An Ode To “The Wizard of Oz”
There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. And there’s no movie quite like “The Wizard of Oz,” which turns 70 this week. Munchkin Land, the ruby slippers, the flying monkeys, the Emerald City—this 1939 blockbuster still has no expiration date. It gave us songs you still know by heart and images which still amaze, even in the age of CGI effects. It spawned fantastic remakes such as “The Wiz” and “Tin Man.” Raise your hand if you were ever forced to watch a carefully timed demonstration of how cosmically the movie’s first scenes line up with side one of “Dark Side of the Moon”! Interestingly, “The Wizard of Oz” we know and love was a remake of an older silent, black-and-white film, which was made 25 years after L. Frank Baum published his seminal children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It’s the first in a collection of 14 books about the Land of Oz, and Baum’s series is largely credited with the creation of the fantasy novel genre.
An ambitious risk-taking flick of its time, “The Wizard of Oz” messed with format and new technologies. “The Wizard of Oz” was one of the first movies produced in Technicolor. In a cost-saving as well as artistic decision, Dorothy Gale is swept away from her black-and-white family in Kansas. Exiting her grayscale cottage, Dorothy finds herself in a prism-colored country full of creatures whom someone would eventually name doughnut holes after. Dorothy goes on a wild quest to defeat witches and find a wizard, before gratefully reawakening back in Kansas, where she’ll presumably recover from sensory overload. “Surrender Dorothy” was even a famous special effect of the time: Movie magic man Jack McMaster accomplished the bad witch’s sky-writing message using a six-foot wide tank of water and canned dye. He says it took him two months.
Also, the making of “The Wizard of Oz” was possibly the first time anyone in Hollywood said no to Shirley Temple. MGM’s studio executive apparently didn’t think “The Little Princess” had the singing chops for Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s songs, and so Judy Garland more than took over the actress’s role. The movie really wouldn’t have been the same without her.
I’ll get you my pretty. And your little dog, too.