Set in Kansas, in sepia tone, The Wizard of Oz graced cinemas in 1939 to a rather meagre response. Since then, however, the film has grown to become one of the most influential films of all time, and according to the Library of Congress, is the most watched film in history.
If you have been on the planet more than a minute and a half, then chances are you know about The Wizard of Oz, and have seen it at least once. But what makes this film so timeless?
We walk down the Yellow Brick Road to see why this film has been enchanting audiences – young and old – for the past 77 years. Follow us as we explore 8 reasons why The Wizard of Oz is still the best movie ever…
The representation of gender in The Wizard of Oz was lightyears ahead of its time, and explored issues which had not yet been brought to the big screen. The plot centres around several female leads, and lacks the male hero one would have expected to find in a blockbuster film of the 1930s. It’s also interesting to note that the only characters who have any power are women – Dorothy, Glinda and the Wicked Witch. The ‘great and powerful’ Oz who claims to have power ultimately has none, and cannot even fulfil his wordly means of transporting Dorothy back home in his balloon. This reversal of traditional roles makes The Wizard of Oz a fantastic movie in which to examine gender roles and the way in which women are portrayed in film.
Friends 'Til the End
The relationship between the main characters of the film portrays the inherent goodness and friendship that can be found when strangers help each other out. Even the witch’s soldiers turn out to be pretty helpful once the witch has been destroyed. The film demonstrates that people will go to extraordinarily lengths when there is a genuine need. When the going gets tough, the lion, the tin man and the scarecrow will get going.
The Three Wise Men
A major drawcard for the film and the believability of the plot is owed to the charisma and likeability of the three supporting actors – the lion, the tin man and the scarecrow. All three portrayed endearing companions and friends to Dorothy as well as delivering quality solo musical performances throughout the film.
The amazing abilities of each one to depict their characters also contributed to the quality of the acting throughout – scarecrow’s limber dancing and the tin man’s stiffness added realism and credibility to their characters and to the story in general.
The film’s Broadway-style soundtrack and the talents of Judy Garland made for a remarkable combination, and one that brought what was already a marvellous film, to its knees. The music that features throughout the movie is unquestionably one of the reasons that the film has endured such longevity and popularity with all generations.
Shockingly, Judy’s show stopping performance of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ was almost cut from the movie before its release, and did not feature in original previews, being reinstated only after several producers fought to keep it in and threatened to resign over the issue. The song went onto win two Academy Awards and the film itself took an Oscar for ‘Best Score’.
Paving the way for blockbusters such as ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Lord of the Rings,’ The Wizard of Oz gave us one of the earliest epic fantasy films to transport movie buffs everywhere to a new world. Not only did the film portray fantastical elements of a strange land, talking animals and coma-inducing flowers, but it also offered a range of characters which were relatable and grounding – pulling off a fantastical reality unlike anything in its time.
Every Halloween, children everywhere choose to adorn themselves with green face paint and a pointy hat – duplicating exactly what an evil witch should look like. For this, we have Margaret Hamilton to thank – who portrayed exactly the kind of on-screen villain that you will love to hate. So terrifying was her depiction of the villain throughout the film that it is even rumoured that most of her work was either heavily edited or cut completely, lest it frighten small children.
Being the first wide release color motion picture was a big feat at the time – and the cinematic quality of the film is still without equal. Despite living in today’s CGI-saturated film world, the superiority of the filmmaking in The Wizard of Oz is still impressive, continuing to provide an experience like no other…even in 2016.
The Girl of the Hour
There can be no doubt that the success of the film is owed largely to the beautiful and talented Judy Garland. Though it is rumoured that Shirley Temple was originally positioned for the role, it was Garland’s charisma that won out and which ultimately led to the pure, endearing portrayal of Dorothy that perfected the film.
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