Judy Garland and Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz.
This movie is eternal. Sure we know it was made in 1939 but it seems, in some inexplicable way, to be timeless. Perhaps because it has now become, like Christmas, a wonderful childhood tradition. The American fairy tale. Who, after all, doesn't instantly recognize these lines?
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
"I'll get you my pretty! And your little dog too!"
"How about a little fire scarecrow?"
And the immortal, "There's no place like home."
First published as a book in 1900 this is the story of Dorothy Gale from Kansas who is whisked away by a tornado and deposited in the marvelous land of Oz. Her house, she discovers, has fallen on a wicked witch thus liberating the people of the land, known as Munchkins, from bondage. She is given the dead witch's ruby slippers and sent down the yellow brick road to find Oz himself. A powerful wizard who lives in the Emerald city. She sets off believing that with his great powers he can send her back home. Along the way she befriends a scarecrow in search of a brain, a tin man without a heart and a cowardly lion in desperate need of some courage. All the while being stalked by the evil witch's even meaner sister the Wicked Witch of the West. What a great story!
Along the way we are treated to terrific song and dance numbers by the incredible cast against what are probably the most famous sets ever filmed.
Margaret Hamilton is the definition of a Halloween witch from her pointed black hat and green warty complexion to her perfectly eerie cackle. Bert Lahr steals many scenes as the lion with his Brooklyn accent and burlesque comic style. "Put em up. Put em up."
Ray Bolger is the ideal scarecrow with his rubbery face, gangly body and fluid dancing. Jack Haley gives us a heartfelt Tin man.
Then of course there is Judy Garland. She imbues Dorothy with just the right balance of childish gumption and innocent wonder.
We believe in Oz because she does.
Ray Bolger, Judy Garland and Jack Haley in The Wizard of Oz.
The Wizard of Oz works because as a small child the wicked witch is truly scary and the Cowardly Lion is very funny. The songs are all quite melodic and catchy, even the tedious 'Over The Rainbow' grows on you. I watch it with my kids and they enjoy it very much. They couldn't care less that the special effects are cheesy or the backdrop is painted. They just know that Dorothy has interesting friends and she better watch out for that witch.
Truly a timeless movie for children.
Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Judy Garland and Bert Lahr in The Wizard of Oz.
There aren't many original things left to say about a movie that was released over 60 years ago and seen by more people then the population of some countries.
All I can say, is that as a child, I looked forward every year to the time when it would be shown again. I had every line memorized, knew all of the songs, and could even tell you where the commercial breaks would appear. So I must have enjoyed it.
Now, it's hard to tell whether or not I enjoy it anymore. Maybe if I waited twenty years and then watched it again, I might be able to recapture some of the magic of those first times that I watched, but it's probably too firmly ingrained in my mind to ever be fresh again.
Still, as a children's movie, this is the definitive classic and does possess a magic all its own.
Photos © Copyright MGM (1939)