Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz; fantasy musical, USA, 1939; D: Victor Fleming, S: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton
The young Dorothy lives on a farm at her uncle and aunt in Kansas. She loves her little dog Toto very much, but the evil Mrs. Gulsh wants to eliminate him because he constantly storms in her yard. Thus Toto and Dorothy ran away, but then they come back a tornado shows up and catapults them in their house to the fairytale country of Oz. But the house falls on the evil witch, so Dorothy inherits her shoes. In order to find her way back to Kansas, she starts a journey to the Wizard of Oz and meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. When Dorothy accidentally splashes the witch with water, she melts away, but the Wizard turns out to be only a normal man. Still, with the help of her shoes, she and Toto come back to Kansas.

1939 was a marvelous year for great films, and Victor Fleming actually directed two of them - one was of course his Civil War "Wind" classic, the other was the family film "The Wizard of Oz". Even though "Wind" is more popular, some even consider "Oz" as the better film, even though the difference between them is just in small nuances. That masterful adaptation of L. Frank Baum's children's novel with the same title is a small jewel that was made in the golden age of Hollywood, back in the time when such a fantasy spectacle could have only been made there, because it abounds with imaginative ideas, shrill characters and fantastic songs like "Over the Rainbow" that won the Oscar. The allegorical coming-of-age story is actually very stylish: the exposition and the ending, the parts set in reality, are shot in black and white, while the imaginary country of Oz is shot in vibrant color photography. Further notabilities, that also indicate how imagination is the key mean to free a person, are parallels between two worlds in characters (for instance, the evil Mrs. Gulsh and the witch are one and the same person), but only in the fictional Oz do those relationships get finished. Also, there are numerous symbols about growing up - for instance, the bitter scene where Dorothy discovers that the Wizard is actually just an ordinary man shows how some idealistic things in life are just invented to keep kids calm. Not to mention that many scenes in this masterpiece are classic: the tornado that pulls the house up in the air with Dorothy in it, observing flying things through the window; the Yellow brick road; the Tin Man who rusts because he cries...On top of that, this is one of the most quoted movies in history, rich with famous lines: "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore"; "Follow the Yellow Brick Road!"; ""I had a wonderful dream Auntie Em, and you were there, and you, and you"...


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