Tired of searching through countless channels for something to watch, Mrs. P and I settled on a repeat showing of The Wizard of Oz that was just starting on Turner Classic Movies. Of course we have both seen The Wizard of Oz numerous times, but there is something comforting about watching the venerable film on real-time broadcast television (without commercials) that feels like a 102-minute visit with an old friend. (Honestly, there are some "old friends" that I couldn't spend 102 seconds with... but that's a story for another blog post.)
Although it was released 22 years before I was born, I am obsessively familiar with The Wizard of Oz
. Most people my age share my familiarity with the film and have fond memories of its yearly showing on television. The reason for its cross-generational "beloved" status, I believe, is the fact that the storytelling moves along at a pretty brisk clip. Unlike the current crop of bloated, backstory-heavy, CGI-laden, three-plus hour films being churned out of Hollywood, The Wizard of Oz
wastes not a second of footage. Every scene is meaningful and adds to the flow of the story. Perhaps, this is why so many "Oz-adjacent" movies were failures at the box office. They suffered from too much explanation of a subject with which the audience was already familiar. They were bogged down with unnecessary subplots that added nothing but time. As a matter of fact, in an effort to keep the film concise, a scene was cut from The Wizard of Oz
after initial screenings. The producers felt a particular musical number slowed the action down. (This was the notorious "Jitterbug" dance sequence, clips of which are readily available on YouTube
Even though I love The Wizard of Oz, watching the movie with me is akin to watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show at a Saturday midnight showing. I recite dialogue along with the long-dead actors. I comment on the action. I make up on-the-spot, smart-ass jokes and repeat tried-and-true ones from previous viewings... and I question some of the more peculiar and nonsensical things that occur. Yeah, I know that it's about a girl that travels over the rainbow via a cyclone and lands in a full-color world filled with talking scarecrows, green witches and flying monkeys (blue ones, too). That aside, there are lines of dialogue and action sequences that make no sense — even in the context of a fantasy story. I think the fact that it was made in 1939 and included some of the same snappy dialogue that was so prevalent in films of the era is part of the "problem" I have with The Wizard of Oz. But there are other things that, even after zillions of viewings, still don't sit right with me.
How old is Miss Gulch supposed to be? Clara Blandick (who played "Auntie Em") is 63. It can be surmised that she has known Miss Gulch for years. Auntie Em acknowledges that Miss Gulch owns "half the county," however Margaret Hamilton — obviously disguised by theatrical make-up and costuming designed to hide her age — is only 37 years old. And what sort of successful business venture allowed a 37 year-old to "own half the county?" And who owns the other half?
|Frank times five.|
When Dorothy stumbles across Frank Morgan as "Professor Marvel," the first of five roles he portrays in the film, he rifles through her belongings while offering the young girl a crystal ball reading. I find this very creepy. In true "fake psychic" fashion, he alludes to Dorothy's aunt. "Auntie Em!," Dorothy confirms. The good Professor corrects her, stating that the woman in question is, in fact, named "Emily." How does he know this?
Her name is not
written on the photo he finds in Dorothy's basket. Her full name could be "Emma" or "Emmaline" or "Embeth" or "Emmylou." Hell, it could even be a nickname for "Melissa" or "Gemma." What does this guy
know? He didn't even get the reference Dorothy made about the "crowned heads of Europe" and that's painted right on his fucking wagon!
Once Dorothy gets to Oz, she meets the true
villain of the story. No, not the Wicked Witch of the West, but Glinda, the so-called Good Witch of the North. This seemingly sweet and nice, pink-clad fiend is the first citizen of Oz that Dorothy meets... and within seconds, she insults the poor girl. "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?," she innocently asks. Dorothy answers that she is not a witch at all, adding that "witches are old and ugly." Glinda giggles and tells Dorothy that she
herself is a witch. An astonished Dorothy, wishing to be cordial to her greeter in this unfamiliar land, says, "I never heard of a beautiful witch before." Glinda replies, "Only bad witches are ugly!" So... if she asked Dorothy is she was a good witch or a bad witch, that means she hadn't quite determined if Dorothy was beautiful or ugly, knowing full well that she
was a good witch and therefore beautiful. Glinda still required confirmation of Dorothy's "witch" status because her level of beauty wasn't good enough for Glinda. Later in the film, she makes it snow on Dorothy and her companions to counteract the effects of the poppies designed to put the crew to sleep... knowing full well it would rust one of Dorothy's friends. In the film's conclusion, she announces that Dorothy could have returned home to Kansas at anytime, that she always had the power. When questioned "why didn't you tell her?," Glinda smugly replies "She wouldn't have believed me?" Did you even bring it up and let Dorothy decide? For goodness sake, you told her there was a wizard at the end of the yellow brick road and she believed that! Dorothy begged to go home for nearly two hours and you never, ever mentioned that a couple of clicks on her new shoes could provide that in "two seconds." (Those are your
words, Glinda!) It's funny when Glinda's "traveling bubble" shows up in the final scene at the Emerald City, the Scarecrow points and says "Here's someone who can help you." Glinda? Really?
She hasn't been helpful yet!
When Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, she tells him that the crows in Kansas would be frightened by a talking and dancing Scarecrow. He asks: "Where's Kansas?" Dorothy explains, "That's where I'm from" and the Scarecrow doesn't press her for more information. "That's where I'm from" doesn't answer his question. That was pretty rude! Oh, wait... he doesn't have a brain. Fuck him. He probably forgot the question anyway.
Dorothy's initial meeting with her three traveling buddies in Oz culminates in a similarly melodic song, each specific about what the characters seeks from the Wizard. The Scarecrow and the Tin Man's renditions are seamless with their dialogue and work as a plea to convince Dorothy that they should be included on her journey to the Emerald City. However the Cowardly Lion awkwardly sets his song up with the introduction "I just gotta let you know how I feel" even though they have already decided to take him with them to the Emerald City... but.... he sings anyway.
Why does the Wicked Witch of the West have gripper tape wrapped around her broomstick? Does she use this in case a pick-up game of stickball breaks out on the yellow brick road or among the Winkies at her castle? Are there sporting goods stores in Oz? This is a pretty specialized item to obtain. Sure they have metal buffing services, hay stuffing services and a beauty parlor at the Emerald City, but gripper tape?
That's a big ask. They could probably order it, though.
Speaking of the castle, when Dorothy is held prisoner by the Wicked Witch, brave Toto escapes to alert the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion of her location and her predicament. The intrepid trio make their way into the castle and Tin Man begins hacking at the wooden door of the room where Dorothy is imprisoned with his ax. From the other side of the door, Dorothy announces: "Hurry! The hourglass is almost empty?" referring to the timekeeping device the witch left as a reminder of her fate. However, Dorothy's rescuers have never seen the hourglass. How come they don't stop and question: "What hourglass?"
You didn't say anything
about an hourglass! What are you talking
about? Are you still tripping
from the poppies? I thought the snow
took care of that?" Nope, they just continue to break the door down. When they finally get to Dorothy, not one of them points and says: "Oh! That
In the final scene, Dorothy is saying her tearful goodbyes before she heads back to Kansas with the Wizard in the hot-air balloon he absconded from the Omaha State Fair. She says goodbye to the Tin Man who tells her his new heart is breaking. She says goodbye to the Cowardly Lion who acknowledges that he would have never gotten his courage if it weren't for Dorothy. Then she turns to the Scarecrow and — right in front of the other two
— she tells the Scarecrow that she will miss him most of all. The Tin Man and the Lion can hear
you, Dorothy! We can all
hear you! That is pretty insulting!
After all, what exactly did he
do that the others
didn't? Geez! Worst of all, the goddamn Scarecrow doesn't even say a word!
He doesn't thank her for her assistance in getting a brain. He doesn't even say "goodbye." I guess being named "Interim Wizard" went right to his newly-gifted brain!
So, finally, Dorothy is going home. But, Toto jumps out of Dorothy's arms to chase the Oz equivalent of a cat. If you watch carefully, the balloon just doesn't "up and go" without Dorothy. No, the Tin Man continues to unravel the docking rope and barely makes an attempt to pull the balloon back down... even though he is still holding the rope! It is obvious that he selfishly wants Dorothy to stay in Oz. Only he knows why.
I didn't even bring up curious lines of dialogue, like "Here, have some cruellers" or "You're more trouble than you're worth one way or another" and, when Dorothy asks a castle guard if she can have the witch's broomstick after melting their tormentor, he replies, "Yes! And take it with you!" Well, of course, she going to take it with her! She doesn't just want to hold the witch's broomstick, she wants a murder trophy.... like a serial killer.
Oh! And what about that bucket of water! If you know
that water will melt you, why are you keeping open buckets of it around your castle? You are just asking
for one of your disgruntled employees to dump that bucket on your head after denying a perfectly reasonable vacation request. The witch should have banned all open containers of water from her castle. She knew about the magical powers in her sister's shoes, but didn't think leaving buckets of water all around her castle was a bad idea.
One more thing.... Where does the red brick road lead to?
Oh look.... I can watch The Wizard of Oz anytime I want! I think I'll watch it now.