Over the past several weeks we have been doing an on-and-off fantasy film marathon that has included reviews or discussion of films like Beauty and the Beast and The Purple Rose of Cairo. We decided the best way to end the Fantasy Film Marathon is with an all-staff Q & A related to one of the greatest fantasy films of all-time.
QUESTION: What is your favorite scene or moment from The Wizard of Oz?
As a big time Judy Garland fanatic, I have to go with the obvious choice of Judy singing “Over the Rainbow” on Auntie Em’s sepia farm. It’s perhaps the best song from any movie ever, surely the most iconic. Judy was just 16 at this time and was dealing with a lot of detractors at the MGM studio. She hadn’t become a superstar yet. She was said to have been “too fat”, “too awkward” and was almost replaced with Shirley Temple. She was then fitted with a blonde wig and a nose piece which would push her nostrils upward in order to make her face “more beautiful”. Finally producers Arthur Freed and Mervyn LeRoy nixed the idea and let Judy shine just the way she was.
“Over the Rainbow” is a moment in film history that stayed with Judy Garland throughout her entire career. She sang the song until her last concert, it became her theme song. With a tragic lifestyle and an undeniable talent – watching the young Judy sing the song that her life would ultimately emulate – is a heartbreaking and breathtaking moment. Without the bright colors and fantastical creatures of Oz beside her, Judy’s Dorothy is just as breathtaking.
I’ll have to follow Casey’s lead in going with a thoroughly obvious choice. Occasionally, my grandmother still recounts the impact one scene had on her as a young girl, watching her first color movie in theaters. The Wizard of Oz was hardly the first film presented in Technicolor, yet there is no denying the influence of that seconds-long, iconic transition from the sepia-laden Kansas to the vibrant – some would say kitschy – world of Oz.
What that moment achieves is more than technological (wait for it) wizardry. When I saw the movie for roughly the quadrillionth time about a year ago, I realized that moment hasn’t lost its effect. That new world we behold alongside Dorothy presents a new world of enchantment and imagination for anybody willing to step outside that doorway. It shows us that, even if there’s no place like home, home can’t necessarily provide everything the heart desires.
I understand my three-year-old niece, herself accustomed to the likes of Pixar, has rendered her Oz DVD unplayable. No doubt, that scene enchants her the same way it enchants my grandmother and me to this day. With moments of pure movie magic like this, it’s no wonder Oz remains the most ageless film we’ll ever see on this side of the rainbow.
My favorite scene in the movie is when the Wizard gives the gifts that the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion were asking for. This is right after the revelation that the Wizard wasn’t all-powerful, but rather was an ordinary man using pyrotechnics to fool people into thinking that he was so. Dorothy’s companion then demands the Wizard to give them what they asked for after agreeing to kill the Wicked Witch and bringing her broom back to him. He tells them that all they want – brains, emotion and courage – were in them all along, and gives out simple things to bring out these qualities – a diploma for the Scarecrow, a badge of courage for the Lion and a sturdy heart-shaped clock for the Tin Man.
I think this is easily the wittiest scene, and it’s actually funny how quickly the characters transform because of the objects the Wizard gives them. It also contains some of the best jokes (“You want a heart, you don’t know how lucky you are not to have one.”) and dialogue in the entire film. Frank Morgan is also excellent in this scene, with his feigned authoritativeness coming off as comedic. All in all, this serves as a beautiful denouement for the movie.
It’s hard to beat Judy Garland’s timeless rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” but for the sake of originality I am going to highlight the moment when Bert Lahr sings of “If I Were the King of the Forest.” This is my favorite of the individual characters’ songs because it is clever, well-choreographed, and packed with playfulness. Bert Lahr has one of the most unique and often imitated voices that perfectly personifies the cowardice of his character – big and cartoonish, disguising shakiness as vibrato. He contributes most of the comedy to the scene with a performance that rivals Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” from Singin’ in the Rain as one of the best solo screen songs of all-time.
Not only is the scene entertaining and fun, but it also exhibits some of the best moments of production design in this visually rich film. The interior of the Emerald City is packed with imagination from the glowing carriages to the floral patterned rugs. Some of the film’s best set pieces come before, after, and during this magnificent number.
CONFESSION TIME: I hate The Wizard of Oz. As a small child I was more interested in Spider-Man, the Ghostbusters, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Once you’ve spent your youth living in those fantasy lands, Oz lacks excitement. Couple that with the fact that my childhood babysitter’s son was obsessed with it mean multiple daily viewings curdled that boredom into disgust.
I respect The Wizard of Oz on a number of levels. In every Film 101 class in the country, students rightly scrutinize its perfect story structure. That Victor Flemming made such an elaborate film whose effects still more or less hold up after 72 years boggles the mind. And The Wizard of Oz’s use of Technicolor is dazzling. Really, Wizard of Oz is the Avatar of its time. But this respect and acknowledgement doesn’t change the fact that I never want to watch this movie again.
What is your favorite scene or moment from The Wizard of Oz?