The Wizard of Oz is my all time favorite fantasy movie. As well as my favorite movie from the Golden Age of Hollywood. If any film was guaranteed to be on my “Top 10 Favorite Movies” list it’s The Wizard of Oz. As high as number four, because The Wizard of Oz is the most universally beloved movie of all time. I doubt there’s anyone alive who doesn’t know this heartwarming children’s tale by heart. Like most great movies that I’ve seen in my life, I have my dear mother to thank for my first of countless viewings of The Wizard of Oz. She’s been watching the movie ever since she was a child. It’s been a real treat hearing stories about how in awe she was during her first viewing.
So if there was any movie I had to watch with my mom the first time, it was The Wizard of Oz. My brother and I watched it at a very young age and we were just as in awe as our mom was. It may have been released all the way back in 1939, but The Wizard of Oz speaks to every generation young & old. I watch the movie anytime it’s on TV, I owned it on VHS (now DVD), and I watched it once at school. Where I was happy to see my fellow classmates enjoying it as much as I already did. Like everyone else, I now know every moment, character, and song in the movie by heart…
Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion
The Wizard of Oz famously opens in sepia tone. Though some people may refer to it as black & white. Dorothy Gale is a young lady who lives in Kansas with her Auntie Em, Uncle Henry, three farm hands, and Toto too. Dorothy dreams of far off places somewhere over the rainbow. It’s only when cruel land owner Almira Gulch tries to take Toto away on her bike, that Dorothy gets her wish. She runs off to phoney fortune teller Professor Marvel who sends her back home where, what’s that? “It’s a twister! It’s a twister!” Dorothy’s house is sucked into it where she sees a couple of unusual characters flying around. Until her house eventually hits the ground.
History was made when Dorothy finally opens the door to reveal the merry old Land of Oz in full Technicolor. It’s then that she realizes she’s not in Kansas anymore. Oz is full of all sorts of colorful inhabitants. Dorothy first meets Glinda the Good Witch of the North. She explains to her and the Munchkin’s that the Wicked Witch of the East was crushed by the falling house. Their celebration is cut short by the fiery arrival of the Wicked Witch of the West. Her sister’s Ruby Slippers magically wind up on Dorothy’s feet and she vows to get her and her little dog too. All Dorothy wants to do is go home. Her only hope is to follow the yellow brick road to see the Wizard of Oz.
While on her journey, Dorothy encounters grumpy trees, poppy fields, and three very special traveling companions. The Scarecrow who wants a brain, the Tin Man who wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion who wants courage. Together they skip merrily to the Emerald City trying to avoid the Wicked Witch and her band of flying monkeys. That is until the ominous Wizard of Oz only promises to grant their wishes in exchange for the Witches defeat. But that’s not the only way Dorothy can go home. The Wizard of Oz is known for its imaginative fantasy, but it’s also very funny and surprisingly tense. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s my all time favorite fantasy movie…
The Emerald City
The Wizard of Oz was originally created by L. Frank Baum. He wrote the children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Despite its many differences the 1939 adaptation took on a life of its own. Becoming more well known than the book it was based on. Though Dorothy was meant to be a child (with Shirley Temple in mind), I just can’t imagine anyone but Judy Garland in the part. Her voice brings the magic to all her musical performances. Even Toto was perfectly cast.
Glinda was actually a composite of the Good Witch of the North, the unseen Good Witch of the South, and the Queen of Field Mice. It helps to keep her Dorothy’s primary guardian. Of course in 1939, anything too difficult to pull off (like talking mice) had to be changed. Margaret Hamilton makes the Wicked Witch of the West the most iconic live-action female villain of all time. From her green skin and pointy hat to her cackle and broom stick. She’s the image that comes to mind when we think evil witch. Made better by her flying monkeys and Winkie Guards. Her twist death by water is just as iconic.
The Munchkin’s were played by many little performers that I’m happy to hear got Walk of Fame recognition later on. The most well known change from the book are the Silver Slippers. Changed to Ruby Slippers, because they would have simply clashed with her famous blue dress. Ray Bolger delivers a great physical performance as the Scarecrow. Flopping around like anyone made of straw would. Jack Haley brings a warmness to the axe wielding Tin Man. A role promised to Buddy Ebsen before his life threatening exit. But the biggest scene stealer is comedian Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion. His hilarious dialogue makes him my personal favorite character.
I actually didn’t realize the same actor played so many Emerald City inhabitants. Including the Wizard himself. What appears to be a threatening figure turns out to be nothing more than a fraud. The Wizard is just an ordinary man, but he’s still good enough to honor all their requests. The Scarecrow receives a diploma, the Cowardly Lion earns a medal, and the Tin Man is gifted a testimonial. It’s only when Dorothy learns a lesson that she discovers she had the power to go home all along. By simply clicking her heels together and saying “There’s no place like home.”
The Wizard of Oz is only supported by its wonderful music. Including such classics as “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The latter won for Best Original Song. It also won for Original Score and was nominated for Effects, Art Direction, and even Best Picture. There’s simply no other film like it. The Wizard of Oz taught us the all important lesson that there truly is no place like home.
The Wicked Witch of the West confronts Dorothy and Glinda