Young Dorothy Gale and her dog are swept away by a tornado from their Kansas farm to the magical Land of Oz, and embark on a quest with three new friends to see the Wizard, who can return her to her home and fulfill the others’ wishes.
The Wizard of Oz has been one of my comfort films for a very long time. The fact that it is seen as the 10th greatest film of all time is no surprise. But, it was interesting to watch the film through a more evaluative lens.
We all should know by now how I feel about Glinda the “good” witch of the North. Those feelings have not changed. In fact, as with every rewatch of The Wizard of Oz, my feelings about Glinda have increased. Moving on.
To have seen this film in theaters in 1939 would have been absolutely wild. It’s one of the first instances of color film and they used color to their full advantage to evoke some real emotions. The reveal of Munchkinland, as Dorothy opens the door, stepping out of her sepia toned life and into this big world of color, is still breathtaking 83 years later. I’ve been lucky enough to see this film several times in a theater setting, and I highly recommend it. It’s still incredible.
There’s not a thing in this film that I would consider “bad” or “poorly done”. The writing is there. The directing is there. The acting, the music, the set design. It’s all there. The only thing that comes to mind is the editing, specifically in the scene where Dorothy first meets the Scarecrow. Her hair keeps changing lengths. But, that’s really the only thing I can think of.
There’s tremendous talent in this film with Judy Garland, of course. But, really, the entire cast was equally as strong. Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tinman), Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion), Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch of the West), and Frank Morgan (playing five different characters) convinced us of this fairytale. That’s not easy to do.
The acting isn’t the only thing that makes the fairytale believable. The production design, art direction, set decoration, costume design, makeup department, and special effects department contributed heavily to making the film believable. I just wish everyone knew how long lasting their work would be.
It is hard for me to talk about the film and my love for it without mentioning something about the treatment of Judy Garland. Although this film is what really shot her to stardom, it very well may have also been the start of her downfall and the start of a long, hard battle with drug addiction and mental illness, thanks to the studio system at the time. It’s harder watching such a beloved film with that fact in the back of your mind.
The Wizard of Oz has stood the test of time. The lessons in the film are timeless (although maybe not the best lesson to learn. If your home life is shit, it’s okay to find another place to call home). The mix of reality and fantasy helps to make the film feel ageless. The Wizard of Oz is also so ingrained in our culture that it will continue to stay relevant and endure the test of time for many more years to come. And will continue to find new fans around the globe for decades.