Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stubs - The Wizard of Oz


THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charley Grapewin and the Munchkins. Directed by Victor Fleming. Screenplay by Noel Langley, based on the novel: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L, Frank Baum. Music Composed by Herbert Stothart. Songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. Produced by Mervin LeRoy. Run Time: 103 minutes, Sepia and Color. U.S. Musical, Fantasy

I hope I never meet someone that doesn’t like THE WIZARD OF OZ. It may not be your favorite film of all time, but it is hard to find one that is as creative and as fun as this one. More than most films from the same era, this film has survived through the ages. No one may want to spend the time watching GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), but they will sit with their children and grandchildren to watch this movie. If you grew up when I did, THE WIZARD OF OZ was as much a part of Easter as colored eggs, as CBS would annually show on that night.

At school the next day, children would no doubt wonder if this was the first color film ever made. I remember one fellow student wondering if they had run out of color film and had to use black and white. To this day, I have had heated debates with adults over whether this was the first color film from Hollywood. (BTW: The first Technicolor feature was the now lost THE GULF BETWEEN (1917).)

THE WIZARD OF OZ tells the story of Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) who hates her gray (sepia) life in Kansas. In the good old the grass is always greener approach, Dorothy longs for life somewhere over the rainbow. No wonder, she is stuck on a dusty farm with her Auntie Em (Clara Blandick); Uncle Harry (Charley Grapewin) and three goofy helpers, Hunk (Ray Bolger), Zeke (Bert Lahr) and Hickory (Jack Haley). And to top it off her only true companion, the dog Toto is being persecuted by local old maid Miss Alma Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) who wants the dog turned over the sheriff for disposal.

Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
When Dorothy goes to her Aunt and Uncle for help, all they do is capitulate to Miss Gulch and who rides off with little Toto in her bicycle basket. No wonder when Toto escapes, Dorothy decides to run away from home. On the road, she runs into Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan) a shister fortune teller, who takes her in only long enough to make her decide she had better return home just ahead of a tornado. One of the better 1930’s special effects is the tornado who continues to weave a path of destruction while Dorothy runs home. (I find this tornado more believable than any that I saw in TWISTER (1996).)

A twister is about to change Dorothy's life forever.
As luck would have it Dorothy arrives just in time to miss out on everyone running to shelter. And try as she might to get in, her loving Aunt and Uncle leave her out in the elements. Running inside the house for cover, Dorothy rides the house up into the air. There (with less believable special effects) Dorothy watches as others are sucked into the vortex, including Miss Gulch who pedals along, turning into a witch before Dorothy’s eyes. Knocked out by flying debris, Dorothy wakes up after the house has returned to earth.

But she, as she apply tells her dog, is not in Kansas anymore. Instead of gray old Kansas, Dorothy walks out into the Technicolor overkill of Munchkinland. And she may have left Kansas as a nobody, but she arrives in Oz a hero. For when her house came down in Munchkinland, it took out the Wicked Witch of the East. She is informed of this by Glinda, the Good Witch (Billie Burke). Glinda also rouses the Munchkins (credited as the Singer Midgets) who celebrate their new found freedom in song. But the celebration is cut short by the arrival of the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), who has come to retrieve the ruby slippers worn by her now deceased sister. But Glinda makes sure they end up on Dorothy’s feet instead and thus puts Dorothy in mortal danger. Foiled, the Wicked Witch retreats, but not before promising to get even with Dorothy.

After killing the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy is given her red ruby slippers.
Now that Dorothy has arrived over the rainbow her first course of business is to return home to drab ‘ol Kansas. She is told that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz can help her and he can be found in the Emerald City and to get there all she and Toto have to do is follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Free advice turns out to be less than reliable, when Dorothy finds the Yellow Brick road is not a straight shot. At the proverbial fork in the road, Dorothy meets Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) who is as helpful as someone without a brain can be. Dorothy offers to let him go with her to see the Wizard in hopes that he can give him a brain.

The Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) offers advice to Dorothy.
Next, they come across the Tin Man (Jack Haley) who is rusted in place and missing a heart. While oil works to free him, the heart may be provided by the Wizard and off the three of them go to the Emerald CIty. They are confronted by a Lion (Bert Lahr) who acts tough because he lacks courage. And who better to give him courage than the Wizard.

The Tin Man (Jack Haley) has rusted in place before Dorothy and the Scarecrow free him.
When the foursome finally makes it to the Emerald City, and get their audience with the Wizard, who appears as a disembodied head. He will consider granting their wishes if they bring him the Wicked Witch’s broomstick. And off they go to find her.

The Lion (Bert Lahr) (far right) joins the Tin Man, the
Scarecrow and Dorothy on their way to the Emerald City.
However, the Witch is already watching Dorothy and she dispatches her army of Flying Monkeys to bring Dorothy and the dog to her. Using the dog as a bargaining chip, the Witch convinces Dorothy to give up the slippers. But they won’t come off. The witch decides Dorothy will have to die, but has to figure out how to do that without diminishing the slipper’s power.

The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) has
flying monkeys she sends after Dorothy and friends.
Plucky Toto escapes and the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion follow the dog back to the witch’s castle. Their attempted rescue goes awry and they find themselves cornered by the Witch and her henchmen. The witch even goes so far as to set the Scarecrow’s straw body on fire. When Dorothy throws water on him, some of it accidentally splashes on the Witch, who melts away. Like the Munchkins before them, the Witch’s soldiers celebrate and give Dorothy the broomstick she has come for.

Returning to the Emerald City, Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal the Mighty Oz is nothing more than an old man (Frank Morgan) who is turning dials, pulling levers and speaking into a microphone. He tells the group that what they are looking for they already have, The Scarecrow has brains, but doesn’t have a diploma. The Tin Man has a heart, but doesn’t have a testimonial, Likewise, the Lion has courage, he just doesn’t have a metal to prove it. The last one to get helped is Dorothy. And the Wizard, who like her was born in Kansas and brought to Oz by the winds, promises to take her home in the hot air balloon he was flying in when he came.

Dorothy is about to leave with the Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan) when Toto jumps out of the basket.
The departure set and the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion to stand in for the Wizard, Dorothy is about to go home when Toto jumps from the balloon’s basket. Dorothy goes after him, but no one, not even the Wizard can stop the balloon. Just when all seems lost, re-enter Glinda, who tells Dorothy all she has to do to go home is click her heels and wish.

Waking up back home, Dorothy tries to get her Aunt and Uncle to believe her, but in the end it doesn’t matter. There is no place like home.

Dorothy wakes up with Professor Marvel, Hickory, Hunk and Zeke watching over her.
There is little not to like about this movie .Showcasing Judy Garland’s singing talents, THE WIZARD OF OZ is like comfort food. It is something that you want to go back to again and again. Maybe not because it the greatest movie ever made, just like mom’s meatloaf isn’t the greatest dish ever created. But like Mom’s meat loaf, THE WIZARD OF OZ reminds you of home. And home, despite its shortcomings of excitement is where the people that love you are. THE WIZARD OF OZ is one of those films that stirs the imagination and takes you on a ride that you want to go on again and again.

The Wizard of Oz is available at the WB Shop:

Free Shipping on All Orders Over $50!

No comments:

Post a Comment