Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Wizard of Oz! Part 1

Hi Readers!!!!!

This entry is devoted to the Wizard of Oz, for which I spent at least two if not more weeks obsessing over. I could not make this entry long enough to be in proportion to the time and effort put into the research and thought. For starters, I took screen captures. And I took screen captures. And I took screen captures. Twelve Thousand, Four Hundred, and Ninety-Nine to be precise. 12,499. I also filmed certain clips and made three separate youtube videos from those, making it four youtube videos in total.

I thought my next blog entry was to be on Ariel the Little Mermaid, however I found production in that project to be slowing - so much Little Mermaid, so much Disney! I need to take a little break, take my head out of the water and shake the water out of my head.

It turns out that The Wizard of Oz was a serendipitous choice. I had only turned on the TV to get ideas for what kind of movie I might maybe feel like watching and Lo the Wizard of Oz was playing on TNT! By the time I was knee-deep in the screen captures and waiting for the iPhoto program to load all of the pictures I took (which would take awhile, it is a miracle my computer has not crashed), I decided to do a little informal research. And anyone who's anyone knows what that means. That means that I looked it up on Wikipedia.

I encourage you to do the same. It is under "The Wizard of Oz (1939 Film)". I read the Introductory, Production, Music, Cultural Impact, and Awards and Honors Sections, the Production section being the most interesting.

And on wikipedia I found out that they had the idea to make the book "The Wizard of Oz" into a movie only because "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," which, if you will remember, came out in 1937, 2 years before "The Wizard of Oz" (and it took them about that long to make the movie) - showed that films based on fairy tales and fantasy made real bucks. Snow White was really the first on that account. So, without knowing it, I have made a pretty little segue from Old Disney to Old MGM - from Fairy Tale to L. Frank Baum, from Princess, to Dorothy.

Dorothy. Obviously she must be my focus, with a little Wicked Witch, and Glinda, on the side.

I would love to re-read the book. But I haven't. So I'll have to go by what I remember and stress the movie-maker's choices most of all. Wikipedia I believe provides a compare and contrast between the book and movie, but I would recommend just reading the book to find that out.

With that in mind, who is Dorothy? Judy Garland plays Dorothy, that's true, and has made the role iconic and widespread. But who is she? What character did Judy Garland give her?

Well appararently Judy Garland almost wasn't allowed to chose! Read this, it is from Wikipedia:

George Cukor temporarily took over. Initially, the studio made Garland wear a blond wig and heavy, "baby-doll" makeup and she played Dorothy in an exaggerated fashion. Cukor changed Judy Garland's and Margaret Hamilton's makeup and costumes and told Garland to "be herself." This meant that all scenes Garland and Hamilton had already completed were discarded and refilmed.

Can you believe it? Forget the fact that at first it seemed they were considering Shirley Temple first - for they didn't and I agree whole-heartedly with that decision - when I read THIS my heart almost stops. If you do read the wikipedia article this heart-stopping will happen several times. Why? Because there are so many things that they almost made a part of this masterpiece that would have made it HORRIBLE. And I mean HORRIBLE. a Flop. Bad Taste in your mouth. Etcetera. This was the biggest moment for me. Can you imagine Judy Garland, THE Judy Garland in a blonde wig, with "baby doll" make-up (*shudder*), that Judy Garland, THE Judy Garland should be instructed to play the part of Dorothy in an "exaggerated fashion" - oooo! What a phrase - it leaves all to much to the imagination.

This was nearly the forties. The character of Dorothy in the book was as I remembered it quite younger, but apparently Baum never put an actual number to her age. I thought she was FIVE or something when I was reading it. Due to their eventual choice of Judy Garland over Shirley Temple, they made Dorothy's age twelve, Judy Garland herself at the time being sixteen/ seventeenish. Perhaps initially they felt they needed to make her look younger to match her part, and more of a young doll-girl like Shirley Temple because that sold - or because the character of Dorothy is so naive, who knows. Anyway thank GOD that Cukor guy came along and realized that Judy Garland was NOT Shirley Temple and told her, and I love this phrase, to "be herself." An odd thing to tell an actor, to be sure - but I think of it as the godsend for the character of Dorothy.

Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz is the "straight man" of the story. This means that Judy Garland being herself was vital because the part needs to be an effortless state-of-being naivete instead of a literally made-up and made-on put-on kind of naivete.

straight mannounthe person in a comedy duo who speaks lines that give a comedian theopportunity to make jokes
The straight man is the "normal" person who is placed with ridiculous beings in ridiculous surroundings, vital for any fantasy of this sort because the straight man reacts the same as the audience does, and in so doing the viewer identifies with Dorothy; however at the same time the viewer, unlike Dorothy, is in perfectly familiar surroundings and feels safe enough to be comfortable with whatever strange and new events happen on screen - thus allowing for the viewer to laugh at Dorothy's slow adapting powers.
As far as I'm concerned, that's half of the plot and significance of the movie right there. Everything else flowers off that.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I haven't written in so long for many reasons. Since this is the very public internet I won't go into details, but it does include a death in the family (not immediate family thank God). So hopefully I'll be back on my two feet again. To make things more fluid, too, I'm going to post as close to every day as possible. That means that blog entries like this one will have to be broken up into installments to make it easier for me to write them, and for you to read them. That is MY New Years' Resolution. That is MY Yellow Brick Road! (Hence the opening picture.)
Thus, more is to come on Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, Analysis, Feminism! For now, enjoy the youtube video I made based on my screen captures.

The music was carefully chosen to be both relevant to the plot and to feminism. On Facebook I ranted about it so I will just copy and paste:

"actually, tho the music is random in the sense that they are different genres and unexpected, i actually thought through each one and the transitions from one to the other quite thoroughly. You probably noticed the correlations with the events going on in the music video and the lyrics - well in addition the subject of each song has something to say about the themes in Wizard of Oz while at the same time putting a new modern twist to it. Three Hits Indigo Girls - "three hits to the heart son/ and its poetry in motion," "From a wise man to your red hand
You lay covered in our best sins," (in relation to the paradoxical wise man proffesor marvel/Oz". Crazy Gnarls Barkley - "I remember when i lost my mind" "i was out of touch" "it wasn't because i didn't know enough i just knew too much" "But maybe I'm crazy/
Maybe you're crazy/ /Maybe we're crazy/ Probably" (various validities of the various realities in the movie) , also the themes that come with childhood compared to the cynicism of adulthood and lack of control. The Christians and the Pagans Dar Williams - the issues of witches good/bad, acceptance of difference, "where does magic come from/ I think magic's in the learning." Where do the Children Play Cat Stevens - modern technology/ fast-paced society is helpful, but we might be losing fast of where the children will play, and on a deeper note, WHY the children play - "When you crack the sky, scrapers fill the air./Will you keep on building higher/'til there's no more room up there?/Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?/Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?//I know we've come a long way,/We're changing day to day,/ But tell me, where do the children play?"

hahahahaha i realize this response was way too long but what the hey/hay im incapable of NOT being verbose :D

(4.10. How old is Dorothy?

"Nobody knows. Baum wrote her as a generic child, with few descriptors, and never gave her a specific age. She could be as young as five or as old as twelve if you go by the illustrations in the books. In the 1902 stage adaptation, she was probably quite a bit older, as some of the characters expressed a romantic interest in her. In The Movie, Judy Garland was sixteen during filming (by the time the film premiered, she'd turned seventeen), but her costume included a corset to flatten her bosom so as to make her appear younger (studio publicity of the day usually gave the character's age as twelve). An earlier film adaptation from 1925 had Dorothy celebrating her eighteenth birthday -- and discovering that she was a lost princess of Oz! In The Wiz on Broadway, Stephanie Mills was in her teens (but played her a bit younger), while in the film version, Dorothy was played by Diana Ross and was twenty-four (!). Fairuza Balk was ten when she made Return to Oz. And in the novel Visitors from Oz, author Martin Gardner gives her age as seventeen (but this book is considered apocryphal by many Oz scholars). Best guess on how old she is in the books? In The Lost Princess of Oz it is stated that Betsy Bobbin is a year older than Dorothy, and Trot is a year younger. Then, in The Giant Horse of Oz, it is supposed to say that Trot is ten years old (but I have been unable to find the reference). If that's the case, then Dorothy would be eleven, and since nobody ages in Oz who doesn't want to, she's probably going to remain eleven.")



  1. the "straight man" information was interesting! definitely applies to the film & cool screen captures =]

  2. I agree, and I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY ORGINIALLY WANTED HER BLOND AND DOLLED UP. That would have destroyed the entire movie completely. And overall, magnificent job Jo!

  3. I loved this! I learned so much!