12/28/14: The Wizard of Oz (1939)


The Wizard of Oz Poster

“[As Oz] I am Paulie, The Great & Powerful Wizard of Flicks! Wiz                                                                                           Who dares…? Red curtainUm…Wizard of Flicks!! PauliePay no attention to that man behind the curtain. [Normal voice] Er…um…On 9/17/99, Hurricane Pink Floyd PFarrived at our house in Wolcott CT in all its psychedelic fury. I was working from home & was in a meeting with my boss, Val, looking out the back window as it arrived. [Drawl] “‘Unusual weather we’re having, ain’t it? There’s a storm blowin’ up, Val – a whopper, to speak in the vernacular of the peasantry. It’s a hurrican’! It’s a hurrican’!’ [Singing] The wind began to switch/The house, to pitch/And suddenly the hinges/Started to unhitch/Just then, an oak/And this is not a joke/Came crashing down on the picnic table/THIS is not a fable! [Boy] ‘Weren’t you frightened?’, [Normal] you might ask. Frightened? You’re talking to a man who’s laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom & chuckled at catastrophe. I was petrified!” I gave up on sandbaggin’ after 10 hours. Sandbag                                                        By the next morning, the 18” of rain overflowed the stream in the woods all the way to the foundation, flooding our basement & burning out the sump pump’s motor. “I took our dog out to pee & saw the devastation. ‘Stimpy, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Wolcott any more.’ Our garden pond was the backyard & one of the goldfish swam by. ‘Now I know we’re not in Wolcott! There must be a place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Stimpy? There must be. Beyond the rain…somewhere over the rainbow maybe. But that’s not what’s worrying me. It’s how to catch the fish. Pond                               These things must be done delicately.’ Then our black comet, Scarecrow, went speeding by. Comet ‘Now which way did he go? That way? Or that way? Of course, some fishies do go both ways. I even hear some people do these days’ Well, Scarecrow was the only one that got away. Scarecrow, of all the fish that have died in the 25 years I’ve had them, I think I’ll miss you most of all. When the waters receded, I realized I was over the rainbow. There’s no place like home!Home

Just ask Dorothy, 16 year old Judy Garland                                                                           who wore a tight corset to portray the young teen heroine of Victor Fleming’s                                                                 The Wizard of Oz. The picture is beautifully shot in brown & white when Dorothy’s in KS, and in color when she & her dog Toto get carried away to Oz by a terrifying twister, where she meets: The Munchins; Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke); The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton, who was so frightening to the children of the era that many of her scenes were cut or shortened); The Scarecrow (Ray Bolger); The Tin Man (Jack Haley); The Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr); and finally The Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan) who she seeks out to help her get back home to see Auntie Em (Clara Blandick). 

It won 2 Oscars in 1940 at the 12th Academy Awards: Best Song for Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen, music, and E.Y Harburg, lyrics)E.Y. , which was almost cut in order to shorten the 1st KS segment; and Original Score (Herbert Stothart). It was nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, Color Cinematography, and Special Effects (which amazingly went to The Rains Came). Fleming had a pretty good year in ‘39. He also directed Best Picture and Director Winner Gone with the Wind. 1939 is widely regarded as the greatest year in film history. It also included: Stagecoach; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Of Mice & Men; Dark Victory; Wuthering Heights; Gunga Din; Love Affair; The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Goodbye Mr. Chips; Young Mr. Lincoln; and Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz! “O-Ee-Yah! Eoh-Ah! O-Ee-Yah! Eoh-Ah!”

Addendum                                                                                                                                 L. Frank Baum’s more violent 1900 novel thought of as metaphor for shift from the Silver Standard to the Gold Standard. Dorothy’s slippers were silver, the standard at that time. It’s my theory that the film version is a metaphor for the changing time as Hitler rose to power: Dorothy the common American; Wicked Witch of the West is Hitler with her Blitzkrieg Flying Monkeys; Scarecrow the unappreciated farmer; Tin Man the underused Depression-era factory worker; Lion the too-frightened-to-address-Hitler Congress; Yellow Brick Road, a false path leading to “the only thing you have to fear is fear itself” Oz/FDR, a good man but phony leader of the land; Munchkins the hidden little people working behind the scenes to keep things going; Glinda is the ideal, righteous & courageous, who stands up to Hitler. For example, when the Scarecrow says, “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?”, Fleming, through the screenplay writers (Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson & Edgar Allan Woolf) is suggesting that the time to talk is over & the time for FDR to act & join the Allied Forces in WWII is NOW. Comments?

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