Classic Film Review: The Wizard Of Oz
This classic film is one of my all-time favorites, and I could not resist sharing my perspective on it. I was inspired to write it after my meeting with Mickey Carroll, one of the Munchkin actors!
"Toto, I Don't Think We're In Kansas Anymore!"
When a film reaches the iconic status that this movie has achieved, it can be very difficult to write anything about it that is truly original. After all, what can one possibly say about The Wizard Of Oz that hasn't already been said a hundred times over? How does one even begin to review one of the most beloved classics in the entire history of motion pictures without sounding totally redundant? To say that these questions present the writer with a very daunting challenge is the most profound of understatements.
For a little over seventy years now, children and adults alike have been delighted by the tale of young Dorothy and her journey to the magical land of Oz. Based on the children's book by author L. Frank Baum, this timeless film has an endearing charm that not only holds its audience spellbound generation after generation, but also makes it immune to the ever-changing whims of cinematic fashion or trend. It remains every bit as enchanting today as it was in its own time. Part of the reason for this is that its message is universal, appealing to both the young, and the young-at-heart; everyone can relate to it on some level. We all had childhood fantasies of traveling to wondrous places like Oz, and this film allows us to indulge those fantasies. Along the way, we also get some great insight into the importance of values like family, home, and friendship!
The plot is very entertaining and easy to follow. Fifteen year old Dorothy Gale is a lonely young girl who lives on a Kansas farm with her Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. When a spiteful old neighbor claims that Dorothy's little dog attacked her, and she threatens to have him destroyed, Dorothy decides to run away in order to save Toto. However, she ends up not going too far before she meets Professor Marvel, who tricks her into going back home by telling her that his crystal ball has shown him that her Auntie Em is sick.
The wind begins to kick up as Dorothy walks home. Then just as she is arriving home, a fierce tornado roars through the farm. Not being able to make it to the storm cellar where everyone else has gone for shelter, she slowly makes her way into the house, fighting the strong wind with every step! She gets into the house and manages to make it to her bedroom, but is soon knocked unconscious as the house is swept into the twister's eye. As she regains consciousness, it appears that the storm is over, and her house is intact. At least until she opens her bedroom door.
As the door swings open, Dorothy can hardly believe the dazzling sight that greets her eyes! Although she isn't exactly sure where this new place is, she definitely knows that it isn't Kansas. "We must be over the rainbow," she exclaims to Toto. Suddenly, Glinda, The Good Witch Of The North appears, and explains to Dorothy that she is in Munchkin Land, where she is revered as a national heroine, because her house has landed on the Wicked Witch Of The East and killed her.
Dorothy's only concern is trying to get back to Kansas, but before she can ask the way, the Wicked Witch Of The West suddenly appears wanting to know who killed her sister. She wants to reclaim the very powerful ruby slippers from her dead sister's feet, but is thwarted when Glinda magically places them on Dorothy's feet instead. The wicked witch knows that she is powerless in Munchkin Land, but vows to "bide her time," get the slippers, back and make her pay for having killed the witch of the east. With that sinister warning, she disappears in a cloud of smoke!
Dorothy then turns her attention back to getting home. When she asks Glinda the way back to Kansas, she is told that the only person who may be able to help her is the great and powerful Wizard Of Oz, who lives in The Emerald City; and all she has to do to find him is follow the yellow brick road! With that bit of advice, she sets off to see the wonderful Wizard Of Oz!
Along the way, she makes several new friends who decide to accompany her on her journey. First, she meets a scarecrow when she comes to a fork in the road, and can't decide which way to go. Although she is a bit surprised when the scarecrow speaks to her, she makes friends with him quickly, and agrees to let him come with her to see The Wizard in hopes of getting a brain. So after she takes him down off his pole, they continue the journey together.
Before long, they come upon a Tin Woodsman who has rusted while trying to chop down a tree, and is rooted to his spot in the forest. When they approach him, he begins asking for his oil can. Although it takes them a few minutes to figure out exactly what he is trying to say, as his mouth is rusted shut, they finally understand, and begin to oil him. When he can speak again, he tells them that the Tinsmith forgot to give him a heart. The two friends ask him to join them on their journey; surely, The Wizard will give him a heart. He agrees, and the two becomes three.
A little further down the yellow brick road, they meet the cowardly lion, who tries to scare them. At first, he gets by with his tough act until he tries to catch Toto. Dorothy steps in to protect the dog, giving the lion a good swat on the nose! The lion reacts by bursting into tears, and the others realize that his fierce act is only a front, and he is really a big fraidy-cat! Admitting that this is true, the lion asks to join them, so he can get some courage from The Wizard. Of course, they all agree, and once again, they are all on their way to The Emerald City.
Their journey is not to be an easy one, however. As they make their way toward their destination, The Wicked Witch Of The West makes every effort to stop them so that she can steal back the ruby slippers. Despite the obstacles that she creates for them though, they eventually find their way to The Wizard's castle. They are denied entrance, until the guard realizes that she is wearing the witch's slippers.
When they are finally granted an audience by The Wizard, he tells them that he will grant their requests when they have brought him the broomstick of The Wicked Witch Of The West. So, back they go to the witch's castle. While there, the witch takes Dorothy prisoner, and the others must free her before they can get the broomstick. This proves to be a challenge, but with a little teamwork, they manage to free her and prepare for their escape. The Witch has other plans, however. In an attempt to stop them from escaping, she throws a fireball at the scarecrow. When Dorothy throws water at the fire in an effort to put her friend out, the Witch is melted. Dorothy is once again hailed as a hero, this time by the Witch's army, who gladly give her the broomstick to take back to The Wizard.
After another brief skirmish with The Wizard, in which his real identity is revealed, he grants their requests, and agrees to take Dorothy home in his balloon. However, she winds up accidentally being left behind when Toto jumps out of her arms to chase a cat. Heartbroken, Dorothy now fears that she will never get home. Then, Glinda appears again, and tells her she has always had the power to return home, by clicking her heels 3 times and thinking of home. After saying a tearful goodbye to her new friends, Dorothy follows these instructions, and we come to see that she has dreamed her whole adventure in Oz while she was unconscious. She wakes up, truly appreciating her home and the love that surrounds her there.
Made in the golden age of the MGM musical, this film is not only filled with outstanding performances by each of the lead actors...Particularly, Burt Lahr as The Cowardly Lion, and Margaret Hamilton as The Wicked Witch Of The West...but it also has an absolutely wonderful musical score, the highlight of which is the world famous song “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” which became Judy Garland's signature song for the remainder of her career!
Any longtime fan can attest that The Wizard Of Oz never gets old; no matter how many times you see it, it will still make you smile and warm your heart as well...and that's a guarantee from someone who knows that from experience!