The Wizard of Oz (1939)
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"Exquisite!" — Cool Cat, Cool Cat Saves the Kids
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This film has been preserved in the National Film Registry in 1989.
The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 musical fantasy film directed by Victor Fleming and based on the 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Starring Judy Garland, the film was hailed as one of the best films ever made. It was MGM's very first family film.
A girl named Dorothy (Garland) gets caught in a tornado and lands in the land of Oz. There, she meets a brainless Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a heartless Tin Woodman (Jack Haley) and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr). They go on a journey to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard (Frank Morgan) so that Dorothy would go home to Kansas and her friends get what they want.
Why We're Off To See The Wizard
- While various other studios would release fantasy films in the late 30s and early 40s as an attempt to cash in on the success of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, MGM studio head Louis B. Meyer made an economic commitment to the project that was far larger than the revenues he could hope to recoup. His backing helped make The Wizard of Oz a much greater film.
- The story and details behind the film's rather disastrous production are so vast and complex, it was covered in numerous books and documentaries that often go into extensive detail about the many screenwriters, composers, directors, cameramen, and other crew members involved with the film. And yet, despite all of the turmoil, accidents, and changes in the cast and crew, the film still managed to become a groundbreaking hit. The film pushed the limits of technology with special effects and cinematography, gave career-defining roles to its cast members, and introduced several hit songs.
- Scarecrow), Tin Man and Cowardly Lion does have many funny moments, thanks to all three broadway comedians, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley.
- The film's allegory of just what the novel and the film adaptation are meant to represent can be interpreted in a number of ways, which just goes to show how skilled Baum was as a writer.
- Some say it's a political allegory about Populism as exemplified by the Greenback and Progressive parties.
- Some say it's an argument against the prevailing monetary policies of Baum's time
- Some say it's the search for psychological unity (with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion representing elements of personality has Dorothy to acquire.
- Various critics have tried to align the MGM version with world events of 1939, finding a political subtext between the Wicked Witch and the benevolent Wizard of Oz, which adds to the film's hidden level of depth beneath its saccharine appearance.
- The film might not be 100% true to L. Frank Baum's original book, but it does stay faithful to the spirit of the book, somehow managing to adapt old, familiar material for a new audience. MGM developed a two-pronged approach to Oz, making sure that through spectacle, comedy and adventure it would entertain young viewers who may be unfamiliar with the plot and characters. Over a dozen screenwriters simplified Baum's novel eliminating characters and incidents, focusing on the element of homesickness as a theme for the film.
- As a way to keep adults interested, MGM added a score by Harold Arlen and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, cast vaudevillians like Roy Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man) and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion), and stage veterans like Frank Morgan (the title character) and Billie Burke (Glinda the Good Witch). Crucially, MGM played the film straight, without the irony that could have deflated the story's whimsy.
- Incredible acting from Judy Garland Margaret Hamilton and the entire main cast.
- Excellent set designs for Munchkin Land and the Emerald City.
- The songs are all timeless and memorable such as Over the Rainbow, Ding Dong The Witch is Dead, If I Only Had a Brain/Heart/Nerve and Merry Old Land of Oz.
- Decent makeup and special effects (for a 1930s movie).
- Despite not appearing too often in the film, The Wicked Witch of the West is one of the best movie villains ever.
- Although it is not the first movie in color, the seamless transition from the sepia world of Kansas to the colorful world of Oz is breathtaking.
The Only Bad Quality
- There are a few plot holes, one of which is related to the novel it was based off:
- Glinda never tells Dorothy that the ruby slippers are her trick to going home until the end despite giving them to her. In the book, it wasn't Glinda (the Witch of the South in the book) who gave Dorothy the slippers, but her sister the Good Witch of the North. However, because the movie fused Glinda and the Good Witch of the North into one character, it kinda comes off as Glinda just putting Dorothy in danger.
- Despite kicking off the main plot, Miss Gulch and her plan to have Toto put down is never even mentioned again when Dorothy gets back to Kansas. It's possible that the Wicked Witch's would symbolize Gulch's death as well.
- This film wasn't the first adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s beloved books. Starting as early as 1902, several different adaptations were made including on stage, on film and in animation. Rather, this is the best-known adaptation of the story.
- Dorothy’s iconic footwear was actually a pair of silver slippers in L. Frank Baum’s original books. The ruby slippers looked more magical in Technicolor.
- Buddy Ebsen was considered for playing the Tin Man. He was the first actor cast in the role, but had to be replaced when he discovered that he was allergic to the silver make-up!
- Victor Fleming has also directed Gone with the Wind, another iconic 1939 film.
- The Wicked Witch of the West was playable character in LEGO Dimensions, while Dorothy and friends are non-playable characters.
- The scene where the Tin Man fights the winged monkeys is used in the film Jumanji where it is shown playing on a TV in a nearby shop.