "Over the Rainbow for Judy Garland," begins Monday with the 1939 classic.

John Loomis, who programs the film series, saw it on the big screen as a child and remembers the experience to this day. "It's just different," he said. "It's a little scarier. The monkeys are a little bigger, and the witch is a little bigger."

On screen
Over the Rainbow for Judy Garland
Where: National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday through Nov. 26
Info: Free admission, tickets required: first come-first seated; 202-783-3372

The film that made a teenaged Garland a household name is well-suited to the big-screen treatment. The movie is a visual wonder, black and white while Dorothy and her dog Toto are in Kansas and in dramatic color once she reaches the Land of Oz and its yellow brick road.

"And what a year 1939 was in Hollywood," Loomis said. "What competition she had in that year for attention." It's the same year that theaters saw "Gone with the Wind," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" and "Wuthering Heights."

Garland's work is some of the most memorable of that memorable year, but she didn't get an Oscar nod for it. "She didn't receive an Academy Award nomination for any of the titles" in this series, Loomis noted. "It's shocking because they're so classic."

Most Monday nights from now until November 26, the National will screen a different Garland film: "For Me and My Gal," "The Harvey Girls," "Summer Stock," "In the Good Old Summertime," and "Meet Me in St. Louis."

"They display a range of talent for her. It's only an 11-year span, but it shows how hard she worked when she was in her prime," Loomis says of his selection of six films. "They're accessible to all families and all age ranges."

Garland was a rare child star who transitioned successfully to adult actor. "She was actually a born-in-the-trunk kind of kid. Her parents were vaudevillians. She performed at 2. She signed to MGM at 13 years of age," Loomis said. Even that young, "She was responsible for carrying films."

Her transition wasn't easy for her emotionally, however. She began in the studio system. "You were a commodity to them. I think that wears on a person's soul and their self-esteem," Loomis muses.

Garland always worried about her looks -- she wasn't a conventional Hollywood beauty. But Loomis feels she brought something more special to the screen.

"She took some of that innocence she had in her kid roles into things like 'The Harvey Girls' and 'Summer Stock,' " he says. "There's something about her, when you look at her, it touches your heart."