The Wizard is here to delight the kids
Oldsters, too, should enjoy Dorothy’s adventures with the scarecrow, Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion in the Wondrous Land of Oz
by Kaspar Monahan
“We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz, ta-da-de-da-te-tah-de-dum-de-dee –”
Dancing along a higyhway of golden bricks, the “main stem” of Oz, a quartet renders that catchy little ditty which keeps ringing in my years. Little Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion are the singers and dancers, and they’re heading toward the Emerald City, there to confer with the Wizard about matters profound and fantastic.
“We’re off to see the Wizard — ”
The words suggest that you bestir yourself and go to see him yourself. Thousands of young and old converged on Loew’s Penn yesterday for that delightful purpose, and were transported to a land of wonders in many ways the equal of the enchanted region created by Disney and his staff for Snow White.
Of course the comparison between The Wizard of Oz and Snow White is inevitable because of the similarity of the two movies. Snow White is still the supreme work of the screen in its excursions into fantasy, in my opinion, but Wizard is not far behind. Each is a masterpiece of ingenuity. Where Snow White had the advantage of using drawn figures, Wizard gets its effects and tells its charming story with living beings.
And in doing that, the producers faced and solves tremendous problems by the wizardry of makeup, trick machinery and many device of all kinds that had to be invented for the big job at hand. Through trial and error and month on month of toil and sweat, Wizard finally emerged, and the results are a near-miracle for the movie industry.
Technicolor is, of course, the perfect medium for a fairy tale. It would be next to impossible to believe in an enchanted land unless it were made to glow in rainbow hues. Once again, technicolor triumphs in the visual delights of Wizard.
In the matter of casting, it is ideal. But for the minor drawback that she’s a bit too large to play Dorothy, Judy Garland in all other respects measures up to her assignment. She is the awed, wide-eyed child from Kansas, bewildered in a strange land after the cyclone whirls her to the Oz. Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion is one of the most appealing characters, human or animal, ever brought to the screen.
“Why don’t you try counting sheep?” she Scarecrow asks him when he complains of insominia, induced by his fears.
“I can’t — I’m afraid of sheep,” the Cowardly Lion sobs.
Rubbery-legged Ray Bolger and Jack Haley take good care of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman roles respectively; Billie Burke plays the Good Witch, and hatched-faced Margaret Hamilton the Bad Witch. And in Frank Morgan, audiences have a grand Wizard — a gentle, soft-hearted Wizard, whose fake magic is exposed by Dorothy and her pals.
The inevitable comparisons
There are, of course, points of similarity between Snow White and Wizard of Oz. Both have as their major character a little girl, witches, strange little people, magic woods. The Good Fairy of Snow White has her counterpart in the Good Witch of Wizard. Enough is retained of L Frank Baum’s original story to indicate that he was no stranger to Alice in Wonderland and the stories of Grimm and the other tellers of children’s tales.
However, his creations of the Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow are his very own. They’re droll and wistful figures to appeal not only to children, but the grownups as well. And in the movie, under the loving ministrations of director Victor Fleming and all concerned, they lose none of their charm.
Old-timers, of course, will remember the late Dave Montgomery and Fred Stone in the Woodman and Scarecrow roles, and probably will mourn their absence in the movie. That as it may be, Bolger and Haley are not to be discounted. The boys are very good.
Almost forgot to mention the Munchkins, whose antics and caperings and songs and dances are to be listed among the many good things. For those roles, MGM rounded up an army of midgets.
The Wizard of Oz, definitely, is a picture to see.
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Source publication: The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Publication date: August 19, 1939