In the 1930’s, The Great Depression effected the economy. Prohibition of banning alcohol was lifted. The Dust Bowl severely damaged vegetation including many crops. The F.B.I. was founded by J. Edgar Hoover. Outlaws like John Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde were glorified as folklore heroes. Hitler rises to power prior to WWII. Businesses were closed down forcing employees to get laid off as they search for employment in order to support their families.
Outside of real world issues at the time, the people who suffered from the effects of The Great Depression, felt like they wanted to escape reality. The word I’m looking for is “entertainment.” Hollywood was at its prime, radio dominated the airwaves, jazz music was a popular fad, Snow White became the first animated film in history, besides the entertainment industry, one film in particular became a beloved classic, the movie I’m referring to is The Wizard Of Oz.
After Snow White was released in 1937, the once powerful movie studio M.G.M. decided to purchase the film rights of the book for $75,000 ($1,200,000 adjusted for inflation) so they can attempt to replicate the same critical & financial success that earned Disney himself multiple awards including an Oscar. After a year long process of writing the script, looking for actors/actresses to play the beloved iconic characters we know in love, an experienced director, etc. It was time to begin filming the picture.
During the making of the film, several cast members suffered a bunch of really big boo boos including Judy Garland (was 16 years old at the time) who was forced to wear a painful corset around her torso covering her breasts to make her look like a 12-13 year old girl. Margaret Hamilton, The Wicked Witch Of The West herself, suffered a severe accident during a scene where her character teleports from a red smoke of fire due to the green makeup applied to her face but she miraculously recovered. After finishing the final product, the movie came out in August 25, 1939, a week before WWII began.
Although the film became a critical success, the film was actually a box office bomb because it didn’t earn enough revenue. It went on to win best original song for the infamous song “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” & earned Judy Garland her first Academy Award.
Fun Fact: The Wizard Of Oz came out in 1939, the same year Gone With The Wind was released along with Batman’s very first comic book appearance. Talk about a huge coincidence.
Enough of the history lesson let’s get down to the pros n cons. I’ll have you know that this article contains SPOILERS. Let’s be honest fellas, The Wizard Of Oz is referenced countless times in parodies, homages, quoting lines etc.
Pros & Cons
Pros: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley & Bert Lahr all did an excellent job for their respective performances. Especially Judy’s performance as Dorothy who did her own singing and acting chops.
Other Cast Members such as Margaret Hamilton & Frank Morgan both did a decent job for their respective performances.
Victor Fleming did a decent job directing the film. He also directed Gone With The Wind.
Fun Fact: Famous people such as Nicolas Cage, Michelle Pfeiffer, Amy Adams, James Cameron & David Lynch mentioned The Wizard Of Oz as one of their favorite movies. David constantly referenced it in “Wild At Heart.”
The parallel between Kansas and Oz were connected perfectly to set up the ones that are linked to them. Foreshadowing.
Each of the four main leads motivations were character driven and they’re arcs are payed off pretty well at the end. My favorite is The Cowardly Lion. He’s the wimp of the group.
Acting/Singing were balanced carefully from the cast.
The songs are very memorable. My favorite is the underrated piece, “Optimistic Voices.” It was used on an episode of “The Sopranos.”
The Wizard Of Oz is arguably one of the most quotable movies of all time containing memorable dialogue.
Character Development involving the four main leads. As their journey moves forward, they begin to adapt to their environment.
Practical Effects were heavily used to create visual effects.
The set pieces were made manually. Now that’s a lot of hard work. This was way before Computer Animation was born.
Scarecrow delivered a sneaky line kids won’t get. It’s the part when Dorothy first meets him. As an adult, I burst out laughing. I’m totally not making this up. So here’s the line, “People do go both ways.” I’m giving it Bonus Points for making me laugh my rump off! That line definitely went over my head as a kid.
I cracked up when The Cowardly Lion jumps right out the window. His scene gets an Extra Point for making me laugh hysterically.
The costume designs look great. The outfits for the characters strongly identity his/her characteristics.
The film was shot in sepia format to shoot scenes from Kansas. After Dorothy lands in Munchkinland, the format transitions into color to make it look like we stumbled upon a new world glowing in front of our own two eyes
Prosthetic Makeup was applied to Margaret Hamilton to transform her into The Wicked Witch Of The West. Keep in mind, she suffered from severe burns during a magic trick. This was way before technology advanced in today’s standards.
When Tin Man is dancing to “If I Only Have A Heart” he can’t control his body leaning forwards and backwards. This predates Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”
Remember when we all thought Dorothy’s journey in Oz was just a dream? Turns out it was actually real. Care to explain Sam Raimi’s disappointing prequel, “Oz The Great And Powerful” with James Franco as the title character? “Wicked The Musical” is considered canon focusing on The Wicked Witch Of The West’s perspective if you pretend Oz The Great And Powerful never happened.
Cons: The Special Effects however don’t hold up pretty well. I’m gonna give this one a pass because they didn’t have C.G.I. back then.
I didn’t cry when Dorothy teared up. The part where the guard cries uncontrollably.
I don’t mean to contradict myself. I know Somewhere Over The Rainbow is an unforgettable song, but I think it’s very overrated. It’s been overplayed in way too many other movies and TV shows.
A Plot Hole involving why Glinda never told Dorothy she had the power to use her slippers to go home this whole time. If this happened in real life, Dorothy would’ve been pretty angry towards her. I fully realize Glinda used Dorothy and her friends as pawns to do all the dirty work for her. Here’s a better twist. Billy Bob Thornton has a fear of antique furniture. Not a joke. He admitted his fear on “Oprah.”
The Final Verdict: A-
Despite my personal gripes on Over The Rainbow and Glinda being unsympathetic, The Wizard Of Oz remains as a timeless classic for many generations who still adore an iconic film. It’ll be remembered, if robots or aliens from the future are around, they definitely need to watch this gem. Judy Garland & several cast members all did a fantastic job, the musical numbers are memorable alongside dialogue and many other positive elements listed. If you have little kids who haven’t seen this, it’s a must see for the entire family.