The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz (1939) movie poster

(1939) director Victor Fleming
viewed: 03/26/11 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA

We went off to see the wizard, the wonderful The Wizard of Oz.  And adding to its wonder, this was The Wizard of Oz “Sing-Along” hosted by the Castro Theatre, only the second “Sing-Along” that we’ve been to.  A couple years back, we went to The Little Mermaid (1989) “Sing-Along”, also at the Castro.  These events are like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) for kids, featuring goody bags with glow-sticks, plastic wands, bubbles to blow, and a golden crown.  Not only are you urged to sing along and dance (the lyrics are on the screen), but you are to wave your wands, blow your bubbles, and boo and hiss at the Wicked Witch of the West.

It was pretty much a blast.

For most, The Wizard of Oz is a well-known icon of a film, and for most attendees at the show could probably have acted out most of the film, so rich was their familiarity with the film.  Oddly enough, though I grew up in the years in which The Wizard of Oz was an annual television event, I had never really bonded with the film my kids had no real sense of the film before, particularly Clara.  The film is part of our cultural consciousness, nonetheless, and it struck me how much of the film still echoed with familiarity for me despite the fact that I haven’t watched it since I was a child.  And really, these sing-along’s are for the hardcore fans, I suppose, but are fun-fests nonetheless.

Not being Oz fanatics, we did however watch Return to Oz (1985) a few years back, actually having also read The Land of Oz, from which it was largely adapted.  Felix remembered it.  But Clara, who would have been 4 at the time we watched it, couldn’t call it to mind.  I, though, am becoming quite enamored with the Frank L. Baum series and its cinematic versions.

The Wizard of Oz is doubtlessly one of classic Hollywood’s greatest creations.  A vivid musical fantasy, with a fantastic cast, great songs, luminous Technicolor, it’s also possibly one of the weirdest mainstream musical as well.  I recall being frightened by the flying monkeys when I was a child.

The film is brilliant.  Judy Garland is perfect.  Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Burt Lahr are all terrific as the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion respectively.  The make-up and costume and art design is so rich, playing off the contrast with the film’s opening sequence in sepia-hued black-and-white.  It’s a vision like a dream, like the dream it pretends to be, it’s easy to understand why so many have fallen under its spell, why it’s made such an impression on so many, why it is the major cultural artifact that it is.

What can I add to the doubtlessly near-endless writings on the film?  I don’t know.  I won’t try.  It’s brilliant.  I loved it.  That is enough.

Oh yeah, the kids liked it too.

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