‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a timeless classic
For once I’m going to stick to a genre when it comes to these reviews. Since I wrote about classic musical “Singin’ in the Rain” I figured I’d review another musical favorite — “The Wizard of Oz.”
Obviously this movie, which was released in 1939 by MGM Studios, is well known by everyone. With its famous tunes such as “Over the Rainbow” and “We’re Off to see the Wizard” and familiar lines like “Toto I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” everyone has heard a reference to this movie even without having watched it.
The movie is based off L. Frank Baum’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” released in 1900 and centers around Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland). Dorothy is caught up in a tornado, her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in the storm cellar with their three farm hands, and soon finds herself whisked away to the world of Oz.
There she finds herself in the cross hairs of the Wicked Witch of the West’s (Margaret Hamilton) wrath after she accidentally kills the woman’s sister, the Wicked Witch of the East. Don’t you just hate when accidents like that happen?
With guidance from Glinda the Goodwitch (Billie Burke) — who conveniently disappears after that — Dorothy begins to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where the Wizard of Oz can help get her home.
Along the way she meets a few friends. The bumbling Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) who just wants a brain; the Tin Man (Jack Haley) who would like a heart; and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who just wants a little courage.
The quartet, with Toto at their sides, face off against the Wicked Witch’s many tricks — including flying monkeys — as they try to get to the “great and powerful Oz.”
Pretty much everything about this movie is enjoyable. I even found myself occasionally relating to Dorothy. Specifically when the mean Miss Gulch tries to take Toto away. I too would threaten a woman with violence like biting if they tried to take my dog.
Garland doesn’t disappoint (who’s surprised… not me) during her performance. From her singing to delivering her lines, she does so with clear professionalism and really brings young wide-eyed innocent Dorothy to life.
And of course her trio of pals in Oz are wonderful in their supporting roles. Their dynamic reminds me of the three stooges almost with their banter.
The acting and singing of course is very important, but sets can sometimes ruin the feel of a movie. That wasn’t the case with “The Wizard of Oz.” Clearly MGM put in the work to create the colorful land of Oz. With vibrant backdrops, colorful foliage and other worldly designs such as in Munchkin Village, they really created something unique.
Fun fact! During my research I learned that the Oz we know might not have been. Before shooting began, the script went through multiple rewrites. One of the first submitted by William H. Cannon lacked the whimsy and magic of the final product.
It included the Scarecrow being a man so stupid his only chance of a job was scaring the crows; the Tin Man was a criminal so heartless he was placed in a tin suit forever which would soften him into a kinder man. Obviously this version, unlike the monkeys, wasn’t going to fly.
So director Mervyn LeRoy hired a variety of writers who created their own scripts which were pieced together to create the final product.
Since its release, “The Wizard of Oz” has garnered critical acclaim and has been the basis of more than a few remakes and reimaginations such as hit Broadway musical “Wicked” and 1978’s “The Wiz.”
So, if you’re interested, why not take a trip down the yellow brick road into the land of Oz and enjoy a clean and enjoyable classic.
“The Wizard of Oz” can be rented from Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, iTunes and Amazon Prime and is available on HBO Max with a subscription.
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Laura Jameson is a staff reporter for The Express.