The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 musical fantasy film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer based on L. Frank Baum's turn-of-the-century children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which a resourceful American girl is snatched up by a Kansas tornado and deposited in a fantastic land of witches, a talking scarecrow, a cowardly lion, and more. Largely because of its once-annual showings on network television, it has become one of the most famous motion pictures ever made, and nearly all of its principal cast members (Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton, as well as uncredited small actors in the roles of the Munchkins, including Jerry Maren in the Lollipop Guild and Meinhardt Raabe as the Munchkin Coroner) have become more famous today than they were during the film's release, primarily because of their appearance in the one film.
While not the earliest feature film produced in Technicolor (the first of which was released in 1917), The Wizard of Oz made conspicuous use of the now-perfected technology; the film's Kansas bookend sequences are simulated sepia-toned black-and-white (the Imbibition Technicolor printer was used to create that appearance), while the Oz scenes are in full three-strip Technicolor. (This was the way the film was shown on its first release in 1939. The monochrome sequences were rendered in normal black-and-white for all film and television showings beginning with the 1949 theatrical re-release, before the sepia tone was re-introduced in 1989 for the 50th anniversary videocassette edition of the film. Subsequent television and theatrical showings have since retained the sepia for the Kansas sequences.) The film is scheduled for theatrical re-release in the United Kingdom on December 15, 2006.
L. Frank Baum (born Lyman Frank Baum on May 15, 1856, in Chittenango, New York) published his book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900. Over the following years it sold millions of copies, and Baum wrote thirteen more Oz books before his death on May 15, 1919.
In January 1938, MGM bought the rights to the book. The script was completed on October 8, 1938 (following numerous rewrites). Filming started on October 13, 1938 and was completed on March 16, 1939. The film premiered on August 12, 1939, and went into general release on August 25.
The movie's script was adapted by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf. Several people assisted with the adaptation without official credit: Irving Brecher, William H. Cannon, Herbert Fields, Arthur Freed, Jack Haley, E.Y. Harburg, Samuel Hoffenstein, Bert Lahr, John Lee Mahin, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Jack Mintz, Ogden Nash, and Sid Silvers. It was directed by Victor Fleming, Richard Thorpe (uncredited), George Cukor (uncredited), and King Vidor (uncredited). Costume design was by Adrian.
Music and Lyrics were by Harold Arlen and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, who won Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Score and Best Music, Song for "Over the Rainbow".
Casting the film was problematic, with actors shifting roles repeatedly at the beginning of filming. One of the primary changes was in the role of the Tin Woodman. The Tin Man was originally slated for Ray Bolger, and Buddy Ebsen was to play the Scarecrow. Bolger was unhappy with the part, and convinced producer Mervyn LeRoy to recast him as the Scarecrow. Ebsen didn't object to the change at first; he recorded all his songs, went through all the rehearsals, and started filming with the rest of the cast. But nine days after filming began, he suffered a reaction to the aluminum powder makeup, as it had coated his lungs as he breathed it in while it was applied daily. Consequently, Ebsen (now in critical condition) had to be hospitalized and leave the project. MGM did not publicize the reasons for Ebsen's departure and not even his replacement, Jack Haley, initially knew the reason.
A 1975 book on the film's uncredited associate producer Arthur Freed (The World of Entertainment by Hugh Fordin), created with the full co-operation of Freed before his death, actually suggests that the actor was fired by Victor Fleming when he took over as director. In a later interview (included on the 2005 DVD release of Wizard of Oz), Ebsen recalled that the studio heads initially did not believe he was ill. No footage of Ebsen as the Tin Man has ever been released - only photographs taken during filming, test photos of different make-up styles, and his soundtrack recordings remain. However, Ebsen's voice does appear in the final film. The studio chose not to re-record parts of the song We're off to See the Wizard, so the scenes where the group is singing together have Buddy Ebsen's voice, not Jack Haley's.
The makeup used on Jack Haley was quietly changed to an aluminum paste makeup: although it didn't have the same dire effect on Haley, he did at one point suffer from an unpleasant reaction to it. Despite his near-death experience with the makeup, Ebsen well-outlived all the principal players, although his film career was damaged by the incident and wouldn't fully recover until the 1950s when he began a string of popular film and TV series appearances that would continue into the 1980s. Although his lungs had presumably recovered from the effects of the powder makeup, he eventually died from complications from pneumonia on July 6, 2003, at the age of 95, and some 65 years after his near-fatal reaction to the makeup.
The role of Dorothy was given to Judy Garland on February 24, 1938. After the casting of her role, a few executives at MGM contemplated replacing her with Shirley Temple, but were not able to get Fox to comply with the "loan" of the young actress. Other MGM officials vetoed the idea of using Temple.
Gale Sondergaard was originally cast as the Witch villain. She became unhappy with the role when the Witch's persona shifted from a sly glamorous witch (thought to emulate the Wicked Queen in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) into the familiar ugly hag. She turned down the role, and was replaced on October 10, 1938 with Margaret Hamilton.
On July 25, 1938, Bert Lahr was signed and cast as the Cowardly Lion. Frank Morgan was cast as the Wizard on September 22, 1938. On August 12, 1938, Charley Grapewin was cast as Uncle Henry.
The songs were recorded in a studio prior to filming. Several of the recordings were completed while Buddy Ebsen was still with the cast. So, while he had to be dropped from the cast due to illness from the silver powder makeup, his singing voice remains on the soundtrack, in the group vocals of "We're off to See the Wizard". His voice is easy to detect. Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr (and also Jack Haley, who had a solo but was not in the group vocal) were speakers of Mid-Atlantic English and did not pronounce the r in wizard. Buddy Ebsen was a Midwesterner, like Judy Garland, and pronounced the r.
Summary of the vocals composed for the film:
In addition to the well-known vocals by Harburg and Arlen, nearly the entire film was underscored by arranger Herbert Stothart, using a mixture of instrumental-only leitmotifs composed for some of the characters; instrumental references to some of the vocals; and traditional and classical pieces. Much of the following information (which is by no means an exhaustive list) is taken from the Deluxe CD liner notes.
Composed for the film:
Lights, Camera, Action
Filming began on October 13, 1938, with Richard Thorpe directing. After an unknown number of days, and after some scenes were shot, Thorpe was fired and George Cukor took over. Initially, the studio made Garland wear a blond wig and heavy, "baby-doll" makeup, and she played Dorothy in an exaggerated fashion. Cukor changed Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton's makeup and costumes, and told Garland to simply "be herself". This meant that all of Garland and Hamilton's scenes had to be discarded and re-filmed. Cukor had a prior commitment to direct the film Gone with the Wind, so he left on November 3, 1938, and Victor Fleming took over for him.
Coincidentally, on February 12, 1939, Victor Fleming replaced George Cukor in directing Gone with the Wind. The next day King Vidor would be assigned as director to finish the filming of the movie (mainly the sepia Kansas sequences, including Judy Garland's singing of Over the Rainbow).
Filming was completed on March 16, 1939 and the first test screenings ran on June 5, 1939. General consensus was that the movie was too long, and the witch's scenes too scary for children. It is now generally accepted among "Oz" aficionados that the following extended sequences wound up on the cutting-room floor: the Scarecrow's extensive dance sequence for "If I Only Had a Brain," choreographed by Busby Berkeley which included Bolger's signature "split" trick (this footage has been released as part of That's Dancing 1985) and on a DVD released in 1999; the "Jitterbug" song and dance number (also on 1999 DVD); a reprise of "Over the Rainbow" sung by Garland while locked in the Witch's castle; and Dorothy's triumphant return to Emerald City, a small portion of which was used as part of the extant theatrical trailer.
The "jitterbug" sequence is now lost except for the soundtrack, although a reconstruction of the sequence exists, using still photos and behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage.
On August 7, 1939, The Wizard Of Oz was officially and legally copyrighted. It premiered at the Strand Theatre in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on August 12, 1939, and in Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theater on August 15. The film had finally ended up at a length of 101 minutes.
On August 17, 1939, the movie opened nationally.
Judy Garland and her frequent film co-star Mickey Rooney performed after the screening at Loews Capitol Theater in New York City, and would continue to do this after each screening for a week.
In spite of the publicity, and generally favorable reviews, the movie was only moderately successful in its initial run, earning about $3 million vs. production and distribution costs of around $3.8 million (as per the 50th Anniversary History book published in 1989). It finally went into the black when it was re-released in the summer of 1949 and garnered another $1.5 million in box office receipts. It was re-released yet again in 1955, in what was a simulated "widescreen" format similar to the one used for the 1969 re-release of Gone With the Wind (i.e., to make the picture fit on a wide screen, the very top and the very bottom had to be chopped off. This was also tried for the film's 1998 theatrical re-release, but on television, it has always been shown at its original screen size).
The film's eventual iconic status was achieved after decades of television airings, beginning on November 3, 1956. It was first shown on television as the last installment of Ford Star Jubilee, a short-lived television anthology. The viewing audience for this broadcast was estimated at 45 million people. However, it was shown at a rather late hour for children to be able to watch. On December 13, 1959, after a three-year hiatus, the film was shown at an earlier time as a two-hour Christmas season special in its own right, and gained a much larger audience. It was decided to make it an annual television tradition, and from 1959 through 1962, it always aired on the second Sunday of December. However, possibly because of the John F. Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963, it was decided not to show it that year at all, and the date was subsequently moved to January of 1964. After that, the film never had a fixed date for its telecast again, though it usually surfaced during the Easter season. In recent years, Turner Entertainment has begun showing it several times a year rather than annually, but always on or before a holiday.
In 1980, it became the first VHS release from MGM/CBS Home Video.
Although nearly all of the visual footage cut before the final release has been lost, all of the musical soundtrack (including the deleted reprises and the extended versions of the songs) has survived, and in 1995, Rhino Records issued it in the Deluxe 2-CD set of the film's songs and music.
Sequels, Pre-quels, and related works
Several versions were produced prior to the 1939 film:
Public reaction and fame
The popularity of the film is primarily due to the large number of times it has been shown on television. In the United States (prior to the invention of VCRs) telecasts of it became a much anticipated family event, announced as far in advance as two weeks. Before it was ever telecast, the movie was simply a well-remembered film that people loved, but not one of the icons of cinema; nor did it really occur to anyone that it would ever become so.
The vast majority of people who have seen the film have seen it on television rather than watching it on the big screen. The film It's a Wonderful Life has a similar history of relative neglect and then becoming popular because of frequent showings on television.
Because commercial television breaks were shorter in the 1950's and the early to mid-1960's, something was needed in those years to "pad out" the running time to two hours (120 minutes) when the film was shown on TV, so the first telecast, on the CBS television network, featured Bert Lahr, a very young Liza Minnelli, and young Oz expert Justin Schiller as hosts, to introduce the film and make a few entertaining remarks about it. For subsequent telecasts, CBS would choose its hosts from its then-current primetime lineup. In 1959, when the film's second telecast took place, the host was Red Skelton (The Red Skelton Show); in 1960 it was Richard Boone (Have Gun, Will Travel), in 1961 and 1962 it was Dick Van Dyke (The Dick Van Dyke Show), and from 1964 through 1967, it was Danny Kaye (The Danny Kaye Show).
The film as then telecast would also have "wraparound" opening credits and closing credits segments devised by CBS, accompanied by their own opening and closing music. For the opening ones, the title "The Wizard of Oz" and the names of its five leading actors, Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, and Jack Haley, would be shown in CBS's own format. This would be followed by the host speaking about the film. Following this, the movie would begin, complete with the actual film's opening credits exactly as MGM created them, including the Leo the Lion logo. However, at film's end, the closing credits as seen on the film would not be shown. Instead, immediately after Dorothy spoke her last line ("Oh, Auntie Em, there's no place like home!"), and the camera faded out on her, television viewers again saw CBS's specially made title card "The Wizard of Oz", accompanied by some of the film's end title music, exactly as heard on the soundtrack. After a final commercial, the host would then be seen once again, bid farewell to the TV audience, and the names of the film's cast would then be seen in a final credits sequence devised by CBS.
This method of presentation was permanently dropped when the film temporarily went to NBC, where no opening "wraparound" sequence was shown - the presentation simply began with the film's title sequence and ended with MGM's closing credits. The host idea was also dropped because more commercial time was required, and after its 1976 return to CBS, the film was hosted on that network only once more, by Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote). The "wraparound" sequence was not revived. Ms. Lansbury also narrated a documentary about the making of the film, as well. In recent years, when shown on Turner Classic Movies, the film is always hosted by Robert Osborne, though, in this case, since TCM is commercial-free, it is obviously not done in order to pad out its running time.
From 1968 to about 1980, the film was actually slightly cut to make room for added commercial time and still "clock in" at two hours. On a few occasions, it even fell victim to the notorious "time compression" treatment, to bring it in at two hours with no cuts and the same amount of commercials as now. (In time compression, the film is run at a slightly faster speed which is supposedly undetectable, but observant viewers can apparently notice a distinct "chipmunk"-like alteration of the voices when this is done.) However, it is now always shown complete and at its regular speed on television, both with and without commercials. When shown with ads, the film now runs about two hours and fifteen minutes, simply because of the increase in commercial time.
From 1959 to 1991, the film was shown on television only once a year. In 1991, it was shown twice during the year for the first time. 1991 also marked the first time since 1956 that the film was shown in November.
The year 2000 marked the first time that the film was shown on U.S. television during the summer. 2002 marked an unusual frequency of showings when, for the first time, it was shown on Turner Network Television three times within one month.
Another difference between the network showings on CBS and NBC and those on cable channels is that when the film was shown on regular network television, it was always presented as a "special", no matter what time of year - meaning that it would pre-empt two hours of regular television programming on the specific network which showed it just for that one night. On Turner Network Television, Turner Classic Movies, and the WB network, it is always presented as just another film in a time slot always reserved for the showing of a movie, not a special. Some might argue that the method of presenting Oz as a TV special gave it a certain aura which today's showings of the film do not retain.
Differences between book and film
The film's basic plot is not very different from the original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but quite a bit less detailed. Baum originally provided complex back stories for all the characters and locations, which are largely omitted in the film. The book featured several sub-plots (including a confrontation with the belligerent Hammer-Heads and a visit to a town with inhabitants and structures constructed of china) that, though of interest, weren't integral to the main plot. Numerous other abridgments occur: for example, the mice have no involvement with the band's escape from the poppies in the movie; a snowfall is used instead. It is also worth noting that in the original book, the enchanted shoes Dorothy wore, which originally belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East, were silver, not ruby. This was changed to show off the film's sophisticated color technology.
In the movie, Glinda is the name of the Good Witch Of The North who returns to show Dorothy how to use the Ruby Slippers to go home. In the book, however, the Good Witch of the North's name is not given, and she does not know how to use the power of the silver shoes, which is why Dorothy must journey to visit Glinda, the Good Witch Of The South, who does know their secret. The faux "moral" about having to learn never to desire anything outside her own back yard is thus unnecessary and is not present in the book. Also the Tin Woodman's name is changed to simply the Tin Man, although he is obviously a woodsman.
Some fans believe that the book tends to be a lot darker, more violent, and in some places even gruesome, in great contrast to the movie. For instance, at one point in the book, the Tin Woodman chops the head off a wildcat. He also uses his axe to chop off all the limbs of anthropomorphized trees, which are not capable of speaking as in the movie. The trees then shake in pain and terror. In the movie, the only time he wields his axe is to chop through the door of the room where the witch is holding Dorothy captive.
The fans who share this opinion generally tend to agree that Return to Oz, (the 1985 sequel to The Wizard of Oz) is much closer to the feel of the original books. They blame The Wizard of Oz film for spreading misconceptions and keeping Return to Oz an unpopular film. Baum's seemingly gruesome imagery and violence was on a par with that of standard fairy tales such as the famous and often fittingly-named Grimm stories; it is well to keep in mind that it is only in recent generations that fairy tales have become "sanitized".
The main point of contention with Baum's fans is the ending, which they feel strongly goes against the nature of the original. In Baum's novel, there is no hint that Oz is anything but a real place, to which Dorothy returns repeatedly (she eventually moved to Oz permanently and was joined by her aunt and uncle) in the numerous sequels. A counterargument to that complaint is that according to one legend which was never confirmed, in the original cut of the movie, the film concludes by panning under Dorothy's bed, revealing the ruby slippers. Another counterargument would be that in the film, this was not necessarily an ordinary dream — her uncle listens seriously when she cries out that she really "left" -- and that her experience might have been "real", but in another dimension. The movie is just vague enough on that point to leave the door open to such an explanation. It should be noted however, that the film ends with Dorothy and Toto's problem with Miss Gulch unresolved. Many suggest that Gulch was killed in the cyclone, as she was seen flying through the air as Dorothy traveled to Oz.
Another important difference between the novel and the film is the portrayal of Dorothy Gale, whose character was not only aged but severely weakened: at no point in the novel, for example, is Dorothy a damsel in distress to be rescued by her companions; in fact it is Dorothy who must take charge of the rescue operation of her friends after the witch is dispatched. Sally Roesch Wagner, director of The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation describes the film's Dorothy as "a very watered-down version of the character" and presenting Baum's Dorothy as a youthful version of his abolitionist feminist mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage, something hardly apparent in the film. Garland's Dorothy cries some half a dozen times in the 101-minute film; Baum's Dorothy "sobs" just once in the course of a 40,000 word novel, about as much as Baum's boys in his other books (she never cries in any of the sequels). Also, Baum portrayed the Wicked Witch of the West as a coward, in keeping with his other villains whose evil derives from weakness of character, rather than the icon of evil she appears in the film.
The book, like the film, illustrates that the three friends already have the qualities they desire, but aren't aware that they do; and the Wizard goes to much greater lengths to ensure that they believe they have obtained exactly what they desire. To give The Scarecrow a brain, he detaches the Scarecrow's head and empties the straw out, replacing it with a mixture of bran, pins and needles and straw to hold it in place. Having re-attached the head, he then announces with a pun: "Hereafter you will be a great man, for I have given you a lot of bran-new brains." Also, in the book, when The Wizard gives The Tin Man a heart, he cuts a hole in The Tin Man's breast with tinsmith's shears, puts a red satin heart stuffed with sawdust into the breast and then patches it with a soldering iron. Lastly, he gives The Lion a green drink, telling him that once he drinks it, it will be courage. However, in the movie, The Wizard notes explicitly that the trio had the qualities they desired all along, but didn't recognize them. To reinforce that idea, The Wizard gives them tokens to confirm and symbolize those attributes. The Scarecrow gets a diploma called "The Honorary Degree Of Th. D (Doctor Of Thinkology)", a ticking clock shaped like a red heart for The Tin Man, and a medal with the word "Courage" on it for the Lion ("You are now a member of the Legion of Courage!"). That message of self-reliance and resourcefulness presumably would have resonated for an audience that was weary from ten years of economic depression.
Additionally, the wicked schoolteacher Miss Gulch, the three farmhands (Hunk, Hickory and Zeke) and the bogus but kind-hearted fortuneteller Professor Marvel do not appear in any of Baum's books.
Plot, including deleted scenes
The film begins with MGM's famous Leo the Lion (especially appropriate in this film) growling over the start of the opening credits theme, which begins with a full-orchestral version of Glinda's 6-note leitmotif. Immediately after the credits, the first scene is Dorothy pausing as she runs toward her home. Underscoring that moment and others later is Robert Schumann's melody, "The Happy Farmer".
Life in Kansas
Dorothy Gale is an orphan in Kansas, being raised by her aunt Em and uncle Henry. In the beginning, Dorothy tells their three farm hands she is in trouble: her dog Toto bit the stern, humorless Almira Gulch (Margaret Hamilton, who also plays the Witch of the West). Each hand advises her in his characteristic way, foreshadowing their appearance in Oz. Hunk (Ray Bolger, who also portrays the Scarecrow), suggests that it's not smart to walk with her dog Toto near Gulch's property. Hickory (Jack Haley, the Tin Man), an amateur engineer, is reprimanded by Em for "tinkering with that contraption," and starts in making a passionate speech -- "Someday they're gonna erect a statue of me in this town!" -- straight from the heart, but Em snaps "Don't start posing for it now!", stopping him in mid-speech with his right arm upraised (foreshadowing the Tin Man's first appearance, standing like a statue with his right arm upraised, holding an axe). Zeke (Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion) recommends a more aggressive approach ("Walk up to her and spit in her eye!"); when Dorothy falls into the pigpen a minute later he leaps in to rescue her, and she notes he is badly shaken -- he was more frightened than she was.
It seems everyone is too busy to take Dorothy's concerns seriously. When she tries to warn Em that Miss Gulch is about to do something terrible, Em admonishes the girl that she is "imagining things" and telling her to "find some place where you won't get into any trouble!" Giving up, Dorothy wanders off with Toto, wondering what such a place would be like. She sings "Over the Rainbow", imagining a colorful and peaceful Eden in imagery typical of a young girl -- "where troubles melt like lemon drops".
In an abrupt transition, Miss Gulch comes to the Gale farm with an order from the sheriff authorizing her to take the dog to be destroyed. Dorothy's aunt and uncle try unsuccessfully to dissuade her. Toto is taken away, as the upset Dorothy calls her "a wicked old witch" (foreshadowing Hamilton's role in Oz). Em snaps at Miss Gulch, "For twenty-three years I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you, and now -- well -- being a Christian woman, I can't say it!"
Toto escapes by jumping unnoticed out of Miss Gulch's basket (foreshadowing a scene in the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West). When the dog returns home, Dorothy decides that they have to run away, because Miss Gulch will undoubtedly come back for him.
Dorothy and Toto soon encounter Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan, who will reappear as the Wizard of Oz, the doorman, the cabbie, and the guard; each of his characters is essentially a "humbug", i.e. a fraud). He leads Dorothy into his circus wagon. After sneaking a peek in her basket and finding a family photo, he looks into his crystal ball and pretends to see her aunt Em crying and eventually suffering a health trauma (most likely meant to sound like a heart attack, an excuse to dissuade her from running away from home and to hurry back to the farm). Dorothy is convinced, and she and Toto hurry home.
A cyclone begins to form ("a 'whopper', speaking in the vernacular of the peasantry"). When she gets home, everyone is already down in the storm cellar and cannot hear her stomping on its door because of the noise of the approaching tornado (a very convincing special effect, made from a large muslin stocking spinning on a sliding track, accompanied by powerful off-screen fans that appeared to have nearly knocked the actress off her feet at one point - see photo series above). Dorothy rushes inside to her bedroom, but the wind blows the window out of its frame, hitting her in the head and knocking her unconscious.
Various objects caught up by the cyclone whirl by outside her bedroom window, some visible to the audience even as Dorothy lies unconscious. Dorothy awakes and sits up suddenly, to find that her house is being carried away inside the cyclone. She sees some familiar and friendly faces out of the window, then Miss Gulch appears. In a dramatic, terrifying moment, Miss Gulch transforms into a witch and her bicycle into a broomstick. She cackles and flies away. Moments later, girl, dog and house all land in Munchkinland, a county in the land of Oz. (The dramatic footage of the house falling toward the viewer was actually an inverted and time-reversed shot, made by dropping a model house toward a floor painted to resemble sky and clouds.) The movie transitions from sepia-tone to vibrant Technicolor when Dorothy opens the door into the Munchkins' world with its profusion of brilliant flowers, clear water, and neat little houses.
The Land of Oz
Shortly thereafter, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), arrives in an iridescent bubble. She asks Dorothy whether she is a good witch or a bad witch. Despite Dorothy's repeated denials, Glinda appears not to understand who Dorothy is, nor where she came from. She does inform the child of where she is, and that she killed the Wicked Witch of the East by "dropping her house" on the ruby-slippered victim. She introduces her to the Munchkins, a community of little people who sing and dance their thanks for freeing them from the Witch's tyrannical reign.
As the impromptu festivities reach their climax, there is a burst of flame and the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) appears. She is there to find out who killed her sister and to claim her powerful ruby slippers. To her dismay, Glinda magically transports the slippers onto Dorothy's feet. The Wicked Witch threatens Dorothy, but Glinda reminds her that her magic is ineffectual in Munchkinland: "Oh rubbish! You have no power here! Be gone, before somebody drops a house on you!" To the humor of viewers, she glances up to check. The Wicked Witch vows revenge on Dorothy and Toto, with her famous "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!" followed by her trademark cackle, and disappears the same way she arrived.
Glinda tells Dorothy that the only way to get back to Kansas is to go to the Emerald City and ask the mysterious Wizard of Oz for help. Before Glinda leaves in her bubble, she advises Dorothy to never take off the slippers and "follow the yellow brick road".
On her journey, Dorothy befriends a supposedly brainless (though very resourceful) talking Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a supposedly heartless (but very kind) Tin Woodman (Jack Haley), and a definitely cowardly (but game if persuaded) lion (Bert Lahr). All three of them sing songs about their perceived handicaps. They decide that they too will visit the Wizard -- not only to obtain what they desire, but to make sure Dorothy gets home, despite the Witch's threats to stop them.
Two scenes from this part of the film were cut in previews. The first was a dance to the song "If I Only Had A Brain". The second was a scene where the witch follows up on her threat to turn the Tin Man into a beehive, with dozens of animated bees flying around him, with music reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee.
Just before the group reaches the Art Deco-style Emerald City, the Wicked Witch casts a spell to stop them. She produces a giant field of poppies that put Dorothy, Toto and the Lion to sleep. The Scarecrow and the Tinman (who are not organic creatures and therefore immune to the spell) cry for help, and Glinda produces a counterspell in the form of a snow shower to wake everyone up. Shortly afterwards, they arrive at the Emerald City to the sound of "Optimistic Voices". They are only allowed in after Dorothy proves by her footwear that Glinda sent her.
The Emerald City
Inside the Emerald City, everything is green except for the Horse of a Different Color, which changes colors several times (a special effect reportedly accomplished by coating the horse with different colors of Jell-o) while taking the group to a salon, where they are pampered. Just before they go to see the Wizard, the Wicked Witch flies overhead, skywriting with her smoldering broomstick "SURRENDER DOROTHY".
(Originally it was "SURRENDER DOROTHY OR DIE SIGNED WWW"; the last few words were cut after the first preview. Many of the witch's scenes were cut, or script ideas never filmed, because MGM executives felt it made the witch too scary for children. Given the full text of that message, arguably the executives also felt some of the ideas were just too silly.)
The emerald citizenry are quite frightened by this development, and even though they have just welcomed five strangers, they don't suspect that one of them is "the witch's Dorothy". The Wizard's guard shoos away the worried locals as well as our heroes and heroine, but when the Scarecrow tells him "She's Dorothy!", he lets them in.
When the party at last stand before the Wizard of Oz, they find him to be a terrifying floating head surrounded by fire and smoke. He bellows that he will only help them if they can obtain the broomstick of the Witch of the West. On their way to her castle, flying monkeys, sent by the Wicked Witch, carry Dorothy and Toto to the castle.
In the original cut, the witch sends "the jitterbug" that bites or stings the travellers, causing them to dance helplessly until the flying monkeys arrive to take Dorothy and Toto away. The only archival evidence remaining of this scene is the pre-recorded song and a backstage home movie filmed during rehearsals. Any original footage appears to have been lost. Some critics have pointed out that the bouncy song was inappropriate to the mood of the scene, as well as "dating" the movie, so that cutting it was a wise decision. In any case, dropping the "beehive" and "jitterbug" sequences leaves the only "humbug" in the movie as the figurative one: the Wizard himself.
Once Dorothy is delivered to the castle, its evil resident demands the ruby slippers. Dorothy refuses, but then the Witch orders one of her monkey slaves to kill Toto. Dorothy immediately relents, but when the Witch tries to remove the shoes, a shower of sparks stops her. The Witch realizes the shoes cannot be removed as long as Dorothy is alive. (This relates back to the earlier dialogue in which Glinda asks the Witch of the West if she has forgotten the Witch of the East's slippers; they could only be removed after the Witch of the East had died, but Glinda got to them first.) While the Witch is musing on how to kill Dorothy, Toto escapes, finds their friends, and leads them to the castle.
Dorothy, meanwhile, is locked inside a chamber with an hourglass and a crystal ball. She is told that when the hourglass runs out, she will die. As she waits and cries, she sees her aunt Em in the crystal ball, wondering where her niece is. Dorothy cries out to her, but the image transforms into the Wicked Witch, cackling and mocking Dorothy, before turning and looking into the camera, continuing her devilish laughter before fading out. (Originally, there was a reprise of Dorothy, in despair, singing a faltering "Over the Rainbow" with slightly altered lyrics. It was cut because it was thought too disturbing, but the first few instrumental bars of it can be heard in the underscore before an abrupt edit in both the audio and video.)
The Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Lion and Toto arrive at the Wicked Witch's castle where they are surprised by three of her guards. They get into a scuffle, hidden from the audience's view behind some rocks and a quick fadeout; the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion soon emerge dressed in the guards' uniforms and sneak into the castle by bringing up the rear of the guard contingent marching across the drawbridge. Once inside, they free Dorothy by having the Tin Man hack the door open and try to escape (to the tune of Moussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain). The Witch and her soldiers corner them on a parapet and the Witch sets the Scarecrow on fire. Dorothy grabs a convenient bucket of water and douses her friend. She also accidentally splashes the horrified Witch, causing her to melt down to nothing (presumably dropping through that infamous trap door again), leaving behind just her dress, her pointed hat, her broomstick, and a few feeble wisps of steam (special effect produced by dry ice). To the travelers' surprise, her soldiers are delighted at their liberation. They give Dorothy the broomstick she came for and send them on their way, chanting "Hail to Dorothy. The Wicked Witch is dead."
In the preview release, the travelers return to the Emerald City to a "hero's welcome", with a grand reprise of "The Wicked Witch is Dead". This was cut and footage of this scene no longer exists, except for a few frames seen in a later re-issue trailer. However, The Audio for This Sequence Still exists, and has been issued as a bonus track on several of the movies numerous soundtrack albums through the years.
Once again in the Wizard's chamber, the broom is proffered to a shocked Wizard, who it seems did not expect them to return. He tells them, "Go away and come back tomorrow." Having just defeated the evil Witch, the four now feel empowered and bold; even the Lion growls in real, not feigned, anger. The previously "small and meek" Dorothy scolds the Wizard for breaking his promise. Then, thanks to Toto, they discover that the Wizard is just a "man behind a curtain", not really a wizard at all, just a "humbug" as he himself admits.
Man behind the curtain
The four friends are outraged at the deception, but the Wizard (as with his alter ego, Professor Marvel) solves their problems through psychology rather than magic. He gives the Scarecrow a diploma, the Tinman a heart-shaped clock (a "testimonial", a "token of our esteem") and the Lion a badge of courage.
He explains to them that his presence in Oz was an accident, that he was lost in (ironically enough) a "hot air" balloon, and that he was born in Kansas as well. He promises to take Dorothy home in the same balloon. He announces to his people that he will leave the Scarecrow, the Tinman and the Lion in charge of the Emerald City. Just before takeoff though, Toto jumps out of the balloon's basket to chase a cat. Dorothy goes after him, and the Wizard inadvertently lifts off without her and once again proves to be a humbug: "I can't come back! I don't know how it works!"
Just as Dorothy is resigning herself to spending the rest of her life in Oz, Glinda reappears. She tells Dorothy that she can use the ruby slippers to return home... her and "Toto too!" She didn't tell her at first, though, because Dorothy needed to learn a lesson. When her three friends asked what she has learned, a tearful Dorothy replies that if she can't find her heart's desire in her own backyard, then she never really lost it to begin with.
"There's no place like home"
Dorothy and Toto say goodbye to their friends, and Glinda instructs her to tap her heels together and repeat the words, "There's no place like home." There is a montage of her face, her shoes' tapping heels, and the house again falling toward the camera, all transitioning from Technicolor back into the same sepia tones that started the film. She awakens in her Kansas home surrounded by her family and friends. Professor Marvel arrives and Uncle Henry tells him that she'd been badly hurt; "I thought for a minute there she was going to leave us." She tells them that she did leave; she explains her journey, and everyone except Uncle Henry laughs and tells her it was all a bad dream. Dorothy protests that it was real. Uncle Henry looks extremely serious and says "Of course we believe you, Dorothy." The movie ends with Dorothy hugging Toto and exclaiming to her auntie Em that there really is no place like home.
Oz, A Cultural Phenomenon
Oz, the Film, as Social Commentary
Several film scholars have written interesting interpretations of the film, including several attempts by structuralist semiologists suggesting that the film was intended to prepare America for entry into war, although this ignores the fact that the Second World War in Europe had not yet started. Such obscure and esoteric interpretations usually posit Dorothy as representing a depressed, monochrome America, turning to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal (the flimflam magician) for hope. She enters a more colorful Europe (Munchkinland), threatened by the Wicked Witches of the East (Stalinism) and West (Fascism). She defeats Stalinism when her house falls upon the Eastern Witch early on, which suggests the overwhelming power of commercial capitalism and its precedence in Western Europe. To defeat Fascism, she receives the aid of Britain (Glinda), the naive peasantry (the Scarecrow), the dehumanized Proletariat (the heartless Tin Man), and the emasculated nobility (Cowardly Lion). The Wizard who encourages and profits from the defeat of the Western Witch turns out to be another version of the same flimflam man she met at home, a cynical politician who realizes that none of Dorothy's allies truly require anything that they didn't already have. He is both a supreme humanitarian and a misanthrope, in that he excels at detecting the weaknesses of others, because he knows his own so well. He is, in fact, the spirit of democracy. And the seemingly "muddled" good witch, Glinda, appears to represent God: all-knowing, all-powerful... and, of course, on the side of the Allies. There is also a similar theory that portrays the elements of the story together as a Populist allegory:
However, it is important to remember that when the film was in its planning stages, the intent was merely to make an entertaining and enjoyable movie, and no one associated with the film has ever claimed that it was intended as propaganda, although lyricist E.Y. Harburg became famous for trying to insert what might be called propaganda into some of his stage musicals, notably Finian's Rainbow.
The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Academy Award for Visual Effects. It lost the award in the Best Picture category to "Gone With The Wind", but won in the category of Best Song (Over The Rainbow and Academy Award for Best Original Score, which went to, not the songwriters, but Herbert Stothart, who composed the background score. Judy Garland was given a special honorary Oscar that year, for "Best Performances by a Juvenile" (this meant that the award was also for her role in the film version of Babes in Arms). But rather incredibly, The Wizard of Oz did not receive an Oscar for its Special Effects - that award went to the film version of The Rains Came, for its monsoon sequence.
In 1998, the American Film Institute ranked The Wizard of Oz #6 on its "100 Greatest Movies" list, and two songs from the film are on the 100 years, 100 songs list ("Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead" was #82 and "Over the Rainbow" was #1). It is also consistently in the top 100 on the IMDB Top 250 Films List.
A 2005 poll by the AFI ranked Dorothy's line "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore" as the fourth most memorable line in cinema history .
In 1977, Aljean Harmetz wrote The Making of The Wizard of Oz, a detailed description of the creation of the film based on interviews and research; it was updated in 1989. ISBN 0-7868-8352-9
All of the film's stars except Frank Morgan lived long enough to see and enjoy at least some of the film's acclaim. The last of the major players to pass on was Ray Bolger. The day after his death, a prominent editorial cartoonist referenced the cultural impact of this film, portraying the scarecrow running along the yellow brick road to catch up with the other characters, as they all danced off into the sunset. Neither director Victor Fleming nor actor Charley Grapewin (who played Dorothy's Uncle Henry) lived to see the film become an icon of cinema and a television tradition.
Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Margaret Hamilton all made television appearances during the 1960's (and in the case of Bolger and Haley, afterwards as well) in which they discussed the filming of the movie and its legendary status.
The movie continues to generate a cult following, despite its age and original creative intent as a musical cinematic fable for children. Wizard of Oz collectibles, such as autographs and props from the film, are among the most sought-after of all movie memorabilia. On May 24, 2000, a pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the film (with red sequins; seven pairs are believed to exist) sold at auction for $666,000.
Errors, trivia, Oz in Music and Media