This 1939 film classic, The Wizard of Oz, has teenage Judy Garland at her best. Directed by Victor Flemiong, she portrays Dorothy, precious niece of her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry.
They live in the middle of the U.S on a Kansas farm which also happens to be in the middle of tornado alley. In those days, there was no television. Most people did not have radio. A few received a newspaper. The public library had books people could check out and return. People made their own entertainment, clothing and food.
Thus this story begins with a tornado taking Dorothy and her little dog, Toto, away to a distant– and very different land– far from the drab, dusty farm land of Kansas.
The illustration below depicts the tornado that swept up Dorothy, her home, and nearby people and objects.
In Oz, Dorothy wakes up to a colorful land of wonders, a town of little people called munchkins; a good witch who sends Dorothy on a quest; a talking scarecrow, a tin man woodsman, and a real lion who talks; things so strange and new to her that Dorothy just can’t believe all she is seeing. Yet, to get the answer she wants , “How do I get home?” she must follow the yellow brick road to Emerald City and speak to the Wizard.
The famous Ruby Slippers came to her because her farm house fell on top of the Witch of the East and killed her when the tornado put Dorothy in the land of Oz.
Glenda, the Good Witch, explained some things, but of course, not everything about the shoes to Dorothy–and about the sister witches. The worst witch was the Witch of the West. That was the Bad Witch. Nobody liked her and she wanted her sister’s ruby slippers. A 2005 appraisal gave a value of $3 million to the size 5 shoe Judy wore. Notice the chunky heel on the shoe. Because of the many dancing parts, the heel size helped to prevent leg and foot injuries to the talented star.
At this point in her life, Judy Garland’s voice is pure and clear, very different from the later changes that occur.
A timeless classic, The Wizard of Oz, continues to enchant audiences of all ages. When the choice to use color film became available during the middle of filming, the Land of Oz came to life. From boring black and white Kansas to full Technicolor OZ, the cinema screen came to life. What was an experiment became an instant success, as the Horse of Many Colors pranced across the screen changing colors as he went.
Debate raged for who to play Dorothy. First choice was Shirley Temple.
However, she was under contract for a different film company and they could never come to a deal. Also considered was more experienced, classical singer Deanna Durbin. However, as the script changed, the studio realized a singer with more jazzier style fit better. Therefore, Judy Garland won the part.
When watching this film, try to replace Judy Garland with Shirley Temple to see what would happen. A very different film would emerge. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think. Would you have preferred Shirley Temple or Judy Garland as Dorothy?
A couple of years ago, Guideposts magazine printed an article on Ray Bolger and how he got the part as the Scarecrow. Although perfect for the part, Bolger was not originally cast there. He traded for that part with the other actor playing the Tin Man. Finally, if the movie were cast today, who would you choose to play Dorothy’s part? And who would you chose for the other main characters?
The above screenshot reveals a very depressed and confused Dorothy. Actors must draw on their own experience for their parts; unfortunately, this particular clip is emotionally revealing. AT 16 years old, Judy Garland is already experiencing most unpleasant emotions. How many times later in her life, did Judy Garland want to “go over the rainbow” to get away from the people who used up her talents. Or, perhaps, her alcohol/drug use became her escape. Still, my understanding is that the drugs came early in her career to ensure her performing when she did not feel like doing so.
Actors with Multiple Parts
Four actors played two parts. Ray Bolger played the parts of the scarecrow as well as Hunk while Jack Haley was the Tin Man and Hickory. Bert Lahr was the Cowardly Lion and Zeke. The person with the most parts was Frank Morgan. Dorothy first met him as Professor Marvel when she ran away from home with Toto. She found him as he sat in an older form of a wooden travel trailer (be sure to take a close look at it when it comes on the screen; it is truly fascinating). It was styled more like a Gypsy’s caravan. Next, she meets Morgan as the doorman of Emerald City, and he quickly changes jobs and clothes to become the driver of the cart drawn by the Horse of Many Colors. Frank Morgan also has the important job as the guard to the Wizard of Oz and finally he actually is the Wizard of Oz.
Although Margaret Hamilton played only two parts, she suffered for her role as the Wicked Witch of the West.
Her part of the nasty neighbor trying to eliminate Toto was uneventful compared with the awful Wicked Witch of the West. First, the green dye used on her face and hands permanently tinted her skin green. For the remainder of her life, she had to live with a pale green tint. Nothing could ever be done to correct the problem. Also, during the filming, she suffered burns when her costume caught fire while filming the ending scene of her being set on fire in the tower.
Buddy Ebsen, also had problems with the makeup of the time. A fine
dancer, Ebsen was originally hired for the Scarecrow part, but after switching with Ray Bolger, and being put in the gray makeup required for the Tin Man, Ebsen suffered an allergic reaction and was replaced by Jack Haley.
Toto is Dorothy’s constant companion. In this film, the little Scottish cairn terrier Toto does not have a speaking part. However, Toto continues to have many screen shots and is in the film from beginning to end, comforting Dorothy and helping her whenever she needs him.
Judy Garland did receive an honorary Oscar for her outstanding performance in this film as a juvenile.
Famous Movie Quotes
Lions, tigers, and Bears: Oh, My!
If I only had a brain!
We aren’t in Kansas anymore.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
We’re Off to See the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz!