Movie Review: The Wizard of Oz

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Welcome to Project Fairy Tale! If you want to learn more about this fun event head over to my intro post!

Okay my friends, be prepared because I am about to fangirl all over the place. I will try my best to be coherent but The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland is one of my top 5 favorite things in the world. I have loads of print companions to the movie and between those, Oz Wikis and IMDB, I have devoured all of the trivia I possibly could over the years, and before we start I am just want to say that no, there was no suicide on set. While in college I took a film class and studied the film frame by frame and I can tell you with conviction that it is a bird on set and not an “angry munchkin” or the like taking a stand against casting for the film. Okay? Okay. Moving on…

I’m not going to sum up the film because it is unfathomable that anyone would be unfamiliar with it and if you are, stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now. You’re welcome.

Instead we are going to go over some less known fun facts about the movie!

  • The song “Over the Rainbow,” performed by Judy Garland, was ranked number 1 in AFI’s “100 Years, 100 Songs” list.
  • The Library of Congress has named The Wizard of Oz the most-watched motion picture in history.
  • While The Tinman is singing “If I Only Had a Heart” you may remember a female singing, “Wherefore art thou, Romeo.” Does that voice sound familiar? It should because it is voiced by Adriana Caselotti, also known as Snow White!
  • This is not the first film adaptation! Larry Semon produced a film in 1925 starring Oliver Hardy (yes, that Oliver Hardy) as The Scarecrow. This version had very little magical elements and was used as a point of reference for the 1939 film.
  • At the time, full on fantasy films did not do well in the box office. It was because of this that the writers and directors of The Wizard of Oz decided to stray from the original plot and make Dorothy’s trip to Oz a dream sequence instead of a literal trip to the land.
  • The script was changed a lot. Originally, there was a spoiled princess in Oz who had outlawed all forms of music, at one point in the film she was to go up against Dorothy in a singing contest.
  • Another scene that was dropped (which gives me the sads) was a point at the end of the film where Hunk (The Scarecrow) is leaving for college and asks Dorothy to write to him. This was supposed to set up a hope in the audience for a romance to bloom between the two characters. Though this was dropped, Dorothy still tells The Scarecrow before she leaves Oz “I think I’ll miss you most of all.” I don’t blame the gal, Hunk is well…a hunk!
  • The film was originally thought to be too long compared to other films of this time, therefore the production team cut many scenes. One of the more popular scenes that was cut was a song and dance sequence titled “The Jitterbug.” The outtake that still exists is actually a “home video” taken by the composer during a dress rehearsal. You can find this outtake on the newest DVD in the featured extras OR if you are old school like me and have the VHS if you watch all the way after the credits, it appears – this was one of my favorite things about watching the movie as a kid. (If you do watch the YouTube video..and you should…you can skip ahead to about 57 seconds in, that’s when it gets good!)

  • Rumor has it that Shirley Temple was up for the role of Dorothy.
  • Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as The Tin Man but within ten days had to be recast as he was in the hospital in critical condition due to the aluminum powder he was forced to wear while in character. No full footage of Ebsen as The Tin Man has ever been released.
  • One of the first directors of the film had Judy Garland dressed in a blonde wig with what has been described as “baby doll makeup” and she played the part in an exaggerated way.
  • Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch) was burned during her exit in her first on screen scene. The grease from Hamilton’s makeup caught fire immediately and burned her badly enough that she was out of the studio for up to six weeks.
  • Due to her injury, Hamilton refused to shoot another scene in the film in which she flies on her broom in a cloud of smoke. Her stand-in performed this scene instead and was injured due to a malfunction in the smoke machine!
  • The “horse of a different color” was actually four different horses covered in different colored (and flavored) gelatin. The cast had to keep the horses from licking themselves in between takes!
  • The famous song, “Over the Rainbow” was almost cut from the film! Producers thought it to be too long and too “old” for the intended childhood audience.

Those ruby slippers!

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I was lucky enough to visit the pair currently on display at The Smithsonian National Museum of American History! While we were there they told us that they need to replace the carpet in front of the case very often because it gets worn from so many people stopping in front to see the slippers! These slippers were auctioned off in 1970 for only $15,000!! One pair was on display at The Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota but they were stolen in the summer of 2005. Another pair is owned by actress Debbie Reynolds. It is reportedly unknown how many other pairs of ruby slippers there are at this time.

So there it is, as I stated in my review of the original novel, it was not my favorite in the series. I could even go as far as to say that The Wizard of Oz film starring Judy Garland is better than the original novel written by L. Frank Baum. I know every single line and sing the songs at the top of my lungs, I have a crush on The Scarecrow and adore Aunt Em, especially when she says, “Almira Gulch, just because you own half the county doesn’t mean that you have the power to run the rest of us. 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!” You go girl!

In truth, this movie was one of the best things about my childhood.

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18 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Wizard of Oz

  1. YAY I LOVE Oz fun facts. I’m not a super-fan like you, but for some reason I just gobble up Oz trivia. I think it started with my mom telling me about Margaret Hamilton getting burned during filming and I just had to know more!
    Thanks for sharing, m’dear 🙂

    • I actually didn’t know that MH refused to film another scene and that her stand-in was harmed before I re-read some trivia for this post! My favorite fact is the one about Snow White :]

  2. Oh yeah, I’m with you about The Wizard of Oz being one of the best things about my childhood. I’ve never read any of the OZ books. I really should though.

    I have heard some of those WoO facts before, but not all of them. And I have seen those exact ruby slippers when I was in DC a few years ago.

  3. I must confess to being one of those neophytes who totally believed that it was a munchkin committing suicide. Just like that supposed ghost from the Three Men and a Baby movie? Do you know that one?
    Anyway, this is about Oz. You are a bigger superfan than I am, but I had a professor in library school named Waller Hastings (super awesome prof who taught all my materials classes–basically the classes where I was reading books) who did all of his thesis work and academic research on The Wizard of Oz series. He talked about it all the time. I think you would have LOVED HIM. 🙂

    • I was that loser who refused to believe and used to stick her nose up to the television while watching just to prove my little brother wrong..then I went to college and legitimately RESEARCHED it. How pathetic! LOL! I feel like I need to meet Waller Hastings…I kind of love him. If I could have done my thesis on WoO I would have..however my Senior Seminar was Outlaws and Heretics so I chose Robin Hood which is another obsession of mine..WoO, Robin Hood and Shakespeare…I really was born into librarianship, huh?

  4. Great post! I LOVE this movie. As a kid (before the age of VHS and DVD players), I used to watch it every year, when the networks showed it around Christmas time. I was actually friends with a woman who was related to Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion) and her house was full of Oz posters and photos!

  5. Until reading your post I had never heard that Jitterbug song but I am SO SAD it wasn’t in the movie! Wizard of Oz is not one of my favorite movies but that song is so much more like all the old musicals I adore. It also is much more catchy and dancey than most if not all of the songs. Have you ever seen The Wiz? What about Return to Oz? (one of my faves:))

    • Isn’t it so cool?! I never knew about it since I was so young when I was watching it on VHS and then one time it wasn’t turned off (and restarted immediately) and the song came on…my parents were still married so I had to be 8 or younger! I was so excited!!! Also Flan I love you but…WE DON’T TALK ABOUT THE WIZ! LOL! I am watching and reviewing Return to Oz this week!!

      • The Wiz…I think you have to kind of view that as a movie on its own, having very little to do with The Wizard of Oz. Alyssa, HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE THAT SONG WITH MICHAEL JACKSON AS THE SCARECROW… you caaaan’t wiiiin, you caaaan’t break even…(I sound just like Michael Jackson, in case you were wondering.) And Ease on Down the Road? Gah!

      • I think I make myself hate these adaptations on principle HA! Terrible English major! We are supposed to be unbiased! (I loved your singing, btw)

  6. I love how you shared all of tehse lesser known facts! It actually reminds me a lot about my dad who was always telling me these sorts of things, and mainly about this movie and It’s a Wonderful Life. I remember him talking about all the shenanigans the “munchkins” got into, and how physically straining the costuming was on the actors–that their skin would crack and bleed because, and the poor lion would overheat. I used to watch this every year with my cousin Tucker, which is probably the most endearing thing about him–he’d still take time out to watch it with me late into his teen years when it was most certainly no longer cool to watch Wizard of Oz with your girly cousin.

    P.S. Return to Oz is my favorite…I found it so creepy! This one never was to me, but I know it scared the pants off my dad as a kid.

    • You know..I still haven’t seen It’s a Wonderful Life…I am so ashamed of myself as I am a lover of these older films. It is so crazy to think about the things these actors had to go through in these times!! Return to Oz is being watched and reviewed this week!!

  7. Pingback: Project: Fairy Tale Master Post | The Cheap Reader

  8. Cool Post!! I must have seen this movie at least 50 times and love it everytime! I never knew that the Scarecrow and Dorothy were meant to be romantic! I don’t know why, but I always saw the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion as her uncles. Dorothy just comes off as a generation younger than the guys. So anyway I’m glad they cut the scene of him asking her to write letters because it would’ve made me feel weird when I was younger.

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