American Literature 1st hour
14 March 2010
The Wizard of Oz: Timeless Classic
The Wizard of Oz. It is a timeless classic, directed by Victor Fleming in 1939. When Dorothy Gale becomes unhappy with life in Kansas, which is in black and white in the film, it creates a bleak effect in the atmosphere. The bleak setting of Kansas, tells of the feeling during the Depression, how everyone was so pressed just to live from day to day; without a steady source of income, it causes one to become sort of dreary in a sense. She is swept up by a tornado into the Land of Oz, a colorful, bright place unlike any other. This movie was filmed during the great depression, and this movie was quite like what was going on at the time. When she goes to Oz, it is what everyone wants their lives to be like. But, yet, if the people of the depression were to escape somewhere “better” than where they were, it would not feel right, because in the United States, the American Dream exists. Dorothy realizes that there is a bleak setting back home, as she says: “There’s no place like home!” Even though people are facing troubling times, they can still go on because they have to pull through eventually. All the way around, there is not a place in this world that is like home.
When The Wizard of Oz was released, the public responded with great fervor. Leonard Maltin, author of Leonard Maltin’s 2010 Movie Guide, said it was a “perfect cast in the perfect fantasy…: you could watch it so much and it was just as good the fifteenth time as it is the first” (1561). The day that the movie was being shown to the public, there were so many fans of The Wizard of Oz that the Capitol movie theater on August 17,1939, lines started forming at 5:30 AM. Everyone was enthusiastic in the line, children and adults alike. In the first week of The Wizard of Oz being shown, the Capitol hit an all-time high in attendance, so says the book The Wizard of Oz by John Fricke. One should imagine the thrill of seeing a classic book being made into a film and the excitement that hung in the air. And may one also take into consideration this was at the end of the Depression, and some people were still feeling the effects of it. So, not only were people enthused about the movie: some even felt a personal connection with the movie when they saw it, because of the similarities between lives. Similar to Terry McMillan, a girl at the time when she saw it was affected greatly by Dorothy in particular because their two lives had many similarities. The public connected so much with this film and were absolutely in love with it from day one.
The reason why people were in love with it is because of the similarities in-between their lives and Dorothy’s. In the scene where Dorothy is running away from home, and where she also meets Professor Marvel, is kind of like how the people were of the earlier times of the Great Depression. Everyone was unhappy with their situation. Like Dorothy, who, was unhappy with her lot in life so she decided to change it, like many did before the depression. The lighting when she meets Professor Marvel appears to be a neutral lighting, and the camera is at an eye level angle, to show that she is just going through with this plan of running away, in the innocence of her age. When she goes into Professor Marvel’s carriage, the lighting becomes darker, and tells of the more sinister aspects to running away. The same goes for the stock market that was a cause of the Great Depression: under all those loans and everything, it is not the best thing in the world. When Prof. Marvel convinces Dorothy to go back home (through a type of reverse psychology), she gets caught in a twister, which is like when people realize that the stock market was not good in ways, people were mentally thrown around. And people in the Depression were like Dorothy when she was in the twister: Caught in a dream. In the Close-up of Dorothy, her confusion is revealed, etched on her face with bedlam and chaos around her. Since the camera is at an eye-level with Dorothy, it shows an understanding between her and the audience. Almost like the confusion and chaos of what happened when the stock market crashed, when the market crashed, everyone was on the same level, and understood another. This scene represents the American Dream because the first scene in Dorothy’s life is like the Great Depression; it tells of the struggle that everyone had to go through: That struggle to realize what one has, one wants it, so the one is happy. One may not realize it at first, but once it is realized, one is most definitely happy.
In the making of The Wizard of Oz many occurrences took place, to make this film. In the beginning (when making the script), William Cannon came up with the idea of the character of Scarecrow being a human being dressed as a scarecrow, according to John Fricke, author of The Wizard of Oz (26). But Cannon was not the only person to put something worthy to the cause: something Jack Haley caused in the making of this movie was the friends of Dorothy in Oz using a “dreamy” tone in Oz and then use the actors’ normal voices in Kansas. It then creates the affect of moving between worlds (ix). Not only were changes being made in how the movie was as a whole, but there were also some difficulties…with make-up. Like Jack Haley, the Tin Man, got an eye infection because of the make-up. He then had to stay in a dark room to get over it and continue filming. A surprising thing about this movie, but then again it probably needed it, was this film took four months to edit, which is a long time considering they were over budget (112). According to Peter Hay, author of MGM: When the Lion Roars in the movie there were 60 sets used for the making of the film (168). Some sets were just painted muslin backdrops; artisans worked around the clock on those sets. And it worked, but for the Emerald City, one could not paint muslin for that twinkling, three dimensional effects on the towers of that city. In the long shot of the Emerald City, it was pastel crayon on a black board with holes drilled in it for light to pass through (169-177), so then there was that signature sparkle affect. That is only a fraction of went on behind set. If one could only begin to imagine what had to happen to end up with such a great and fantastic product.
It was not just the sets that made the film either; some of it was the actors themselves. People who played their character well, like Frank Morgan (Professor Marvel/Wizard), Margret Hamilton (Wicked Witch of the West), and Judy Garland (Dorothy Gale) made the movie so poignant, and touching. Originally, MGM wanted Shirley Temple to star as Dorothy. But since the movie making company she was with would not let MGM borrow her, Judy Garland was chosen. Judy generated Dorothy to be such a mild little girl, even though she herself was seventeen at the time (imdb.com). She delivered such a poignant performance of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, which shot Garland to stardom. Another great in this film, would be Frank Morgan, whom will always be remembered as the man who was Oz and Professor Marvel. As said on IMDB.com, he “will forever be remembered.” And who could not remember such a memorable performance with such feeling from both of those characters. Now, Margret Hamilton also delivered a memorable performance leaving a lasting impression on kids and scaring them across the globe by being mean to Dorothy. Kids will remember ever single one of the characters, be it the Cowardly Lion, or the Brainless, loveable Scarecrow, or the heartless Tin man, right up to the evil characters, like the flying monkeys, and the Wicked Witches men of the castle. Not only children remember these characters, but the older generation will also, because of the feeling behind the characters. Just watch the film and one will see, immediately, that this is a true statement.
This movie will not only be remembered by the people of America and may other countries; it will be remembered by many critics too. In the book The Wizard of Oz by John Fricke, there were some very helpful critical reviews of the movie. From the Hollywood reporter they said “Oz will beyond question, be accorded recognition as a milestone in motion picture history” (173). The reason for this remarkable review is the “spectacular…most gorgeous colors imaginable,” according to the Pomona Progress (118). The critic that wrote that review was enthusiastic about the film The Wizard of Oz but this critic also said “The movie is not for children, at least in the form previewed. But everyone else loved it. When the movie was previewed by Professional Film Critics: the studio never would have dreamed that the critics would have responded with such joy at the film.
The only way the Critics could have responded so well to the film in the first place could not have happened without the director. The Director, Victor Fleming, was the man who made this book come into reality. According to Ephraim Katz author of The Film Encyclopedia, who would have guessed that he was a racecar driver when he was younger? One definitely would not think that a racecar driver would go from that to being an Assistant cameraman in 1910. Then he went from assistant cameraman to a major director who could create the most amazing films using such vibrant colors. According to the book, Movie Classics he had such a gift, that all of the films he made had a memorable art direction in them. The films he directed were always unforgettable and even some other directors mimic his work, because it is so good and captures what was is going on in the film. The film also closely related to went on in the previous years during the Depression. It is amazing how an ordinary racecar driver can become such an amazing director of such a timeless classic and have it relate to something that only happened a few years previously.
Now, there are good films, great films, funny films, but there are none like the timeless classics. The Wizard of Oz is just one of those films. Directed by an ex-racecar driver, and with a poignant performance from Judy Garland, and other memorable performances from other actors, the public will always remember this film. Also, relating to the American Dream, the close relations between the film itself and one’s life. Given good reviews by almost every critic, this movie isn’t a good or great film; it’s officially a timeless classic, because no one can forget it.