At 75, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ still works its magic
Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man taking to the Yellow Brick Road — with a dog named Toto tagging along — is among the iconic American images. Their journey began in the mind of fantasy novelist L. Frank Baum, but they’re best remembered for a film that remains a cultural touchstone as it approaches its 75th anniversary.
Indeed, “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) — about a young girl who arrives at the true meaning of home — exudes an enduring magic. Who hasn’t heard the classic response to a profound change in circumstances: “We’re not in Kansas anymore”? Or fantasized about a better life “somewhere over the rainbow”?
The happiest 15 minutes in the history of cinema really pop off the screen in the new 3-D IMAX conversion of “The Wizard of Oz.” Those minutes, coming as Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) steps into the Technicolor wonder of the Merry Olde Land of Oz, are as giddy, goofy and gloriously kitschy as ever — singing and dancing dwarfs, silly trilling Broadway star Billie Burke (as Glenda, the Good Witch), gorgeous primary colors in every pixel of the frame.
And thanks to 3-D and digitally cleaned-up copies of the film, the details are nothing short of stunning, even if the depth of field isn’t improved much from when Victor Fleming pointed the camera at those sets 75 years ago. The sheen on the fake plants shimmers, the freckles show beneath Garland’s ruby-red made-up cheeks and the stitches stand out in the burlap face of Scarecrow Ray Bolger.
Garland’s wise-beyond-her-years crooning, full of longing in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”; Frank Morgan’s tour de force supporting work (five different roles) as Professor Marvel, the Wizard and others; Bolger’s rubber-legged genius — the virtues of this masterpiece are as obvious as ever.
And those songs by Harold Arlen and “Yip” Harburg –even the filler tunes are wickedly funny.
“You’ve killed her so completely that we thank you very sweetly.”
Take that, Wicked Witches.
All these decades later and it’s still a wonder how this “children’s classic” ever caught on with kids. That horrid witch (Margaret Hamilton), the nightmarish tornado effect, those alarming Flying Monkeys — and what child was going to focus on Judy as Dorothy as long as Toto, too, was on the screen with her?
The improved texture was reason enough to convert this to 3-D. Even on IMAX screens, the original aspect ratio hasn’t been monkeyed with, the original sepia-toned opening and closing are intact and the best effects have nothing to do with 3-D. The Wicked Witch’s gnarled green hands seem to poke through the screen and the Haunted Forest attack by the monkeys gains something by the conversion.
The witch-arrivals, in clouds of red smoke, are still primitive (you can see the trap door), and the whole thing looks and sounds like a product of its era. But with “The Wizard of Oz,” the passing of the years merely adds to its charm. And the 3-D glasses do a grand job of hiding from the kids your tears of sentimental joy at seeing the movies’ greatest generation-to-generation tradition, revived, renewed and back on the big screen — where it belongs — for a limited run.
THE WIZARD OF OZ
Cast: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Billie Burke, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, Jack Haley, Frank Morgan.
Directed by Victor Fleming, songs by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, based on the L. Frank Baum book. An MGM release
Running time: 1:41
MPAA rating: PG for some scary moments
Early Version Dress From “Wizard of Oz” Sold by Local Collector for $300K
This photo combo shows, at left, actress Judy Garland as Dorothy in a scene from “The Wizard of Oz,” and at right, is an Oct. 16, 2012 file photo showing the dress Garland wore in the movie, on display in London.
An early version of a dress worn by actress Judy Garland in her role of Dorothy in the film “The Wizard of Oz” sold at a Southern California auction this weekend for $300,000.
The dress was only worn during the first two weeks of filming in 1938 with director Richard Thorpe and did not appear in the film.
Bay Area Hollywood memorabilia collector Barry Barsamian had the dress for more than three decades before it sold Sunday at the Profiles in History auction house in Calabasas Hills for $300,000.
“It kept going higher and higher,” Barsamian said in a phone interview from Calabasas Hills.” “When it hit $200,000…that’s when it just jumped.”
The dress was initially offered at $80,000, he said.
After owning the dress for 31 years he realized it was time for it to move on.
“I would hate for something to happen to me and people wouldn’t remember where I have it,” he said. “We don’t want to lose the magic.”
The dress is a solid blue pinafore with polka-dot trim and puffed sleeves. Garland wore the dress with a blonde wig. The actress’ name is written with ink inside the dress.
The outfit had traveled the country as part of a collection in the bicentennial celebration of the Smithsonian Institution’s “Freedom Train” from 1975 to 1976.
Several train cars toured the continental United States, displaying various aspects of U.S. history.
In the movie, viewers saw Garland wearing the iconic blue gingham dress with white puffed sleeves and she wore her hair in brown braids.
The final version of the 1939 film was ultimately directed by Victor Fleming.
Happy 91st birthday, Judy!
June 10, 1922 – June 22, 1969
A show celebrating one of the most iconic mother and daughter relationships in showbusiness heads to the Queen’s Theatre next week.
Five decades after Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli last performed together at the London Palladium, the show, Judy And Liza, aims to recapture the magic of that concert.
It stars West End performers Emma Dears (Miss Saigon) and Lucy Williamson (End Of The Rainbow) with musical arrangements from top composer Michael England.
“About ten years ago I had the idea for a show about Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli,” said the show’s director, Emma Dears. “I had always been compared to Liza as a performer and so I started to look into her life. The one thing these two fascinating women share is the ability to move an audience and yet their lives are blighted with tragedy and loneliness.
“When you look into the songs, which they have both made famous over the years, the parallels with their own life experiences are uncanny.”
The show promises to take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster with some of the most beautiful and familiar songs of the last 80 years including Cabaret, Maybe This Time and The Trolley Song.
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