The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939 and stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale who journeyed to the mystical land of Oz accompanied by iconic characters in the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and her little dog Toto. This film has been a staple in the childhoods of generations and it’s grown to be one of my favorite films of all time. Oz is a film that traps you into its environment very effectively with creative techniques and advances in technology, and it was overall an achievement in film making.
The Wizard of Oz has a plethora of characters and each one is portrayed wonderfully throughout the film. Judy Garland does a great job in portraying Dorothy, as we do get a sense that she is a wondrous, brave, and accepting individual that ultimately wants to get back home to her loved ones. The only gripe that I have with her is that she does look a bit old for the role, as in the book she’s closer to the age of 10 but Garland looks closer to the age of 20. However, I understand it’s an adaptation and they don’t seem to play her up to be too young so I guess my complaint is more of a nitpick. Garland is accompanied by Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr as the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, respectively. Each actor gives an energized and expressive performance that makes each character iconic, with the Scarecrow’s showmanship, the Tin Man’s physical humor, and the Lion’s boisterous yet humorous speech. Frank Morgan as the Wizard and a number of other characters is also very fun and expressive in his performances. He has a difficult task in portraying characters of varying personalities, as he plays the understanding and helpful Professor Marvel, and the terrifying, monstrous Wizard of Oz. He also does a great job in providing comedy with his roles as the Doorman, Cabbie, and Guard of Emerald City.
The performance that sticks with every kid that watches this film though, is Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West. This film is often one of the first parents show to their children, and this is one hell of an introduction to villainy with the Wicked Witch. Her voice, her green skin, her overall presence all give this sense of terror in the eyes of a little kid, and all of these features of the Witch make her iconic. It is unfortunate to hear however, that both actress Margaret Hamilton and her stunt-double Betty Danko received second and third-degree burns when pyrotechnics went awry on the set. In the end, both performers contributed a tremendous amount of effort in bringing this maniacal character to life.
What really makes this film a truly captivating experience is the transition from “our world” to the world of Oz. The transition from the sepia-tone of Kansas to the rich and vibrant colors of Munchkinland is absolutely breath-taking even to this day. The rich golds, greens, and reds all give this sense of magic and wonder that could flood the mind of any audience member. Each character/grouping of characters is unique ranging from the Munchkins, Flying Monkeys, and the Witch’s guards, as they each have their quirks that make them all iconic. There are countless other things that I could talk about ranging from the Oscar winning song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, the production hurdles the studio had to face ranging from revolving directors, some ill-chemistry with the lead actors, and some urban legends involving the Munchkins, but this post can only be so long.
There isn’t much too negative I can find with this film, as it’s pretty much a perfectly blended story, it doesn’t feel dated (except for maybe the acting, but they’re still fun to watch), and it teaches great lessons of tolerance and love for one’s family. Even though it was a production nightmare and a bit of a disappointment at the box office, it has been referenced and looked admirably upon for decades since its release, and I believe it will be cherished for years to come.
Favorite Scene: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Images courtesy of Giphy, 1428elm, and The Enchanted Manor