Monday, August 25, 2008

"Because of the Wonderful Things It Does"

(because, because, because, because, because)

Sixty-nine years ago (August 25th, 1939 to be exact) The Wizard of Oz opened in movie theaters. It's since become one of the most justly beloved movies of all time and deeply embedded in our culture. Everyone knows it by heart even, I sometimes suspect, people who haven't actually sat down to watch it. Its turns of phrases are part of the vernacular. Its minor characters are instantly identifiable and loveable, too. Gah, it's so so ... wonderful.


I've enthused about the movie before --surely you know about my love of all things Judy G and my childhood crush on the Tin Man and that I know every word of its score by heart -- so I thought I'd turn this one over to my guest bloggers. What do they love most about this American cinematic touchstone?

Whitney from Dear Jesus: The Tin Man was by far my favorite character. I don't know if my five-year-old self related to him and his heartless, shapeless tin can body or what, but I spent a month of my childhood pretending I was him. Everyone had to call me "Tin Man" or I would not answer. I made my little sister pretend to be Todo and together we roamed the neighborhood... doing what, I don't know. Things that tin men and terriers do.

JA from My New Plaid Pants: All day long I've been thinking about the Flying Monkeys little jackets. Where do they come from? Does the Wicked Witch of the West have a sweatshop in the castle basement? Does she outsource to one of the other lands? Maybe they're cast-off Munchkin uniforms? Or do the Flying Monkeys have to make and maintain them? You'd think they'd have to be laundered an awful lot, with all the Scarecrow-shreddings, dog-nappings and other assorted Flying Monkey duties. Plus... they're monkeys. Not the cleanest beasts in the world. Yet they always look impeccable. Those monkeys are dedicated to putting forth their best appearance at all times. If I were the Wicked Witch of the West, I'd be suspicious. Who knows if they might be all dressed up because they're sneaking off on job interviews whenever she sends them out on another ridiculous excursion? Fetch me some ice cream from the corner store, she demands. I'll show her; I hear they're hiring in MunchkinLand, the monkeys whisper defiantly in return.

Jonathan from Cinema Styles: There are so many things to love about The Wizard of Oz it's no wonder it has remained a must see for children for almost 70 years. I think my favorite part of the whole movie is the acting. Everyone seems to have a different style and yet it all works together. The two that stick out for me are Bert Lahr and Frank Morgan. They're in full-tilt Vaudeville mode throughout, modern film technology be damned.

But of the two Frank Morgan is the one that consistently amazes. He has more roles in the film than anyone else and brings a smile to my face every time he's on the screen. But my favorite moment with him comes at the entrance of the Emerald City. Straight out of the Vaudeville gag book Dorothy and friends ring the bell only to be asked, "Who rang that bell?!?" by an exasperated Frank Morgan who goes on to ask didn't they see the sign - which isn't there - only to then explain that the bell's broken before putting out the sign that says so. Stupid? Yeah, definitely. Vaudeville? Sure. Funny? Every time. Frank Morgan. As far as that movie goes, he really is the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Readers: Click your heels three times and tell us why The Wizard of Oz is home to you. What parts of it do you love the most?
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32 comments:

Hayden said...

Margaret Hamilton's performance is easily my favorite part of The Wizard of Oz; in a year where all the Best Supporting Actress chatter tends to involve the women of Gone with the Wind, it's as if we forget that Hamilton crafted one of the most terrifying and iconic villains in film history.

It would be difficult to imagine cinema today without that inspired characterization, yet many seem to take it for granted.

Dame James Henry said...

I love the little munchkin of the Lollipop Guild with the scrunched up face. I believe he's the one in the middle and everytime I look at him I always crack up. Other than that, I love the Cowardly Lion (he's always been my favorite-- where was his Oscar nomination?) and the scene where Judy G boffs him on the nose for scaring Toto.

Agustin said...

I played the munchkin coroner in my school play so he'll always have a little place in my heart, hahah not really, i played him but I soo wanted to be a main character!
This character was the start of a great succession of really small parts in the musicals my school had. Major highlights are Nahum the beggar, from Fiddler on the roof, and one of Josephs brothers in Joseph and the amazing techicolor dreamcoat hehehe..

FranklinBluth said...

Oh, SO many things to love!

The ruby slippers
Glinda's dress
munchkins with scrunched up faces (I know EXACTLY who you are talking about dame james)
the lion drugged up on poppies

But my FAVOURITE would have to be the scarecrow, he was an absolute gem.
As a kid, my most hated moment was when Aunty Em and Uncle Henry let Elmira Gulch take Toto. It was completely traumatising.

elgringo said...

I've got to admit, nothing I love about The Wizard of Oz is more interesting than JA points about those damn jackets.

How do they get those jackets? That's really gonna bug me.

par3182 said...

frankly, it's all downhill for me after 'somewhere over the rainbow'

i know, i know, i'll go turn my card in...

Runs Like A Gay said...

When the blurry sepiatone Kansas gives way to the hyperreal technicolor of Oz and Judy say's that fantastic:

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."

Few moments in film speak more about the fantasies that children create in their mind than this one, and from that moment we know we're in for something special.

Ben said...

I mean... it speaks to your prompt that I read through some of the other comments and thought "oh yeah, I do love that!" and I can still come up with a huge list of what's memorable to me in that movie.

For some reason, whenever I watch that film, I'm remembered that I practically have every single movement of every single Munchkin in their song-and-dance bits memorized. I always know what they're going to do before they do it - that's how much it stuck in my head as a kid.

And actually - a lot of the movie holds true for that, as well. It's just all so memorable and lovely.

JA said...

The Wizard of Oz is my mother's favorite film, so it's one of the very few musicals I can claim a deep ingrained knowledge of. Like most people I've seen it more times than I can count - I miss the yearly scheduled nature of its appearance on TV. Now that you can watch it anytime, like with the Rankin/Bass cartoons, it's lost something. Not the film itself, just... the aura surrounding it.

Anyway, I just want to agree vehemently with hayden - Hamilton is just brilliant in the movie. The scene where she mocks Dorothy via the giant crystal ball was a constant trauma for me as a child. Without her, I might never have become the sick fuck I am today.

JoFo said...

Ahhh...

The Wizard Of Oz. When I was younger I remember the joy it brought when I screamed and screamed until my parents hired it... again. And stuff being the lion, tin man or scarecrow, I wanted to be dorothy (early signs?).

And now I have a DVD version with a case that sings and lights us when i squeeze it. Life is good.

G.K.R. said...

Scarecrow! I will always love the Scarecrow. Year after year at school, I'd cross my fingers they'd put on The Wizard of Oz for the Christmas play, just so I could be the Scarecrow. I'm not entirely sure why I related to him moreso than the others. In fact, if I ever got around to writing ANYTHING on my damn blog, it was going to be a rewatching of that performance to discover why.

Pedro said...

Well, after watching the musical Wicked yesterday via Google video, I appreciate The Wizard of Oz even more. Predictably, the most memorable and funny lines in Wicked were those lifted directly from the Wizard of Oz.

My favorite part of the Wizard of Oz is actually the visual effects. They are marvelous for the time. When the twister lifts the house and you can see what is happening outside through the window, including the witch's transformation; then the appearance of Glinda in her bubble, up until the melting of the wicked witch... marvelous.

Fi said...

Honestly, apart from "Over the Rainbow," the only reason I'm glad for the existence of The Wizard of Oz is because it led to the magnificence that is Wicked.

Otherwise, although I've seen it several times, I just can never get over my urge to smack the saccharine naivete right off of Dorothy's sweet, little face.

It's possibly that I'm just stranger and more cynical than the rest of the world...

NATHANIEL R said...

it's understandable that so many of these memories shared our childhood ones. I saw the movie once on the big screen in college and it was a whole new experience for me even though I'd seen it a bunch of times... so if you ever get the chance to big screen it, by all means GO.

its' one of my faovirte movies to ask people who their fav character is because between lusting for the tin man, wanting to be or wanting to smack dorothy, idolizing margaret hamilton or giggling at or hating bert lahr... i just find the answers so telling.

Not that I'm armchair pscyhologizing anyway of you. Um... Ill just be over here... with a notepad.

dont' mind me.

jimmy said...

it used to scare the sh*t out of me when dorothy was locked in the dungeon, that sand thing was running out, & she had a glimmer of hope when she saw auntie em in the crystal ball searching for her - then all the sudden the witch appears in the crystal ball mocking auntie em.

Rick said...

My two most favorite images from The Wizard of Oz are the first look at Munchkinland through the front door of Dorothy's house and the horse of a different color in the Emerald City. Both amazed me as a child and continue to do so today.

I was always very particular to Glinda the Good Witch. My paternal grandfather had a sister named Glenda. I never knew Aunt Glenda as she died before I was born. I always thought (and still haven't been convinced otherwise) that my Aunt Glenda was Glinda and that was why she was no longer with us.

Seeing_I said...

When I think of the things that give The Wizard of Oz its persistent ability to haunt, I think of the geography of Oz, and the Wicked Witch. Even though it's all a dream-world, Oz seems to have different regions and kingdoms, of which the Emerald City is just a small part. The yellow brick road is constantly disappearing over the horizon - where ELSE does it go?

The thing that makes the Witch such a memorable villain - aside from her iconic green skin, hat, broom, and insane cackle - is that she is not just mean, but actively evil. She intends to KILL Dorothy, but only after making her watch her friends suffer. There's no soft-pedaling here as in many kid-friendly entertainments. That Witch has a heart as black as night, and Dorothy only escapes by the skin of her teeth.

Mayor of the Munchkin City said...

As Mayor of the Munchkin City, in the County of the Land of Oz, I welcome you most regally!

Advisor 1 said...

To see-

Mayor of the Munchkin City said...

To see-

Advisor 1 said...

If she-

Mayor of the Munchkin City said...

If she-

Advisor 1 said...

Is morally, ethically-

Advisor 2 said...

Spiritually, physically-

Advisor 3 said...

Positively, absolutely-

All said...

Undeniably and reliably dead.

Coroner said...

As coroner I must aver I've thoroughly examined her, and she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead!

Lucas said...

Fuck! I forgot to add the "But we've got to verify it legally!" to advisor 1's first line. Fuck.

Anonymous said...

Margaret Hamilton's performace wasa good, everything else just okay. This is one of the most extraodinarily overrated films of all time (right up there with "Dr Strangelove"). But it's decent. "Strangelove" is horrible.

NATHANIEL R said...

Lucas, I love you.

Seeing I, you're so right. Damn that backpedaling that prevents so many movies from achieving greatness.

Duncan said...

So, some of my favorite Wizard of Oz moments are strange because they involve dialogue:
- I love the sensational vocabulary of Professor Marvel. His spiel about "the crowned heads of Europe" always sounded so exotic, and I'm not even from Kansas.
- Also, I like how everyone in the film pronounces "heart" like "haaat."
- Finally, I just love the green, glittery "Oz makeover" number where the Cowardly Lion gets a perm, the Scarecrow gets stuffed, and the Tin Man gets shined.
- That movie can hands down get me to both laugh and cry to this day.
- P.S., I am so glad Judy Garland was cast instead of Shirley Temple. Can you imagine????

Seeing_I said...

Permed, stuffed and shined, Duncan? Are they in Emerald City, or a gay bathouse?