Golden Oldies #2: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz is not a film that really needs an introduction. It is such a famous classic that even in 2014, 75 years after its release, it is still regularly being re-released in cinemas and is often featured in lists of the greatest films ever made.

Based on the 1900 book by L. Frank Baum, the film tells the story of Dorothy Gale, who is swept away during a tornado from her home in Kansas to the magical land of Oz. Here, she embarks on a quest with the help of The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion to find the Wizard who can help get her home. The Wizard of Oz is now famous for its use of both black & white and colour in the film. When Dorothy is in Kansas, everything is black & white, and when she arrives in the fairytale land of Oz, everything turns to colour.

Judy Garland landed her breakthrough role in this film, playing Dorothy when she was 16 years old. Garland won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Dorothy, and went on to become one of the most famous film stars of the 1940s. The film also stars Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow, Jack Haley as The Tin Man, Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion, Frank Morgan as The Wizard and Terry the dog as Toto.

Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as The Tin Man, but ten days into filming became seriously ill and was hospitalised. Ebsen had suffered an allergic reaction to the aluminium dust used for the Tin Man make-up, and was replaced by Jack Haley. The Tin Man make-up was replaced with a safer aluminium paste. Throughout his life, Ebsen suffered with lung conditions, and often referred to The Wizard of Oz as “that damned movie.”

When it was released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz was received with critical acclaim, and described as the best fantasy film to have been made since 1937s Snow White. It is often noted to be a great family film, with a perfect mix of comedy and music throughout, along with the bright sets and costumes. The film has remained as popular today as when it was released, mostly due to the fairytale element of the story which can be enjoyed by viewers of all ages. The special effects of the film are still regarded as a masterpiece, and a big portion of the film uses these features to captivate the audience. The film has managed to stay so well loved after all these years, mostly due to the storytelling throughout. As Dorothy meets more characters and they get into more scary situations on their journey to the Wizard, the film becomes more dramatic. The plot is full enough that the audience doesn’t get bored, and with every twist and turn, you are left wondering what will happen next.

The film also now has many well remembered props and phrase, including the ruby slippers that Dorothy wears whilst in Oz, and the Wicked Witch of the West being mistakenly misquoted as shouting “Fly, my pretties, fly!” whilst in the film she actually shouts “Fly, fly!”

The music of The Wizard of Oz is almost as famous as the film itself. Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead was number two in the UK music charts as recently as April 2013 after the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Over the Rainbow is now regarded as the most famous song that Judy Garland has ever sung, and became her signature song that she would perform at the end of her live concerts. It also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 1939 Academy Award ceremony.

The Wizard of Oz is still as well-known now as it was on its release, and is most defiantly a Golden Oldie which can be enjoyed by anyone at any age. If you have yet to see The Wizard of Oz, or know someone who hasn’t seen it, perhaps seeking out this classic film is a way to spend an upcoming weekend!

Published 13th February 2014

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About writingsuzanne

History graduate. Freelance writer and reviewer. Passionate about film, theatre and music (film soundtracks!).
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