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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Updated: Oct 16, 2022


Plot Summary: In Kansas, Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) lives with her dog, Toto, on a farm belonging to her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. After the spiteful Miss Almira Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) takes away Toto for biting her, Dorothy decides to run away to save her dog. Caught in a cyclone, Dorothy is whisked away to Munchkinland in the Land of Oz. Seeking to return to Kansas, Glinda the Good Witch of the North gifts Dorothy ruby slippers, and angers the wicked Witch of the West who also wants them. However, to find her way home, Glinda tells Dorothy to follow the Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City, where she can ask the Wizard of Oz to help her. On her journey, Dorothy meets a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) who wants a brain; a Tin Woodman (Jack Haley) who seeks a heart; and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who desires courage. Dorothy and her three unlikely companions travel to the Emerald City to find the Wizard, and help Dorothy to find home.


Cast:

  • Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale

  • Frank Morgan as Professor Marvel/Gatekeeper/Carriage Driver/Guard/Wizard of Oz

  • Ray Bolger as "Hunk"/Scarecrow

  • Jack Haley as "Hickory"/Tin Woodman

  • Bert Lahr as "Zeke"/Cowardly Lion

  • Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch

  • Margaret Hamilton as Miss Almira Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West

  • Charley Grapewin as Uncle Henry

  • Pat Walshe as Nikko the Winged Monkey King

  • Clara Blandick as Aunt Em

*Recognition:

  • Nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, and Best Effect (1939)

  • Won for Best Original Score and Best Original Song - Over the Rainbow

  • Judy Garland also won an Honorary Oscar as a Juvenile for her work in this and Babes in Arms

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – No. 6

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 43

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains: Wicked Witch of the West – No. 4 villain

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:

    • "Over the Rainbow" – No. 1

    • "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" – No. 82

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:

    • "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." (Dorothy Gale) – No. 4

    • "There's no place like home." (Dorothy) – No. 23

    • "I'll get you, my pretty – and your little dog, too!" (Wicked Witch of the West) – No. 99

  • AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals – No. 3

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – No. 26

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – No. 10

  • AFI's 10 Top 10 – No. 1 Fantasy film

  • 1989: The film was one of the inaugural group of 25 films added to the National Film Registry list.

  • 1999: Rolling Stone's 100 Maverick Movies – No. 20.

  • 1999: Entertainment Weekly's 100 Greatest Films – No. 32.

  • 2002: Sight & Sound's Greatest Film Poll of Directors – No. 41

  • 2005: Total Film's 100 Greatest Films – No. 83

  • 2005: The British Film Institute ranked it second on its list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14, after Spirited Away.

  • 2006: The film placed 86th on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

  • 2007: The film was listed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.

  • 2007: The Observer ranked the film's songs and music at the top of its list of 50 greatest film soundtracks.

  • According to MGM records, during the film's initial release, it earned $2,048,000 in the US and Canada and $969,000 in other countries throughout the world, for total earnings of $3,017,000. However, its high production cost, plus the costs of marketing, distribution, and other services, resulted in a loss of $1,145,000 for the studio. It did not show what MGM considered a profit until a 1949 re-release earned an additional $1.5 million (about $13 million in 2019).

  • From 1959 until 1991, the film was telecast once every year, the one exception being 1963, when it was not telecast at all.

  • According to the Library of Congress, it is the most seen film in movie history.

Did You Know:

  • WISN-TV in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, did not carry the network's yearly Oz telecast in 1961, the year WISN began its affiliation with CBS, running Green Bay Packers football instead. However, due to viewer outcry, WISN was able to get permission to run the film locally at 2:00 p.m. C.S.T., on Christmas Eve.

  • Many of The Wicked Witch of the West's scenes were either trimmed or deleted entirely, as Margaret Hamilton's performance was thought to be too frightening for audiences.

  • Judy Garland found it difficult to be afraid of Margaret Hamilton, because she was such a nice lady off-camera.

  • The Munchkins are portrayed by The Singer Midgets, named not for their musical abilities but for Leo Singer, their manager. The troupe came from Europe, many of them were Jewish and a number of them took advantage of the trip to stay in the US in order to escape the Nazis. Professional singers dubbed most of their voices, as many of the Midgets couldn't speak English and/or sing well. Only two are heard speaking with their real-life voices--the ones who give Dorothy flowers after she has climbed into the carriage.

  • The iconic ruby slippers are now at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, and so popular that the carpet in front of them has had to be replaced numerous times due to wear and tear.

  • The famous "Surrender Dorothy" sky writing scene was done using a tank of water and a tiny model witch attached to the end of a long hypodermic needle. The syringe was filled with milk, the tip of the needle was put into the tank and the words were written in reverse while being filmed from below. There was an added phrase to "Surrender Dorothy" which was "...or Die!" It was cut before the movie premiered.

  • The horses in Emerald City palace were colored with Jell-O crystals. The relevant scenes had to be shot quickly, before the horses started to lick it off.

  • The Scarecrow face makeup that Ray Bolger wore consisted, in part, of a rubber prosthetic with a woven pattern to suggest burlap cloth. By the time the film was finished, the prosthetic had left a pattern of lines on his face that took more than a year to vanish.

  • Ray Bolger was originally cast as the Tin Man. However, he insisted that he would rather play the Scarecrow--his childhood idol Fred Stone had originated that role on stage in 1902. Buddy Ebsen had been cast as the Scarecrow, and now switched roles with Bolger. Unbeknownst to him, however, the make-up for the Tin Man contained aluminum dust, which ended up coating Ebsen's lungs. He also had an allergic reaction to it. One day he was physically unable to breathe and had to be rushed to hospital. The part was immediately recast and MGM gave no public reason why Ebsen was being replaced. The actor considered this the biggest humiliation he ever endured and a personal affront. When Jack Haley took over the part of the Tin Man, he wasn't told why Ebsen had dropped out (and in the meantime, the Tin Man make-up was changed from aluminum dust to aluminum paste as one of its key components). However, his vocals remain whenever the song "We're off to see the Wizard" is played. Jack Haley's vocals were never used during the song, but were used for "If I Only Had a Heart" and "If I Only Had the Nerve." Ebsen's vocals are also heard in the extended version of "If I were King of the Forest," though the spoken segment has Jack Haley. Although Ebsen didn't appear in the film, surviving still photos show him taking part in the Wicked Witch's castle sequence.

  • Bert Lahr's costume weighed 90 pounds. It was made from a real lion skin and very hot. The arc lights used to light the set often raised the temperature to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Lahr would sweat so profusely that the costume would be soaked by the end of the day. There were two people whose only job was to spend the night drying it for the next day. It was dry cleaned occasionally but usually, in the words of one of the crew members, "it reeked".

  • In the famous "Poppy Field" scene (in which Dorothy fell asleep) the "snow" used in those camera shots was made from 100% industrial-grade chrysotile asbestos--despite the fact that the health hazards of asbestos had been known for several years.

  • In 1898 Dorothy Louise Gage was born to the brother and sister-in-law of Maud Gage Baum, wife of author L. Frank Baum. When little Dorothy died exactly five months later Maud was heartbroken. Baum was just finishing "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and, to comfort his wife, named his heroine after Dorothy, changing her last name to Gale in his second book. Dorothy Gage was buried in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Bloomington, IL, where her grave was forgotten until 1996 when it was rediscovered. When Mickey Carroll, one of the last existing Munchkins from the movie, learned of the discovery, he was eager to replace her deteriorated grave marker with a new one created by his own monument company. The new stone was dedicated in 1997 and the children's section of the cemetery renamed the Dorothy L. Gage Memorial Garden, in the hope that bereaved families would be comforted in thinking of their lost children as being with Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz."

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: "There's no place like home" as well as all the things you think you're missing are probably already inside you.

A girl gets lost in a magical fancy land helped by three unlikely partners desperately trying to find her way home.


Best Performance: Victor Fleming (Director)/Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch)

Best Secondary Performance: Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion)/Frank Morgan (The Wizard)

Most Charismatic Award: Judy Garland (Dorothy)/Toto (the dog)

Best Scene:

  • Munchkinland

  • If I only had a: brain, heart, or nerve

  • Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Lion break into the Castle

  • "I'm Melting..."

  • Discovering the Wizard

  • Poppy Field

Favorite Scene: "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain"/If I only had a: brain, heart, or nerve

Most Indelible Moment: Munchkinland/Yellow Brick Road


In Memorium:

  • Biz Markie (Rapper, Actor) - Most known for his song - Just a Friend, but also acted in Sharknado 2, Men in Black 2, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Crank Yankers.

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Dorothy Gale: There's no place like home.


The Wicked Witch of the West: I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!


Dorothy Gale: Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.


Dorothy Gale: How do you talk if you don't have a brain? The Scarecrow: Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don't they?


Dorothy Gale: Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!

The Scarecrow: Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The Tin Woodsman: Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!


Johnny: Auntie Em, where's Toto? Its a twister! Its a twister!


The Wizard of Oz: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.


Dorothy: Somewhere over the rainbow; way up high...


Guild Singer: We represent the Lollipop Guild, The Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild. And in the name of the Lollipop Guild We wish to welcome you to Munchkin Land...


Dorothy: He said oilcan.

Scarecrow: Oil can what?


The Cowardly Lion: Put 'em up, put 'em up!


The Cowardly Lion: You're stepping on my tail!


The Wicked Witch of the West: I'm melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!


Coroner: ...And she's not only merely dead, She's really most sincerely dead...


Best Song: Over the Rainbow


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 10

Impact/Significance: 7.25

Novelty: 9.5

Classic-ness: 9.5

Rewatchability: 7.25

Audience Score: 8.75 (86% Google, 89% RT)

Total: 52.25


Remaining Questions:

  • Why do they keep water around at all in the castle?

  • Does Miss Gulch come back to get Toto?

  • And why is she so cantankerous if she owns so much of the county?

  • If Dorothy could always just click her heels to go home, why did she need to find the Wizard?

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