The Wizard of Oz (1939)

A scarecrow, tin man, young woman, and lion walk down the yellow brick road with a small dog looking at them from the text title of the movie
The four main characters, along with Toto the dog, in cover art for the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, directed by Victor Fleming.
About the movie
  • Director: Victor Fleming
  • Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley
  • Yes or no?: Yes
  • Links: on Letterboxd, IMDb page
Other reviews:

I got to see this on the big screen, and it was spectacular.

I’m a product of seeing this on television once a year through my childhood, and as a result, this has always been one of my all-time favorites. But it’s an entirely different experience to see this on the big screen, watching what I presume is the 4K print (it sure looked like it) or better.

While the movie is so beautiful, I was captured by the inability to rewind and take a second look at something. The result is a bit more magical, if that word applies. I couldn’t prove to myself that I saw what I thought I saw in a couple places, and the not knowing for sure leads me to think they meant it to be there.

Here are some of the things I took note of:

  • I have watched this over a dozen times and never realized just how central to the story Toto is. Like, duh, but for me it went beyond. Toto is all over the place in the movie, and it’s a testament to the dog’s ability to just be. You don’t even realize he’s in there, but he is always there. Particularly funny to me was when they were freeing the Tin Man and he was walking down the small slope of grass to the Yellow Brick Road, Toto is moving around under his feet. Jack Haley had to keep an eye on Toto to make sure he didn’t step on him.
  • That same scene is either done super well with continuity, or they shot the whole thing, from picking the apples to leaving on the road, all at once. As they head down the road and the camera pulls back, there is still an apple there from being thrown by the tree. Again, maybe it’s a smooth move by someone handling continuity, but I want to think they just cranked out an entire scene in a day so quickly they hadn’t cleaned up the set yet.
  • The pre-movie trivia piece discussed that Frank Morgan played five different roles in the movie. I take a bit of an issue with that. I have always believed his characters were all the same person. He’s not the doorman separately. The Wizard is the doorman, and the coachman, etc. He’s doing his ruse.
  • Uncle Henry kind of sucks.
  • How Margaret Hamilton did that laugh will always confound me. It’s the quintessential witch laugh and it feels like she just pulled it right out of nowhere. Iconic.
  • The tornado, as it approaches the farm in Kansas, is pretty well done. It looked real as hell, and of course, I’m still a little bit nervous as it barrels toward them.

I may add additional notes later as I think about this. Again, it’s a huge favorite of mine, and I remember wanting it to come back to TV each year or however it was playing by the time the 80s hit. I tried to see this, maybe it was 25 years ago, on the big screen before. I took my son to a screening and the projector broke down before they left Kansas, and I didn’t get the chance again until last night. I’m thrilled that I took advantage. What a good time it was.

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February 01, 2024
Tags: movies
Categories: Reviews