Monday, November 25, 2013

Watching the Wizard of Oz (again)

This has been a week of relieving traumatic moments of American History. Plus I have Monday to deal with. So when I was channel flipping and discovered that TBS was about to run The Wizard of Oz I decided a little escapism was in order. (Oz was preceded by another joy, this year's first sighting of the Grinch.)

As I have commented before, this movie is so much a part of my childhood that I can't remember the first time I saw it. It was shown on TV once a year, and we all sat down and watched it each year. I also had a soundtrack album, so I knew the whole movie by heart.

When I was about seven, my grandmother got a color TV set. We all used to get together and watch really impressive shows in color. I will never forget being taken to her house to watch Oz. The moment when Dorothy first opens the door into Oz and the film turns to color was pure magic. I think it was probably the beginning of my love affair with movies.

A couple days before my 9th birthday, Judy Garland died. Her funeral was held on my birthday.(the Stonewall riots happened early the next morning. Its my understanding the two events were not unrelated.) But the next time the movie was on, it was the same movie it had always been. It was my first real understanding of the immortality of film.

Although i have always been a Judy Garland fan,my favorite performer in the film was Ray Bolger. As a child I believed he was a scarecrow. As an adult i marvel at the quality of his dancing. He was the only cast member (other than Margaret Hamilton) that I remember seeing working professionally, and I was always impressed with how he embraced the film he would be remembered for. "No residuals, just immortality." He would say.

So many performers who would be unknown to the average movie goer if not for this film: Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, all did great work in other films. But who would remember them  if not for Oz?

A few other things I think about while watching this movie:

When they released the movie it was too long. They had to chose between cutting a song called "the jitterbug" and another number. In the end the bug got the axe which is good, not only because the Jitterbug would have dated the film, but also because the other number was "Somewhere over the Rainbow."

When I was in college I babysat a little girl who's mom was also in college.  Every day we watched The Wizard of Oz. It was several years before I could look at the film again, but it was great prep for later viewings of Barbie Nutcracker and Bambi.

This was actually the first movie I owned on video, several years before I had a VCR.  My dad's best friend  taped one of the annual airings of the show and gave it to me, in a case he had decorated with the ad and listing from the TV Guide.  I'm sure it will surprise no one who knows me that I still have the tape.

Although I have it on DVD now, this is one movie I actually enjoy watching on television, with commercials, just as I did when I was a kid. It amused the kids that I knew where all the commercials belonged.

The first time we went to the Smithsonian, my daughter's favorite part was the ruby slippers.

There is something chilling about the way Margaret Hamilton says "poppies" Not to mention "These things must be done delicately."

My son used to have a t-shirt that said "winged monkeys stole my sister."

I always thought the scariest moment in the movie is when Dorothy sees Aunt Em in the crystal ball and it turns into the with.

L Frank Baum's mother in law was am early feminist who wrote about witchcraft persecutions of the Middle Ages so they both probably would have loved Glinda's "only bad witches are ugly" line. I suspect Baum would not have liked the ending though. Just a dream indeed.

I think I was in my teens before I realized how many parts Frank Morgan has, over prof Marvell and Oz. Secretly I thought Oz was the only one in the castle and he and ran around doing all the jobs so no one would catch on. 

Well we're just about at the end. Dorothy is going to miss the scarecrow most of all, click her heels 3 times and tell Auntie Em there's no place like home. And no other film is so bound up with my whole life as this one.

This post is part of the I Don't Like Monday's Blog Hop at elleroy was here.
Click on the link to read more great stories.


  1. Too bad our kids will never experience the kind of magic that that Oz b&w to color moment provided our childhoods - even though we already had color. Kids now are so jaded and "impress me" about things. I mean, we thought Land of the Lost was impressive for gawds' sake.

    1. You are right Linda, there was a certain sense of wonder that has been lost now. I think that's why I like this movie so much, it brings back that whole age of innocence, just like hearing early Beatles music or rereading certain books of my childhood or decorating the Christmas Tree.