Movie: The Wizard of Oz
Release Date: August 25, 1939
Director: Victor Fleming
Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charley Grapewin.
Tag Lines: “Mighty Miracle Show Of 1000 Delights!”
“Amazing Sights To See ! The Tornado . . . Munchkinland . . . Horse Of A Different Color . . . Startling Balloon Ascent . . . Flying Monkeys . . . Trees That Talk And Throw Apples,”
“Let’s go “Over the Rainbow” with Judy in her greatest hit! (1955 re-release)”
“Hear beloved star JUDY GARLAND sing “Over The Rainbow” and other songs ! (re-release)”
“Great On The Wide Screen ! (1955 re-release)”
“We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful [Wizard of Oz]! (UK release)”
“Songs you will sing and dance to. (Newspaper ad, 1939)”
The book that 80 million read! The play that 941 cities saw! Now the greatest Technicolor show-world miracle since “Snow White”. (Newspaper ad, 1939)”
“9200 living actors in the notable star-studded cast! 68 incredibly magnificent sets! Augmented orchestra of 130 pieces! Chorus of 300 rousing voices! 100 minutes of unforgettable entertainment! (Newspaper ad, 1939)”
“Musical Spectacle! (1949 reissue)”
Gaiety! Glory! Glamour!”
“Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Technicolor Triumph!”
“Biggest Screen Sensation Since “Snow White”!”
“The Mighty Miracle Show That Is the Talk of America!”
“The Greatest Picture in the History of Entertainment!”
Relevance: If you have been following this blog throughout 2020, you knew that ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was going to be showing up sooner or later (see 140. Under the Rainbow). If you know me in real life, you knew that it was without question the number one movie on my list of most influential, favorite films of all time. I have loved this movie since my first watch as a child and it continued to entertain and inspire me right through middle aged adulthood. My love for this film was something I never, ever hid. Often ridiculed for my obsession with it, similar to the love I have for Madonna, it has molded the human being I am today. If it weren’t for this story from L. Frank Baum and its magnificent family musical adaptation, the Oliver I am today would be a horse of a different color.
Released to positive reviews in the late summer of 1939, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ did not generate a lot of love with audiences at the box office. In fact, it failed to make a profit for MGM until it was re-released in theaters ten years later. In 1956, the movie was reintroduced to the public thanks to its televised world premiere on CBS. Since then it has managed to become the most seen film in movie history according to the Library of Congress, selecting it in 1989 as one of the first 25 films for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. Now a beloved classic for the entire family, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. “An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a must-see film for young and old.”
I was first introduced to the story of Dorothy Gale from its source material. I remember being read “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ by L. Frank Baum by family members long before I was able to read. It most likely wasn’t even the full novel but a more watered down version a la Little Golden Book. If you were a child of the 1970’s, you were very familiar with Little Golden Books. My shelves were filled with them. I remember sitting on the laps of parents and grandparents and pointing at the colorful pictures of the lion, the scarecrow and tin man. I don’t remember the exact time that I first saw the film ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ but there was one thing I remember distinctly, my fear of the Wicked Witch of the West. At her first appearance in that cloud of red smoke, I screamed, cried and immediately covered my eyes. I am not even sure I made it to the end of the movie that first time.
Eventually I was able to overcome my fear of the Witch, probably around the age eight, and began watching the film quite a bit. Every year the movie played around the holidays. It might have been the Christmas holiday, but part of me feels like it was more Easter as that usually fell around my birthday. By that time, I owned a lot of Oz memorabilia including coloring books, toys as well as the vinyl soundtrack to the film. I listened to it quite a bit, singing and dancing along as much as I could. I loved the music and absolutely adored watching the movie when it played on television. At that time, we were at the mercy of the broadcasters to when we were able to watch the film as VCR’s and cable television were a couple years away. So once a year, similar to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (see 2. It’s a Wonderful Life), my family sat down and were entertained by Glinda, the Munchkins and the wonderful wizard of Oz. And like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ I was eventually watching it alone.
I don’t know what it was about the film that made me love it so much, I just did. Even as I reached my teenage years, my fascination with the movie and the story stayed fully intact. By that time I owned a VHS copy of the film and my bedroom became sort of a shrine to it. Interspersed with posters of Madonna were pictures of the movie as well as my stand-up dolls of the characters, all standing on a yellow brick road that connected like a puzzle. At sixteen, my room pretty much looked like that of a twenty year old gay man’s. Honestly, I had no thoughts about my sexuality at that age. But I won’t bore you with that story again, you can read more about that here: 3. Madonna: Truth or Dare. I just liked what I liked and really didn’t care what others thought.
Now that I owned the movie, I watched it quite often, mostly alone, but always enjoying it. It was just a movie that never got old for me. I read tons of stories about the film and continued to collect everything I could that was Oz related. I took the movie, as well as my posters and dolls, with me to college and watched it my first semester almost every week. That first time away at college was spent mostly alone in my dorm room as I wasn’t great at making new friends thanks to my shyness. So before making any real friends away from home, I sat on my bed watching my friends on the yellow brick road. The movie soothed me, comforted me and always made me feel better about my life after I was done watching it.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ remained my favorite film of all time right through adulthood. I have owned every format of the movie as well as many collector’s editions. Although my posters weren’t necessarily hanging on my walls and those dolls were now well packed in boxes in the attic, I continued to watch the film at least once a year. I have tried to pass along my love for the film to my son, but he loathes it. As a child he was petrified by the witch (like me) and now as a young adult he hates everything with singing in it. Sometimes I wonder if he really is my son or not. I have watched every sequel, live action and animated, seen every show about the film and have also seen “Wicked” on Broadway as well as read most of the books by Gregory Maguire. There was not an Oz related event that went unnoticed. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ remains magical to me and the story of friendship, a sense of belonging and the desire to be part of a home will always stay very close to my heart.
Today’s Thoughts: “For nearly forty years this story has given faithful service to the Young in Heart; and Time has been powerless to put its kindly philosophy out of fashion. To those of you who have been faithful to it in return… and to the Young in Heart… we dedicate this picture.”
I can’t believe I made it to the end of this year long journey into film. To be quite honest, I can’t believe I survived 2020. It wasn’t the greatest of years, but this blog and project, as silly as it may seem to some, really gave me a sense of pride and purpose when 2020 made it very difficult to find any of that elsewhere. So with no drumroll and little fanfare, today I sat down to watch ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ by far my favorite, most influential film of all time.
I watched ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in my bed alone today after my husband went to work. My son was still home sleeping in his room, but since I figured the sounds and songs of this movie would annoy him, I kept it lowkey in my bedroom. That was my final holiday gift to him.
What more can I say about this film? If I needed to, I could mouth along every spoken or sung word in it, but today I left that up to the glorious cast. Now over eighty years after its initial release, it is still a splendid film. The effects, costumes, makeup, direction, acting, story and those songs are just as tremendous as they were the first time I watched it as a single digit child. I am instantly young again when I watch it, and maybe that’s the first and most important reason I love it so.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ is truly a Hollywood classic. Whether you like it or not, you can’t deny its pop culture impact on many generations. It is astounding to me how much enjoyment this movie has brought to so many people throughout the years. More importantly, I am thankful for the joy it brought to a shy young boy growing up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and turning him into the huge movie fan that he is today. Thank you L. Frank Baum, Victor Fleming, Judy Garland and everyone involved with this magical movie. There’s no place like home and there’s no film like ‘The Wizard of Oz.’
Awards: Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, “Over the Rainbow,” Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg (winner), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, Herbert Stothart (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color, Harold Rosson (nomination), Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Cedric Gibbons, William A. Horning (nomination), Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects, A. Arnold Gillespie, Douglas Shearer (nomination), National Film Registry (1989).
Ways to Watch: Hulu, HBO Max, Sling TV, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, iTunes, Amazon Prime, TNT, TBS, DVD Availability.