The Wizard of Oz (1939)


The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American musical fantasy film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was directed primarily by Victor Fleming. Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf received credit for the screenplay, but there were uncredited contributions by others. The lyrics for the songs were written by E.Y. Harburg, the music by Harold Arlen. Incidental music, based largely on the songs, was by Herbert Stothart, with borrowings from classical composers. Based on the 1900 fairytale novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, the film stars Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, and Frank Morgan, with Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charles Grapewin, Clara Blandick and the Singer Midgets as the Munchkins. Notable for its use of special effects, Technicolor, fantasy storytelling and unusual characters, The Wizard of Oz has become, over the years, one of the best-known of all films. It is far and away the best-known version of L. Frank Baum's book, perhaps even eclipsing the fame of the novel itself. Although it received largely positive reviews, won three Academy Awards, and was nominated for Best Picture of the Year (losing to Gone With The Wind), The Wizard of Oz was initially a box office failure. The film was MGM's most expensive production up to that time, but its initial release failed to recoup the studio's investment. Subsequent re-releases made up for that, however. "Over the Rainbow" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the film itself received several Academy Award nominations. Telecasts of The Wizard of Oz began in 1956, re-introducing the film to the public and eventually becoming an annual tradition, making it one of the most famous films ever made. The film was named the most-watched motion picture in history by the Library of Congress, is often ranked among the Top 10 Best Movies of All-Time in various critics' and popular polls, and is the source of many memorable quotes referenced in modern popular culture.


Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) lives with her Aunt Em (Clara Blandick), Uncle Henry (Charles Grapewin), and three farm hands, Hickory (Jack Haley), Hunk (Ray Bolger), and Zeke (Bert Lahr). When irascible townswoman Miss Almira Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) is bitten by Dorothy's dog Toto, she gets a sheriff's order and takes Toto away to be destroyed. He escapes and returns to Dorothy, who, fearing for his life, runs away with him. Dorothy soon encounters a traveling fortune teller named Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan in the first of five roles), who guesses she has run away and invites her into his wagon so that he can tell her fortune. Sneaking a look at a photo of Dorothy and Aunt Em, Professor Marvel convinces her to return home by telling her that her aunt has fallen ill from grief. With a twister fast approaching, she rushes back to the farmhouse, but is unable to join her family in the locked storm cellar. Taking shelter inside the house, she is knocked unconscious by a window frame blown in by the twister. Dorothy discovering that she and Toto are no longer in Kansas Dorothy awakens to find the house being carried away by the tornado, with her and Toto inside. After the house eventually falls back to earth, she opens the door and finds herself alone in a strange village. Arriving in a floating bubble, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), informs Dorothy that her house landed on and killed the Wicked Witch of the East. The timid Munchkins come out of hiding to celebrate the demise of the Witch by singing "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead". Their celebration is interrupted when the Wicked Witch of the West (Hamilton) suddenly appears in a cloud of smoke and tries to claim her dead sister's powerful ruby slippers. But Glinda magically transfers the slippers from the dead witch onto Dorothy's feet and reminds the Witch of the West that her power is ineffectual in Munchkinland. The Witch vows revenge on Dorothy, promising, "I'll get you, my pretty...and your little dog, too!" before leaving the same way she arrived. When Dorothy asks how to get back home, Glinda advises her to seek the help of the mysterious Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City, which she can reach by following the yellow brick road, and warns Dorothy never to remove the slippers or she will be at the mercy of the Wicked Witch. On her way to the city, Dorothy meets a Scarecrow (Bolger), a Tin Man (Haley), and a Cowardly Lion (Lahr), who lament to her that they respectively lack a brain, a heart, and courage. The three decide to accompany Dorothy in hopes that the Wizard will also fulfill their desires, although they demonstrate along the way that they already have the qualities they believe they lack: The Scarecrow has several good ideas, the Tin Man is kind and sympathetic, and the Lion, though terrified, is ready to face danger. After Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion nearly succumb to one of the Witch's traps, the foursome enter the Emerald City and are allowed to see the Wizard of Oz, who appears amidst smoke and flames as a disembodied and intimidating head. In a booming voice, he states that he will consider granting their wishes if they bring him the Wicked Witch's broomstick. They set out for the Witch's castle, but she detects them and dispatches her army of flying monkeys, who carry Dorothy and her dog back to her. When the Witch threatens to drown Toto, Dorothy agrees to give up the slippers, but a shower of sparks prevents their removal. Realizing the shoes cannot be removed unless Dorothy dies, the Witch leaves to ponder how to accomplish this without diminishing the shoes' power. Toto escapes and leads Dorothy's companions to the castle. After ambushing some of the Witch's guards and disguising themselves in the guards' uniforms, they enter the castle and free Dorothy. The Witch and her soldiers corner the group on a parapet, where the Witch sets the Scarecrow's arm ablaze with her broomstick. Dorothy throws water on her friend and accidentally splashes the Witch, causing her to melt. The soldiers are delighted, and their captain gives Dorothy the broomstick. Upon their triumphant return to the Emerald City and the Wizard's chamber, Toto opens a curtain, revealing the Wizard to be an ordinary man (Frank Morgan) operating a console of wheels and levers while speaking into a microphone. Apologetic, he explains that Dorothy's companions already possessed what they had been seeking all along, but bestows upon them tokens of esteem in recognition of their respective virtues. Explaining that he too was born in Kansas, and was brought to Oz by a runaway hot air balloon, the man offers to take Dorothy home in the same balloon, leaving the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion in charge of the Emerald City. As they are about to leave, Toto jumps out of the balloon's basket and Dorothy runs after him. The Wizard, unable to control the balloon, leaves without her. As Dorothy despairs of ever getting back home, Glinda appears and tells her that she always had the power to return home, but that she needed to learn for herself that she did not have to run away to find her heart's desire. Dorothy bids her friends goodbye, then follows Glinda's instructions to close her eyes, tap her heels together three times, and keep repeating "There's no place like home". Dorothy awakens in her bedroom in Kansas, surrounded by family and friends, and tells them of her journey. When Aunt Em assures her it was all a dream, the girl insists otherwise. Dorothy promises that she will never leave home again, because she loves them all...and because there's no place like home.