The Wizard of Oz

Directed By: Victor Fleming

Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charlie Grapewin, Clara Blandick, Pat Walshe, and Terry as Toto

"I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog too."
-The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton)

This might just be the most famous line in all of movie history.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, you've got a serious problem.  For the last 74 years, the Wicked Witch of the West has been remembered most for these iconic words.  Likewise, The Wizard of Oz has been synonymous with musicals on the big screen for the last seven decades.  With this dastardly green witch, some dancing Munchkins, and an incredible land somewhere over the rainbow, The Wizard of Oz stands as one of the greatest films of the twentieth century.  This magical musical might just be the most enduring film in all of cinema.

In Kansas, Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) is having a hard time.  She's not getting any love from her Aunt Em (Clara Blandick), her Uncle Henry (Charlie Grapewin), or their three farm hands (Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, and Bert Lahr).  On top of that, her neighbor Miss Almira Gulch (Hamilton) has an issue with her dog Toto (Terry) and wants him put down.  When Gulch gets an order from the sheriff and takes Toto away, a frantic Dorothy opts to run away to try to rescue her dog.  She does indeed find Toto and a fortune teller by the name of Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan).  Marvel convinces her to return home to a supposedly grief-stricken Aunt Em.  Instead of finding her aunt upon arriving back home, Dorothy finds a whopper of a tornado.  The young girl is then swept away by the twister while taking shelter in her house.

When Dorothy awakens, she finds herself in some strangely beautiful land.  She meets Glinda the Good Witch (Billie Burke), who informs her that she has arrived in Oz.  Traveling to Oz inside her house, she just happens to land on the Wicked Witch of the East, and the Munchkins in Munchkinland are lauding her for killing the evil witch.  However, the Wicked Witch of the West (Hamilton) does not share this sentiment and demands the ruby slippers that belonged to her late sister.  Glinda instead places the slippers on Dorothy's feet and forcefully reminds the Wicked Witch that she has no power in Munchkinland.  Despite all that’s happening, Dorothy really just wants to go home.  After the witch's departure, Glinda informs Dorothy that she must travel to meet the Wizard of Oz who can help her to find a way home.  She must follow the yellow brick road.  Along the way, she'll meet a scarecrow, a tin man, and a lion.  All these characters need something from the wizard as well.

There's nothing quite like The Wizard of Oz.  It is the greatest musical of all time.  Every time I watch the movie, I know I will be humming the film's infectious tunes for weeks.  With beautiful solos such as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with lush vocals from the late Judy Garland and upbeat choral arrangements such as "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" and "Follow the Yellow Brick Road/You’re Off to See the Wizard", you can't go wrong.  The music from this film is enduring and just as enjoyable today as it was nearly 75 years ago.  The music of Oz is timeless.

The Wizard of Oz is an adaptation of a 1900 children's book by L. Frank Baum, and director Victor Fleming’s decision to make it a musical was the right one.  There's definitely a bouncy, upbeat energy to the film.  The Munchkins and their elaborate musical numbers definitely emphasize this.  Some fancy footwork by Garland, Bolger, Lahr, and Haley during "We're Off to See the Wizard" doesn’t hurt either.  Having an orchestra on hand also helps to build the magic of the fantastical land of Oz.  At the same time, this orchestra can help give the film a great deal of theatricality, especially during any scene with our over-the-top antagonist the Wicked Witch of the West.

While The Wizard of Oz is an outstanding musical, it's an equally outstanding fantasy film.  Oz is everything a magical land should be.  It's colorful.  It's imaginative.  It's enchanting.  With some great set design and rich filmmaking in Technicolor, Victor Fleming has created a beautiful fantasy land like no other.  From Munchkinland to the Emerald City, there's something for everyone here.  Oz looks even more magical in contrast to the awfully bland farmlands of Kansas which Fleming films in sepia-tinted black-and-white.

While Oz itself is a magical place, it's a land full of equally delightful characters.  Though there is some excellent costume and makeup work done in the film, the performances from the cast members are what make these characters so lovable.  As our star Dorothy, Judy Garland hits all the right notes.  Her youthful energy and innocence bring an undeniable warmth to the film.  As Dorothy's nemesis the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton gives an iconic performance.  Her menacing presence, her caustic remarks, and her distinctive cackle all ooze with evil.  Hamilton delivers this dastardly, fiendish villain and steals the spotlight whenever she's on camera.  Hamilton ultimately gives us one of the greatest villains to have ever graced the big screen.

Ray Bolger and Jack Haley deliver enjoyable performances as the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, but Bert Lahr is my favorite secondary protagonist as the Cowardly Lion.  He's fierce.  He's manly.  He's kingly.  He may cry like a little sissy at times, but Lahr gives a fiery performance when the time calls for it.  Amongst the rest of the cast, the Munchkins also deserve some kudos.  These delightful little actors pack a powerful punch and perform several of the film's most memorable musical numbers.  With the Lollipop Guild and an assortment of colorful townspeople, the Munchkins never disappoint.

I'm a sentimental man when it comes to The Wizard of Oz.  It's an outstanding fantasy musical and remains as enchanting as ever to this day.  Victor Fleming crafted a truly magical film that has unquestionably stood the test of time.  There's no place like Oz.  Go off and see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz.  "We hear he is a Whiz of a Wiz if ever a Wiz there was.  If ever, oh ever, a Wiz there was, The Wizard of Oz is one because, because, because, because, because, because..."  The Wizard of Oz gets a sober rating.