The Wizard of Oz
Release Year: 1939
Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor (uncredited), Mervyn LeRoy (uncredited), Norman Taurog (uncredited), King Vidor (director: Kansas scenes – uncredited)
Writers: Noel Langley (screenplay & adaptation), Florence Ryerson (screenplay), Edgar Allan Woolf (screenplay), L. Frank Baum (novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), Arthur Freed (uncredited), Irving Brecher (contributing writer – uncredited), William H. Cannon (uncredited), Herbert Fields (contributing writer – uncredited), Jack Haley (additional dialogue – uncredited), E.Y. Harburg (uncredited), Samuel Hoffenstein (contributing writer – uncredited), Bert Lahr (additional dialogue – uncredited), John Lee Mahin (contributing writer – uncredited), Herman J. Markiewicz (contributing writer – uncredited), Jack Mintz (contributing writer – uncredited), Ogden Nash (contributing writer – uncredited), Robert Pirosh (contributing writer – uncredited), George Seaton (contributing writer – uncredited), Sid Silvers (contributing writer – uncredited)
Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charley Grapewin, Clara Blandick
Rating: Won 2 Oscars: Best Original Song (“Over the Rainbow”), Best Score. Nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Cinematography – Color, Best Art Direction, Best Special Effects.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #156, week 24 2017
When the young girl Dorothy (Judy Garland) is swept away from her Kansas home by a storm she lands in the magical land of Oz. Here she must go on a quest with the help of her new-found friends to find the Wizard of Oz so he can help her go home and help her friends as well.
1939, the year that gave us Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, The Women, and many other timeless classics, also saw the release of The Wizard of Oz, one of the finest children’s films ever made as well as a great musical. That is not to say that adult cannot enjoy this films as well, but rather that it has a magical and fairy-tale like quality too it, a wealth of lovable characters, and a great morale to boot. The film brilliantly exploits technicolor to the greatest effect, keeping the scenes set in our mundane Kansas in a brown-toned black and white and switching to a bright colour palette in the wonderful land of Oz. The story follows the classic quest structure; our young heroine is given a task by the forces of good (Glinda played by Billie Burke) must solve tasks and find helpers along the way, and learn a valuable lesson in the end. This might sound formulaic, but motifs, narrative structure et.al are often applied to often because they work. And Oz has so much to offer within this familiar framework that it doesn’t matter. Garland (Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944) is utterly charming as the young Dorothy trying her best to find a way back to her family in the company of her trusted dog, Toto (played by Terry, movie history’s most famous dog). But it is Dorothy’s new friends The Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), The Tin Man (Jack Haley), and The Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who steal your heart, each introduced with their own great song. On the more sinister side, Margaret Hamilton (13 Ghosts, 1960), is wickedly great as the Wicked Witch, putting a fright into Dorothy and her friends, as well as the audience. The Wizard of Oz is a delight and brimming with timeless cinema moments, from “Over the Rainbow”, to the Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City, and much more. Not even those creepy Munchkins can detract from its overall charm. Pure cinema magic!
The Oscar-winning song “Over the Rainbow” was nearly cut from the film. The studio felt in went over the head of the children the film intended for, that is made the Kansas sequence too long, and that it was degrading for Judy Garland to sing in a barnyard. Luckily, the song, a now classic cinema moment, was kept in the film.
Margaret Hamilton, who plays the Wicked Witch of the West, was a massive fan of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books and she certainly gave her all in the film. In fact, many of her scenes were either shortened or cut entirely because her performance was felt to be too frightening.
The girl who says “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” during the song “If i Only had a Heart” is Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
Picture Copyright: Warner Bros.