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153 out of 195 people found the following review useful:
A fantasy rooted in the landscape of your childhood., 30 May 2004
Author: The_Film_Cricket from Birmingham, Alabama
I have a theory that this movie has probably been seen by more people
than any other movie. The fact that it comes to us as children is
probably the reason why. Other films like 'Gone With the Wind',
'Citizen Kane', 'The Godfather', 'Star Wars', have been seen by a lot
of people but in each case I can imagine people that might not have
seen them. In the case of 'The Wizard of Oz' it's hard to imagine
anyone who might not have seen it at some point in their lives. Almost
everyone you talk to has a memory of their first experience. The reason
this movie remains the most beloved of Hollywood films even after six
decades is because 'The Wizard of Oz' is unique among motion pictures
in that it mirrors our longings and imaginations as children.
The movie, in front of and behind the scenes, has become movie folklore. We love the legends about the rotating directors, from George Cukor to King Vidor to Victor Fleming. We know the legend of Buddy Ebsen who had to drop out due to an allergic reaction to the Tin Man makeup and Margaret Hamilton whose dress caught fire and nearly had her face burned off because of the copper-based make-up. We love stories about the problems on the set between personal feuds, sweltering costumes, partying munchkins and the costume designer who had to keep up with Judy Garland's developing bust line. There's even a spurious legend of a ghost on the set. All of these elements make 'The Wizard of Oz' a much bigger legend than it already it, but that's okay because this is the one movie that deserves to be over-hyped. It occupies such a large part of our memories that we want to make it more than it is, to just have one more reason to make it more than a movie, we want it to be a life experience.
That experience is brought to us because we are intimately familiar with its story elements. The dreams that Dorothy sings about and the adventure that follows seem to mirror our yearnings as children. She imagines a bigger place where her problems don't linger and she is free to explore them. She imagines a place where there isn't any trouble and people actually listen to what she has to say. She sees the rainbow as her golden gate to a better place because in her drab Kansas world, the rainbow is the only source of color that she knows. She dreams of a bigger place and imagines a world where troubles melt like lemondrops. We can relate. How many of us as kids sat in our room or in our yards and played, imagining a place to go and characters to interact with, a colorful world bigger than our small, confined worlds.
Oz is meant to represent the colorful palette of our imagination but for Dorothy it is also a place where she does some growing up. The three friends that she meets along the way, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Lion are emblematic of the lessons of bravery, love and devotion and the ability to think for ourselves. The Wicked Witch of the West certainly represents the real dangers along the way. For Dorothy there is a matronly figure, Glinda the Good Witch who intends for Dorothy to discover for herself how to solve her problems, she knows that Dorothy must grow up along the way. In a way, she seems to represent the parent that Dorothy doesn't have back in Kansas. Her aunt and uncle love her but this was a movie made during the depression and we imagine the climate that they live in, where work means keeping the farm. No work = no farm = no home.
For 1939, Dorothy was the perfect character for young girls. She echoes many of the small town country girls who, in the midst of the depression, packed their suitcases and ran to Hollywood seeking fame and fortune in the movies. For them this film is a cautionary tale that they'd be better off if they just stayed home. Judy Garland was perfect in the role, 17 at the time, but with wide-eyes and a beautiful, open face she carries that sense of wonderment of a child. Like most of us as children, her only true companion is a dog named Toto and the most frightening moment in the film is when she is nearly robbed of her best friend. When she sings 'Over the Rainbow' we know that it's to escape an unhappy childhood (she has apparently lost her parents) and for Garland we identify. She began in show business as a kiddie act with her sisters and began her long movie career when she was only 13. She was already a familiar face from 'Love Finds Andy Hardy' and by the time of 'Oz' she was already under contract to MGM. That she was familiar to audiences helped her in the role. That familiarity works well with her ability to project the vulnerability and melancholy that the character has to have. We have to believe that she will become frightened and that her life will be in danger because if she doesn't that we sense that the character can work her way out of the situation herself and our interest wanes.
If movies are a time capsule than 'The Wizard of Oz' wonderfully captures a brief moment of happiness in Garland's life. We know of her problems with studio execs that put her through an exhausting schedule and used drugs to get her going in the morning then put her to sleep at night. We know the legends of her mental and physical problems that dogged her most of her life but 'The Wizard of Oz' sees her at a moment in her life when it all seemed perfect, just as her star was rising and before her problems really began. There's poignancy in that, and that's why I think that the casting of Shirley Temple in the role would have been a mistake. By 1939, Temple was the biggest star in the world her presence in the film would have been too much, she would have stood out and we would only seen Shirley Temple, not Dorothy Gale.
Garland's presence allows the story a certain credibility. I have tried to imagine that famous dance down the Yellow Brick Road with a 4 foot child and it just doesn't fit.
If Garland gives the film its center than I think the production design, awe-inspiring in 1939, is the perfect backdrop. In these early musicals filmed on a soundstage it isn't hard to spot where the soundstage ends. Some have seen that as a flaw but I think it adds to the dreamlike quality of the film. The matte paintings behind the sets add to the storybook quality. The fact that we're in a dream makes it okay that the special effects look a little hasty. That was the genius of the screenplay, that and to establish the Oz characters as characters that Dorothy meets in Kansas. In our dreams we often see people and events that have recently occurred in our lives, but this is the first time I've ever seen it expressed in a movie. In particular is the notion that Professor Marvel keeps showing up as various characters in the dream.
What generosity the filmmakers had. What ingenuity to create this entire world that is colorful and beautiful and scary. What depth of character they created. What messages they send. This is a movie constructed with loving care. We're told that those who worked on the film just thought of this as just another movie, but when I watch the film I find that hard to believe. Certainly from the screenwriters. I wonder if they saw how brilliantly they were tapping our frustrations and our excitement, our dreams, our need and our sense of wonderment. I wonder if they knew the impact of what they were working on, that the lovely sentiments that they created would still resonate 60 years later. I wonder if they knew that their heart's desires weren't that far from our own.
112 out of 134 people found the following review useful:
An enchanting film with flaws that cannot seriously mar its durable delights , 8 August 1999
Author: ironside (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Mexico
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dorothy's trip, as we follow her from her Kansas farm down the Yellow
Brick Road to the Emerald City and back home again, is depicted with
rare cinematic imagination and skill
At the beginning, we may wonder at the obvious falseness of the black-and-white Kansas setting, although the monotonous, arid landscape ultimately makes an effective contrast to the later scenes in Oz But rationality disappears the moment Judy Garland strikes at the heart with her trembling singing of "Over the Rainbow." And when Frank Morgan appears as Professor Marvel, we are captivated by his familiar bumbling charm
Dorothy's entrance into the land of Oz remains one of the screen's most memorable moments, as the black-and-white scene give way to glowing color photography "I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!" is her understated response as she enters Munchkinland The sequence in Munchkinland, though beautifully designed, is actually, a mixed blessing Billie Burke is exactly right as the Good Witch of the North, and Margaret Hamilton is wonderfully shrill and repulsive as the Wicked Witch of the West But the Munchkins themselves, midgets gathered from all over the world for the occasion, are all wonderful with their prematurely old faces and chipmunk voices
The talents of Dorothy's friendsJack Haley as the Tin Man, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lionhave been frequently celebrated, but their good humor and their shining humanity behind the grotesque makeup remain fresh eternally
"The Wizard of Oz" is a joy forever Why does it still glow, while other films of the period grow dimmer every year? It is unquestionably due to more than the sum of its sterling cast, winning songs, and lovely special effects, although the absence of these virtues has turned more than one "musical fantasy" into failures It may be that Dorothy steps from black-and-white Kansas into the bright colors of Munchkinland, she is taking everyone's first voyage of discovery With the universality of the best fables, "The Wizard of Oz" has her learning about evil (the Wicked Witch), friendship (her companions on the road to Oz), and fallibility (the Wizard). And somehow childrenand the child in all of uslike to see this voyage made repeatedly
Children as adults, today as in 1939, "The Wizard of Oz" will remain for us the beloved movie ever made!
123 out of 156 people found the following review useful:
a milestone, 12 November 2004
Author: rzajac from Dongshih, Taiwan
People talk about The Wizard of Oz as a backdrop to their lives; and
how true that is. I just saw it again, DVD, for the first time
in--gosh!--20 years. There was a little art house in Lansing Michigan
USA that ran it back then, on the popular premise that there's nothing
like TWoO on "the big screen." That's the last time I'd seen it, 'til
I guess the part that "gets" me about the movie is how the writers made it pretty plain that the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion really already had what they thought they were missing; that their respective problems were in misapprehending their own complete natures. That's a powerful statement for many of us. I found myself most touched in scenes where the Scarecrow was showing wisdom, the Tin Man feeling deeply ("...when I think of Dorothy in that awful place..."), and the Lion...well, maybe accomplishing this effect was harder in his case...what *is* true courage?
Anyway, if you're reading this here, you must be a movie weenie, and you've no doubt already seen the movie, so I'm not going to recite the usual "go see this movie" mantra.
I was just very touching to see this movie again, at this phase in my life.
I will mention a few more things about how I now see this movie as a "growed up" (I'm almost 50): It's interesting how you can see the production values of the time; the lot sets and special effects and so forth. This movie is a powerful example of how a good story overcomes limited means in other areas.
People who look back with disdain on the low-tech chintz of old movies can see in TWoO the magic ingredient; narrative solidity. And I'm not a pollyanna about this: I'm sure the underlying reality behind its making is rife with horror stories of expert disagreement, rewrites, discarding, jerryrigging, and the rest of it. But in the end, something like narrative love won out; and that's the important thing.
Oh: And having Harold Arlen write the music was good luck indeed. And orchestrations which cleverly appropriated very tasty new ideas in composition (polymodalism, non-standard phrasings, etc.) didn't hurt, either!
Geez, this movie is such a little universe....I'd better stop here.
98 out of 123 people found the following review useful:
I wish I could have followed the yellow brick road., 8 December 2000
I remember watching this movie when they would air it once a year on CBS a
few years back. Now it is shown on a couple of different networks quite
frequently. This is a wonderful film for the whole family. Who wouldn't want
to take a journey to the magical land of Oz?
I think that it is terrific how well this movie has held up over the years. It's going on sixty-two years since it was first released and yet, it is timeless. It is great to look back on a film that was made in the thirties, and compare it to the movies made in this day and age. This is a film that will just be something that stays around forever.
The Wizard of Oz is enjoyable for people of all ages. Everything about it brings a smile to my face. Wouldn't it be wonderful to just magically be transported to a land of talking trees and little munchkins? Of course it would be. The flying monkeys, a talking lion, the astounding ruby slippers, and everything else adds a special kind of magic to the screen.
The atmosphere and setting is magnificent. This is one of the things that makes the film so stunning. Anyway, the forest, the witch's castle, and even the farm is really well laid out.
I don't think that the casting could have been done any better. Judy Garland shines as the innocent Kansas girl. Her dancing and singing just brightens the whole story up. The lion, tin man, and scarecrow perform amazingly also. Everyone involved down to the littlest munchkin acts so well.
Even though this is a movie for everyone, it is categorized as a children's flick. The writing is good with very simple lines and problems, but slightly complex so we're not falling asleep of boredom.
What's left to say? Other things like the wardrobe, special effects, musical talents, and even the famous yellow brick road, are so well put together. Oz gives us an idea of what an almost perfect world would be like. No matter how old this movie becomes and we still look back on it, we'll still be able to enjoy at least one thoughtful movie. Classics never die. (Hence the name.)
84 out of 103 people found the following review useful:
A Wiz of a film, if ever a Wiz there was, 11 August 2003
The NBC Peacock began unfolding its wings. "The following program is
brought to you in living color--with portions in black & white--on NBC."
That exclusive intro began my exposure to color television at Grandma's in
1968. When Dorothy stepped out into Technicolor, I'll bet my eyes just
This is the Movie of All Time, folks--a status achieved during its long run as a huge annual TV event during that classic era whose programs now show up on TV Land network. In the 1970s, Peter Marshall once read the answer on Hollywood Squares as to the program seen more times by more people than anything else ever shown on television. It was "Oz." Likewise, no movie has the hold on popular culture that this one does. What lion character ever since (i.e., Snagglepuss) hasn't been an impersonation of Bert Lahr going, "Put 'em up, put 'em uuuuup!"
Few musicals offer an equal combination of lovable music and engaging story. Perhaps "The Sound of Music." Hard to think of many Hollywood musicals where the story gets as serious as it does here when the Witch informs Dorothy that, "The last to go will see the first three go before her...and her mangy little dog too!" Yikes! In contrast, even the best of other Hollywood musicals seem to serve up fluffy, forgettable story lines that are mere backdrop to the song numbers that typically put the plot on hold.
I can't say that "Oz" doesn't have technical flaws or story element inconsistencies. It's just that the astonishing production values all around so overwhelm the shortcomings. The tornado sequence is a 1939 special effects tour de force--incredible. And the Nutcracker-quality musical score offers songs tastefully interwoven with the action. Certain numbers like "Merry Old Land of Oz," I never get tired off, though I like each of the songs.
Oz should be viewed in the lightness of spirit that it deserves. I mean look, we have Frank Morgan as the Emerald City gatekeeper, then seconds later as the cabbie with the Horse of a Different Color, then the Wizard's palace guard, and then the voice of fire-and-smoke Wizard of Oz who bellows, "Step forward, Tin Man!" What other film could put an actor go through 4 quick-changes within 10 minutes to such an endearing result? "Oz" is as magic as those sparkling ruby shoes.
The early Technicolor process utilized triple nitrate negative strips--separately recording each primary color in light. This was done due to the lack of a suitable "color film" in 1939. That would quickly change--but films from years following suffered from hues that faded with the years, even original negatives. Because "Oz" was actually filmed on a black-and-white base film, the negatives never faded. So now we have home videos/DVDs of breathtaking color quality. Now, the tinted filters in the cameras that separated the colors onto the negative strips meant that intense illumination was required, rendering the filming experience miserably hot for the actors involved, especially Lahr. But they all hold up amazingly well.
"Oz" has a valuable message. As the pop group America once said, "No, Oz never did give nothin' to the Tin Man....that he didn't, didn't already have." If we have truly search, we can find within us--or create through trial, like the Lion's courage--what we think we most lack. The Wizard (like the Lord) helps those who find help within themselves.
I feel sorry for the Almira Gulches who can't treasure this film experience. They need to visit the Emerald City to get their own ticking Testimonials and find their hearts.
Didn't bring your broomsticks with you? Well, I'm afraid you'll have to walk.
72 out of 97 people found the following review useful:
Great film for ... everybody:))), 1 August 2005
Author: Slav Petkov (slavi_sofia) from Plovdiv/Sofia, Bulgaria
When I was a very little boy, I saw that movie on The Bulgarian
National Television and I really fell in love with it:)). It was a kind
of magic that took my heart to eternity and from there it saw all the
world in a very amusing way:)). I will probably never forget the first
time I saw that movie...I really hope that everybody will continue
watching it and it won't be among the forgotten movies... If you're
very very young and you haven't seen it yet, then see it, you will feel
the greatest force of the white magic:)))).
Judy Garland is THE PERFECT DOROTHY!!!:)))
See it, OK??:)))))
56 out of 66 people found the following review useful:
Still Has Its Magic, 27 September 2004
Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
Judy Garland's portrayal of Dorothy, Dorothy's oddball Oz friends,
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow", and the rest of this fine production of
"The Wizard of Oz" have lost little of their magic over the years.
While it has become oddly fashionable in recent years to deride this
kind of classic, innocent fantasy, the movie itself has aged very well,
and it is likely to retain an appreciative audience for some time to
There's no doubt that part of the appeal of the story and the characters comes from them being such old friends to so many cinema fans, but there are also good reasons why they have endured for so long, and have been able to hold up even after becoming so familiar. Although Dorothy is not a particularly complex character, she represents an innocent but deep yearning that is easy to identify with. Likewise, the 'Oz' characters are bizarre enough to remain interesting, but there is a core of substance that again is easy to believe in. Who does not feel that he or she could use at least one of the things that Dorothy's friends want?
The adaptation from the original story is done quite well, making fine choices for the characters and episodes that would work on film. The settings and visual effects may not impress the devotees of today's computer imagery, but in their time they certainly demonstrated a great deal of skill and planning, and even now, in their own way they are more believable than are most of the computer tricks that have become so overused.
The popular story has also been used for a number of more recent adaptations, and some of them have had some good points of their own. But this Wizard remains by far the most wonderful of the versions of the classic tale.
46 out of 53 people found the following review useful:
Finding Her Way Back Home -- To Our Hearts., 13 November 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even with the advance of special effects there will never be a movie as
honest and as true to its heart as THE WIZARD OF OZ, with the exception
of THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY. But since the latter is too new, it
can't be compared to the former. Everyone at one point of their lives,
especially as children, has seen this film and has experienced the
emotions that Dorothy experienced, the terror of entering the Wicked
Witch's lair, her transition from little girl to wise young woman, and
this incredible world that L. Frank Baum created and Hollywood
What makes a great movie? The experience that you are watching it for the very first time, whether you were seven years old or an adult living in an adult world. This film is one of those. Even when as an adult I can see some of the cracks peeking through and some lapses in continuity, who cares? The tornado ripping through the cornfields is as real as the real ones I have seen even though is was really muslin. The moment that the sepia-tones from the Kansas segment peel away and Dorothy opens the door of her house and I saw the bright colors of Oz I knew I was there. The story had enveloped me now, as it had did back then. In my world, this is an utterly, fantastic film.
And what is Oz, by the way? Well, from a little girl (and the child in all of us), it's that place where our imagination runs wild, where everything is perfect, where there is no tomorrow and a yellow brick road will take us to that perfect place filled with song. It's that place where we feel we will belong, and who as a child didn't feel like we were out of place? Notice I repeat the word 'place' because this is so much about placement, places, our place and therefore, our own self-expression, our own sense of self. Who hasn't wanted to "seek a place of one's own' where light and love prevailed only to return back to where we came from, stronger and wiser? Its message is so universal. Truly, there is no place like home.
Timing is crucial for the symbolic success of this movie as well. Still in the middle of the Depression years, when unemployment was at an all time high, it focuses not just on the harshness of keeping a farm, but then throwing a parent-less girl into a strange land who finds a foster mother of sorts who would tell her that the way back home would not be an easy one. Glinda the Good represents this character, the same way, the Wicked Witch of the West represents the darker forces that watch her every move and aggressively try to trip her up. This is quite a lot on the shoulders of a little girl, and having Judy Garland -- not yet the major star but just on the brink of becoming one -- play Dorothy Gale has become casting history. In 1939 she was about seventeen, fresh-faced, innocent and vulnerable: she is Dorothy, and we can't imagine anyone else, not even nearly 70 years later.
And speaking of casting, it was genius to have the actors playing Dorothy's friends and enemies in Kansas also show up in Oz. Since the movie is so much like a dream, it's more than logical: many people in our lives sometimes show up in dreams -- it's even in books about dreams. That they also represent that which not only they, but Dorothy most of all, lacks -- courage, love, and wisdom -- makes their appearances even more intrinsic to the story, so when they grow as characters, so do we, and of course, so does Dorothy.
THE WIZARD OF OZ is timeless. So simple, so honest, but so deep in its messages about love and self-discovery. All of the actors including the veteran Billie Burke would be remembered the most for their roles here more than any other movie. The set direction is made to look as close to a storybook; all that is missing are the page frames. There isn't a false move here, and all those back-stories... well, their okay to read but for the cinema lover looking for magic, it's all here, in about two hours of pure entertainment.
42 out of 48 people found the following review useful:
A true cinematic milestone, 7 May 2006
Author: robb_772 from United States
Where to begin? MGM's elaborate adaptation of L. Frank Baum's 1900
fantasy classic THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ not only became an
institution among itself (and practically defined the concept of modern
popular culture), but is reported to be the most viewed film ever made.
A sharp screenplay effectively condenses the novel's text into a
workable film, and director Victor Fleming (along with countless other
behind-the-scenes technicians) craft a visually stimulating fantasy
world that surpasses the expectations of even the most imaginative
viewers. Brimming with stunning visual effects (the film's fierce
tornado is an FX feat that has yet to be surpassed by CGI), witty
dialogue, and eye-popping Technicolor, THE WIZARD OF OZ truly lives up
to it's reputation as a once-in-a-lifetime film where every element
comes together flawlessly.
The cast could not be improved upon. The quivery-voiced, solemn-faced Judy Garland will always be Dorothy, the little lost farm girl on the road to Oz, clutching her beloved Toto (impressively portrayed himself by the female canine performer Terry, the terrier). It seems inconceivable that MGM had originally wished to cast Shirley Temple in the role, as Temple's doe-eyed, cutesy-voiced shtick would have been a catastrophic ill-fit for the tone of this picture. Conversely, Garland is perhaps the screen's quintessential woman/child; always seemingly just one step away from reaching full emotional maturity. It is her sadness that transfixes viewers to the screen, the exact same quality that made the film's most memorable Harold Arlen/E. Y. Harburg number "Over the Rainbow" into one of the most exquisite marriages between artist and song ever to be recorded.
The remainder of the cast is similarly exceptional, many of whom perform perfectly even under the most debilitating make-up and costumes. Frank Morgan is marvelously versatile in no less than five roles, the insanely energetic Bert Lahr mugs brilliantly, the handsome Jack Haley swoons sweetly, Billie Burke lends the film an ornate ethereality, and Ray Bolger's gravity-defying physical presence nearly steals the entire picture on several occasions. Perhaps most notable is former schoolteacher Margaret Hamilton's transformation into the wickedest of wicked witches, which certainly remains among the vilest and most terrifying portrayals of full-throttle evil ever to be seen. No matter how it is analyzed, scrutinized, or satirized, the 1939 production of THE WIZARD OF OZ is a top-notch example of how to turn a great story into a fabulous, milestone of a film.
46 out of 61 people found the following review useful:
Will continue to enthrall for generations to come!, 7 April 2005
Author: Vancity_Film_Fanatic from Vancouver, BC, Canada
One of the most cherished fantasy films to ever grace the screen, "The Wizard of Oz" stands as a crowning achievement in 1930's film making. The special effects are highly impressive considering the limited technology available at the time, not to mention they are infinitely more endearing than most CGI effects present in today's films. The lavish sets, impeccable costume design, and glowing Technicolor help to create a convincing and enchanting Land of Oz. And though obviously filmed on a soundstage, the sets never seem confining; thanks largely in part to the meticulous backdrop paintings used to add depth to the foreground. The musical numbers are quite lively & catchy -- never slowing the pace of the film -- except perhaps for the Lion singing "King of the Jungle". Judy Garland truly shines in her portrayal of Dorothy, perfectly capturing the wide-eyed innocence of her character. She definitely deserved the special Oscar she was awarded for her performance. Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, and Frank Morgan as the Wizard also turn in praiseworthy characterizations. Definitely timeless in every sense of the word, this film is recommended to those of all ages a 10/10!
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