An Enduring Masterpiece
Considered by many to be the best family film of all time, The Wizard of Oz provides magic, humor, thrills, and worthwhile values for children of all ages. On November 6th, 1999, moviegoers followed the yellow brick road to a theater where this 1939 gem began its big screen showing for the first time in 25 years. Of course, everyone already knows the story by heart, but the cinematic spectacle of Dorothy’s fantastic adventure never ceases to dazzle viewers no matter how many times they see it.
I always have trouble deciding on my favorite Oz character. Sometimes I pick the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) for his bombastic rendition of "If I Were King of the Forest" and his nervous "I do believe in ghosts; I do believe in ghosts" mantra. But I can’t forget Ray Bolger’s marvelous Scarecrow singing "If I Only Had a Brain" or Jack Haley’s uptight Tin Woodman. And then there’s the deliciously evil Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) and her horrible flying monkeys, who scared the socks off me the first time I saw this movie as a child in 1939. I also love Dorothy’s cute little dog, Toto, and those darling Munchkins, especially the amusing Lollipop Kids.
Still, it’s 16-year old Judy Garland, as Dorothy Gale, who makes this version of L. Frank Baum’s popular fairy tale something more than just a movie. In one of the most heartwarming film performances ever, Garland tenderly embodies the universal longing for a happy home and good friends. Her haunting "Over the Rainbow" lingers in my memory like no other Hollywood musical number. Thank heavens filmmakers changed their minds about cutting that song from the finished production. What a treat to see and hear the great Garland in her peak performance!
MGM re-released The Wizard of Oz in 1949 and again in 1955. In 1956, the movie received its initial television broadcast and, since 1959, has become a yearly television event -- which probably makes it one of the most-viewed motion pictures of all time. It’s almost impossible to believe this splendid movie was created over 60 years ago. Despite so many advances in special effects since then, nothing today on film quite matches its glory and wonder for me – from its glittering Emerald City, menacing tornado, and giant talking Wizard-head to those sparkling Ruby Slippers.
Truly, The Wizard of Oz is an enduring masterpiece.
(Re-released by Warner Bros. and rated "G" as suitable for all audiences.)