The Wizard of Oz (1939)

wizard of oz poster 1939 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10



Movie Info

Movie Name: The Wizard of Oz

Studio: MGM

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Musical/Family

Release Date(s): August 25, 1939

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

wizard of oz toto somewhere over the rainbow judy garland

I don’t think anyone will remember this “Rainbow” song…

We’re off to see the Wizard!  A tornado rips Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), her dog Toto, and their entire house from Kansas and plants them in the land of Oz. Crushing the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy is sent by Glinda the Good (Billie Burke) to meet with the Wizard of Oz.  Along the way, Dorothy meets the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), the Tin Woodsman (Jack Haley), and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr).  When the Wizard (Frank Morgan) orders them to kill the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), Dorothy learns that the order might be her only chance to return home.

Directed by Victor Fleming, The Wizard of Oz is a family fantasy-musical classic.  The film won Academy Awards for Best Original Song (“Over the Rainbow”) and Best Original Score with nominations for Best Picture, Best Cinematography—Color, Best Art Direction, and Best Special Effects.  It was selected for preservation by the Library Congress in the National Film Registry in 1989.

wizard of oz judy garland munchkins follow the yellow brick road

Damn, Dorothy…you dropped a house on that Witch

There isn’t much that hasn’t been said or written about The Wizard of Oz.  The film is often pointed at as a high point in the golden age of Hollywood, and was a perennial movie on TV before VCRs and streaming ended its reign.  I can remember being so excited when The Wizard of Oz was coming on, and when we did finally get a VCR, it was one of the first movies we taped.

The movie differs greatly from the book by L. Frank Baum.  In the story, Dorothy goes to Oz…there is no bump on the head or question.  When she arrives she is granted silver slippers instead of ruby and the path to the Emerald City is much longer.  The Tinman becomes the King of the Winkies after the Wicked Witch’s death, and yes, there is a Good Witch of the North that is opposite of Glinda the Good Witch of the South.  After the Wizard is exposed as a fraud, Dorothy and her friends head south to Glinda’s and encounter Hammerheads, fighting trees, and a China doll city.  There is no duplicate characters like the handymen Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke, Professor Marvel, or Almira Gulch.  If the movie had followed the novel, there is a good chance it wouldn’t have been as popular.  The novel’s structure is clunky and simple, and by making it all a fevered dream in Dorothy’s head, the movie is more steamlined.

wizard of oz off to see the wizard cast

You know…let’s just go back to the Munchkins and take over their kingdom!

The cast is phenomenal.  Judy Garland was debated for the role (Shirley Temple was a popular choice and Temple did appear in “The Land of Oz” episode of her Shirley Temple’s Storybook series), but Garland has forever embodied Dorothy since the film’s release.  You have the great trio of Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, and Ray Bolger and you also have to love the creepy Margaret Hamilton who is the epitome of a witch (I can remember her appearing on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood to talk about the experience years later).  Buddy Epson of The Beverly Hillbillies was originally cast as the Tinman but an allergy to the paint forced him to drop out of the role.  Everything in the film clicks from Frank Morgan’s Wizard to the Munchkins and the scary-as-hell Winged Monkeys.

wizard of oz wicked witch of the west winged monkey margaret hamilton

The stuff of childhood nightmares…

If you haven’t seen The Wizard of Oz in HD, I do recommend it.  The movie looks fantastic and the picture even more clarity.  When I was growing up, I always assumed the film went from black-and-white to color (which is such a great moment of cinematic history).  The film actually used sepia instead of black-and-white and the recent versions like the Blu-Ray and DVDs have restored the original sepia coloring.  The fantasy world really pops and continues to be an great example of a studio film from the music to the visuals (and the original plan was to cut “Over the Rainbow” due to time and pacing…good move changing that).

The Wizard of Oz is one of those movies that is magical to you when you are young.  It is fun and bright and despite being over 70 years old still is a visual masterpiece.  If you haven’t watch the movie in years remember what it was like when it was coming on and watch it again…preferably on Blu-Ray, it will give you a new look at a classic film.

Related Links:

The Wiz (1978)

Return to Oz (1985)

Legends of Oz:  Dorothy’s Return (2013)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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