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The Wizard of Oz

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Wizard of Oz

Starring: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger
Director: Victor Fleming
Rated: G
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: August 1939
Genres: Family, Kids, Music, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action

*Also starring: Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan, Charley Grapewin, Clara Blandick

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Susan Granger read the review ---
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
4 stars out of 4

My son's school is putting on a production of THE WIZARD OF OZ - he's a Munchkin whose one line is "It's a girl and she's asleep." - so we rented the classic Judy Garland version from 1939. Beautifully directed by Victor Fleming, who won the award that year for best director, but for GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ is so exquisitely constructed that it's hard to believe that it could have been done any other way. But there were scenes deleted, including a jitterbug number, and others that were almost excised, including the key "Over the Rainbow" number.

The cast, which seems etched in stone now like a cinematic Mount Rushmore, was not exactly what the studio wanted. Buddy Ebsen was to have been the Tin Woodman until the silver make-up made him sick. And W. C. Fields was the original choice for the Wizard, but he turned them down.

Opening to a bleak Kansas landscape, filmed in a nostalgic, Sepiatone black-and-white, Dorothy wants to be anywhere but boring old home. After a long dream sequence that bursts forth in bright primary colors and imaginative sets, the story ends in that same monotone Kansas that it began but with Dorothy wanting never to leave home again. Just as the mythical sets for Oz are not meant to be real, so the sets for the Kansas farm are so obviously done on a sound stage that they too have a poetic realism that transcends the literal. It is the dream set in the Land of Oz that is the heart of the magical tale that warms the hearts of young and old alike.

Most "family" pictures aren't. At best they are kids' movies that keep the adults' attention with sufficient humor aimed at them. THE WIZARD OF OZ, on the other hand, truly mesmerizes all ages.

With Judy Garland as Dorothy, Frank Morgan as the Wizard (as well as many other roles), Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion and Jack Haley as the Tin Woodman, the ensemble cast never ceases to delight and amaze us. Every scene brings some new joy or gem of wisdom such as the "brainless" Tin Woodman's observation that "some people without brains do an awful lot of talking."

The sweet script by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, based on the classic L. Frank Baum novel, captivates us at every turn. "And she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead." the coroner says of the Wicked Witch of the East, who was killed by Dorothy's house. The dialog that is spoken rather than sung still has almost a musical cadence and is always just short of poetry.

The music is so infectiously happy that it is basically impossible to keep your toes from tapping, your head from bobbing, and an ear-to-ear grin from appearing on your face.

The movie is perhaps best epitomized in Dorothy's dance as she leaves the cute little Munchkins. Singing "Off to see the Wizard," she skips along with an infectious joy along the famous yellow brick road. If we could enter the screen, every member of the audience would skip right along behind her.

THE WIZARD OF OZ runs 1:41. It is rated G and is perfect for all ages.

My son Jeffrey, age 9, gave the movie **** and said it was wonderful. His favorite scene was the one with all the flying monkeys. He said that "you can't grow too old for this movie."

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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