Celebrating Great Films

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz#94 at time of writing.

This film is 68 years old. That's twelve years older than the first colour television broadcast. My grandfather probably saw this film at the cinema as a child. Yet it has stood the test of time fantastically well.

I was brought up with this film on Betamax and VHS, and I'm still happy to watch it now on the spectacularly digitally remastered DVD. It's such a perfect fantasy, replete with catchy songs (including "Over the Rainbow") and indulgently vibrant colour.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, considering it was made at a time where colour was relatively rare on film, The Wizard of Oz revels in colour at every opportunity. The Yellow Brick Road, Emerald City, ruby slippers, even the "horse of a different colour."

But behind the scenes, the production of this film was not such a fairytale. The Tin Man's toxic make-up nearly killed Buddy Ebsen (he was replaced by Jack Haley), the Wicked Witch of the West and her body double were both severely burned in the process of disappearing in a puff of smoke, and Judy Garland was constantly hepped up on goofballs (the studio fed her amphetamines and barbiturates to help her cope with the hectic schedule). The turbulent production also got through a fair number of directors, including two of the directors of Gone With the Wind, another Hollywood golden age classic from 1939.

Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, my!

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