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The Wizard of Oz

The classic 1939 MGM musical fantasy starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, and Margaret Hamilton.

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After More Than 60 Years....

  • Jul 10, 2003
  • by
What a joy to see this classic film in the DVD format, accompanied by so much interesting background material which includes the documentary "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic," hosted by Angela Lansbury; various out takes, including the rarely seen "Jitterbug" dance; interviews of Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Margaret Hamilton; and excerpts from previous versions of "Oz," including the 1914 and 1925 silent films and the 1933 cartoon version. Great stuff! How ironic that this film was considered a failure at the box office after its release in 1939 despite several Academy Award nominations, was "rediscovered" on prime time television in 1956, and continues to appear on television screens, either when broadcast or played in VHS or DVD format. As Lew Wasserman constantly insisted, television was the best thing that ever happened to the film industry. How right he was.

Each time I see and hear this third film adaptation of L. Frank Baum's book, I am still enchanted by it while also marveling at the technical achievements in a film produced more than 60 years ago. It was a stroke of genius to begin the film in sepia tone black and white, then transition to color after Dorothy and Toto arrive in Munchkin Land, then return to black and white after Dorothy awakens in her home. How clever also to have characters such as Miss Gulch, Professor Marvel, and the three hired hands (Hickory, Hunk, and Zeke) reappear as the Wicked Witch of the West, Gatekeeper and Wizard, Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion, respectively.

Each of us has her or his favorite scenes. Mine include the tornado's approach and then later what Dorothy sees through the window as her farmhouse is hurled through the air; the series of welcomes by various Munchkins (especially the Lolly Pop Guild members); and the Wizard's desperate response after Toto pulls back the curtain. (We now know that Margaret Hamilton was severely burned during the scene which concludes when a bucket of water is thrown on her and she evaporates.) Make-up, special effects, musical score, and cinematography are integrated seamlessly.

Probably because this film was generally neglected until shown on network television in 1956, it did not have as much of an impact on those in my generation as it has had on our daughters and sons....and on their own children. However, for me at least, the film supports several important life lessons while brilliantly presenting the adventures of Dorothy and her companions. First, that there really is "no place like home" wherever that home may be. For many of us, it is a state-of-mind and/or a condition of the heart rather than a physical location. (Recall the line "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.") It is human nature, I guess, to take so much for granted until we encounter problems with health, money, an important relationship, etc. Only after a loss do we fully appreciate what we once had.

The film also reminds us that we may already possess almost all of what we need to achieve our goals. Henry Ford once observed, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." (Yogi Berra agrees with Ford, noting that "half of success is 90% mental.") If birds fly over the rainbow, why can't we? Although we may yearn to be somewhere else as Dorothy does, or to become something else as her three companions do, the "rainbow" may be within us -- not out there somewhere -- if we but recognize and then follow it like a yellow brick road.

These are not so much critical observations, I realize, as they are personal musings about a film which has lost none of its charm after more than 60 years. At the first opportunity, I will be off to see The Wizard of Oz in a theatre...curious to know if those around me (regardless of age) enjoy it and appreciate it as much as I will. And then at its conclusion, perhaps agreeing with me when paraphrasing Pogo, "We have met the Wizard...and he is us."

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September 02, 2011
Wonderful review.
More The Wizard of Oz reviews
Quick Tip by . October 21, 2012
A great-loved musical which was a breakthrough in colorization. Made by people who were either very, very high or expected their audiences to be.
Quick Tip by . October 06, 2010
Iconic and influencial in many ways, a delightful fantasy adventure for the family
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This movie is a classic for a reason. I have discovered as well than on of the best formats in which to watch it is during a local summer movie festival in a park.
Quick Tip by . July 25, 2010
This movie was made in 1939, which certainly makes it a classic vintage film. There are some variations from the book in the film that are interesting to note. Read the book and watch the film and you'll have fun  comparing the two versions.
Quick Tip by . August 24, 2010
Great film, I love the tin man. always remember, "disregard the man behind the curtain."
Quick Tip by . July 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This movie is a Classic that never gets old. It brings back memories every time I see it.
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The film was way ahead of its time, even eerie at times. Definitely a legendary classic that everyone should see.
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I personally hate The Wizard Of Oz. I always found it creepy and lame
Quick Tip by . July 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
If you have never seen this movie than you do not watch movies@!
Quick Tip by . June 03, 2010
The greatest American film, the first true classic fantasy film, and the most beloved family film of all time! A virtually perfect film. Flying monkeys, gay lions, fraudulent wizards, and Gothic castles. What's not to love?! : )
About the reviewer
Robert Morris ()
Ranked #74
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American musical film directed by Victor Fleming (and uncredited others) from a script mostly by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, with uncredited contributions by others. It was based on the 1900 children's novel of the same name by L. Frank Baum, with fantasy elements. It features Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr and Frank Morgan, with Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charles Grapewin, Clara Blandick and the Singer Midgets as the Munchkins. Notable in its use of special effects, use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling and unusual characters, The Wizard of Oz has become, over the years, one of the best known of all films. Its impact, however, was not nearly as strongly felt at the time of its original release.

Dorothy Gale, a 12-year-old Kansas farmgirl, is knocked unconscious during a tornado. She, her dog Toto, and the farmhouse are transported to the magical Land of Oz. She sets out on the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to ask the Wizard of Oz to return her to Kansas. During her journey, she meets a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion, who join her, hoping to receive what they lack themselves (a brain, a heart and courage, respectively). They are pursued by the Wicked Witch of the West, who wants her dead sister's magic ruby slippers, now worn by Dorothy.

Initially, The Wizard of Oz made only a small profit due to its enormous budget, despite largely favorable critical reviews. ...
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Director: Victor Fleming
Genre: Adventure, Classics, Family, Fantasy, Musical
Release Date: August 25, 1939
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: 1999, 2005, 2009
Runtime: 103 minutes
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Warner Bros. Pictures, Turner Entertainment
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