Dorothy falls asleep in the hurling wind only to wake up to find that her house has uprooted and flew through the sky, landing in a place called Oz and killing the Wicked Witch of the East under it. That’s when Glinda the Good Witch shows up in a magical bubble, using her magic to place the dead Wicked Witch of the East’s ruby slippers onto Dorothy’s feet. Then the Wicked Witch of the West appears, angry that Dorothy has killed her sister and jealous that she now wears the red slippers. Dorothy, meanwhile, is only concerned about getting home and on advice of the munchkins, begins to follow the yellow brick road toward the wizard of Oz who can tell her how to get home. Complex much? Now enter the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, flying monkies, Winkie guards, impolite trees and the wizard.
Maybe you’ve never heard of it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see it. Or maybe you’re just tired of the new. Whatever your reason, the classics are always worth a nod. Every Friday in Stay Classy, we look some of the films that started it all and how they hold up today. So sit back while we reel through the past.
Believe it not, some people haven’t seen The Wizard of Oz, and to those dozen people in the entire world who haven’t seen it, I have no idea how you deal with the pop culture references. “I’ll get you, my pretty”? “No place like home”? Anything about Kansas or Toto or ruby slippers?
So for those of you from Mars, The Wizard of Oz is about a supposedly 12-year-old girl played by a 17-year-old Judy Garland who looks like she’s 25 years old. Anyway, one day little Dorothy, who lives with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Kansas, decides to run away from home with her dog Toto, only to change her mind with help from a fortune teller. But on her way back home, a tornado kicks up and when she reaches the house, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry have already locked up and are taking shelter in the storm cellar, leaving Dorothy to fend the storm alone from inside the house. Nice, huh?
It’s actually not that difficult to get but is sprinkled with countless themes, from friendship to faith to home to confidence. Dorothy learned many lessons that day, the first of which began with not to run away from home. Sadly though, she never learned not to trust phony fortune tellers.
Oz is actually a beautiful place. It’s clearly set up with a bunch of flimsy props – but what did you expect from 1939? It was released in Technicolor and made very clever use of that with the yellow, brick road, Emerald City and the ruby slippers. Technicolor was probably the reason Dorothy’s silver slippers in the book were changed to ruby for the film, and wow were they ever stunning. I own a pair of red pumps right now for that very reason.
Characters in the film were also vivid. Although they appear flat at first–the clumsy Scarecrow, the cowardly Lion, the, um, rusty Tin Man–the film takes their personalities a bit deeper through dialogue and story, even though their instantaneous turnarounds at the end aren’t very believable. One irreplaceable performance is clearly that of Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow. He tumbles his way down the road and really does come across as clueless without his brain. No one could do it like he did.
Dorothy also comes off as a bit clueless, but I guess who wouldn’t be after a tornado whipped your house into an imaginary land where you’re greeted by the Lollipop Guild in song, only one of the many catchy songs in this film. Oh how I wish I could sing like Judy Garland.
But not all is rosy in Oz. There are the terrifying flying monkeys and the Winkie guards. The monkeys have blue faces and dress in uniforms, yelping as they swoop you up and deliver you to the Wicked Witch of the West. The Winkie guards, on the other hand, are green men who chant and encircle the witch’s castle. They don’t sound too bad but their chanting is haunting.
Although the story is being adapted again for Dorothy of Oz, due out in 2012, as an animated 3D film starring the voices of Lea Michele, Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Hugh Dancy, Patrick Stewart, Oliver Platt, Kelsey Grammer and Martin Short, it could have very well been done live action, with nearly the same cast and been a potential hit. But Hollywood is still very 3D-happy and it still sounds like it’ll be awesome. Of course though, nothing will ever come close to the original.