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The Wizard of Oz Movie Review

dorothy hamilton garland witch

1939 – Victor Fleming –

In one of the most beloved children's classics, a little Kansas girl named Dorothy (Judy Garland) is transported to the magical land of Oz when her farmhouse is whirled away by a tornado and lands over the rainbow, far away from friends, family, and mean old Elmira Gulch (Margaret Hamilton). But is Dorothy really away at all? As she and her new friends—a brainless scarecrow, a heartless tin man, and a cowardly lion—set off for the Emerald City and the wonderful wizard to get the things they lack, they discover that they had them all along.

The movie is a true extravaganza. It assembled the largest cast of little people ever to play the Munchkins, who are rescued when Dorothy's house falls on the Wicked Witch of the East. The special effects are delightful and believable, including Glinda the Good Witch's pink transport bubble and the tornado that sweeps Dorothy and her dog Toto to Oz. The Wizard's vast head is spectacular, and generations of children have been terrified by Hamilton's green makeup and flying monkey henchmen. The music is also unforgettable; “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (which was almost cut from the final film) became Judy Garland's signature song. And a surprising number of Americans can break into the melody of “We're Off to See the Wizard” after decades of not seeing the film! Originally, Wallace Beery was offered the role of The Wizard; Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Scarecrow, swapped roles with Tin Man Ray Bolger and discovered he was allergic to the metallic paint; and even Hamilton was a second choice behind Edna May Oliver. An uncredited King Vidor directed the sepia shots at the beginning and end.

Not that many people can go decades without seeing the film, for it is so popular that it is reshown almost yearly on network television, and a huge theater re-release is planned for its sixtieth anniversary in 1999. But the chemistry of the characters' friendships is so endearing and the hope for that fantasy escape and safe return home so enduring, that this movie will forever be dearly beloved.

Cast: Judy Garland (Dorothy Gale), Frank Morgan (Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz/Guardian of the Gate/Cabbie), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow/Hunk Andrews), Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion/Zeke), Jack Haley (Tin Man/Hickory Twicker), Billie Burke (Glinda the Good Witch), Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch of the West/Elmira Gulch), Charley Grapewin (Uncle Henry), Clara Blandick (Auntie Em), Billy Bletcher (Mayor/Lollipop Guild), Harry Stanton (Munchkin Coroner), Buster Brody (Winged Monkey), Lorraine Bridges (Ozmite/Lullaby League), Pat Walshe (Nikko), Mitchell Lewis (Captain of the Guard) Screenwriter: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf Cinematographer: Harold Rosson Composer: Harold Arlen Producer: Mervyn LeRoy for MGM Running Time: 112 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1939: Musical Score, Song (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”), special miniature Oscar for Judy Garland; Nominations: Picture, Art Direction Budget: $2.7M Box Office: $4.5M.

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