Monday, September 19, 2011

The Wizard of Oz (1939) ****

So, how does one of the greatest films of all-time come to be classified as a “Guilty Pleasure” by me? Well, it goes something like this…

Imagine if you will a group of adults sitting in a darkened room watching a 60-inch plasma screen TV with the sound of the film on mute and the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon blaring from the surround sound.  Perhaps some adult beverages and other illicit items have been consumed and you are feeling pretty good…and then something happens when Dorothy (Judy Garland) starts singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and you don’t hear her voice.  We won’t call it a flashback or, goodness to Betsy, a “bad trip.” No, we’ll call it a Proust moment…a Remembrance of Things Past, if you will.

My first recollection of watching The Wizard of Oz (1939) finds me wizard-of-oz-dorothy-and-glindaabout age five—curiously enough, about the size of a Munchkin. At the time I was an only child who spent a lot of time talking to Weeble Wobbles and my prized Franco Harris football card.  How mind-bending was it when the black-and-white screen turned to color as Dorothy emerged from the farmhouse into the merry old land of Oz? Aren’t those little people cute…can I, too, represent the Lollipop Guild…I would thank you very sweetly if I might.  Oh, and that beautiful Glinda (Billie Burke)—she does remind me of my beloved Aunt Jean, with her sweet disposition and strawberry blonde hair.  It was a night of amazement—flying monkeys and a horse of a different color—I was hooked. I would spend the next twenty years watching the annual CBS broadcast with my family—every year, no matter what. 

Of course, my perception of the film and its characters changed over that twenty year period. For example, when my mother remarried and I gained not only a step-father but a spiteful step-5280197grandmother, Almira Gulch and the Wicked Witch (Margaret Hamilton) looked just a little bit like her, and my loathing of those characters somehow intensified. At around the age of twelve I stopped being afraid when Dorothy and the gang nervously went into the hall of the great and powerful Oz (Frank Morgan), as well as when they ventured into the haunted forest with those creepy trees—I couldn’t let my two younger brothers think their big sister lacked courage. Then, there were the boyfriends in my mid-teens who wanted to do anything but spend a night watching an old movie with my entire family—they did it, of course, most of them had brains you see. Yes, things changed, but I could still count on that yearly broadcast to bring my family together.

And, then something unbelievably rude happened: CBS stopped airing it in 1998 and TNT/TBS bought the television rights. Yes, we had Cable and could continue to watch if we wanted, but something fundamentally wrong had occurred. CBS showed the film once a year—TBS/TNT showed it several times, year round.  The EVENT was no longer an event…it was just any other film on TV, plus they took way too many commercial breaks. Alas, we stopped watching the film together as a family in our home…and as the film tells us, there is no place like home. 

So, there I would be, sitting on my couch channel surfing and all of the sudden I’d find myself on TNT and hear the Wicked Witch say, “You cursed brat! Look what you've done! I'm melting! melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?” Really? It’s almost over! Curse you CBS!  Is nothing sacred?  I blocked TNT and TBS from my favorite channels on my remote. 

My yearning for the film and its true meaning brought me to the point of despair. The situation had become so desperate that I contemplated doing something unfathwizardofoz1omable: watching the film in a theatre. Yes, when Warner Brothers re-released the film to theatres I wanted—no, I needed—to go.  Oddly enough, I couldn’t find any adults to go with me.  And, then it happened: It really was no miracle. What happened was just this...My eye began to twitch. My skin, to itch. And suddenly I started to unhitch. Just then the Ditz—that’s right, I asked a Tween to go with me.  Now, you must understand, I have no children for a reason: I don’t like them. Perhaps that sounds strange coming from a person who admires a film that opens with a title that reads:

…this story has given faithful service to the Young in Heart; and Time has been powerless to put its kindly philosophy out of fashion. To those of you who have been faithful to it in return...and to the Young in Heart...we dedicate this picture.

Still, I despise children most sincerely. As such, you can only imagine to what depths my despair had descended to ask a child to go see my childhood favorite film.  So, we went. And, to my great surprise, we had a good time. The film truly transcends time and age.  That doesn’t mean I encountered the same feelings I got when I watched it with my family—that is something that can never be recaptured—but it was still a memorable, pleasant experience. It was a cathartic moment.

Now, I no longer block TNT and TBS from my remote, and if I happen upon Oz when the Witch is asking the Scarecrow if he wants to play with fire, I watch it.  Mind you, I find myself looking imagesCA943LZ1around the room to see if my brothers chant along when the guards at the witch’s castle say, “"O-Ee-Yah! Eoh-Ah!" And, it is here that I feel a pang of guilt. Have I betrayed a familial ritual by watching the film alone or with other imbibing adults in the dark? Perhaps…but time marches on and broadcast television changes its schedule.  We will always have those twenty years of things remembered about the wonderful world of Oz—and I will always endure my own private guilty pleasure whenever I watch it.


  1. Kim - I completely enjoyed this reflection on your "guilty pleasure" relationship with "The Wizard of Oz" and it's importance in your life. I'm enchanted. Really. Beautifully done.

  2. Hi Kim - a great review! I so get what you are saying about it being an "even" ( same holds true for "Gone With the Wind" and "It's a Wonderful Life"). And it's so true that, over the years, we develop relationships with certain films. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this film, but the "love" part certainly catches me in an unguarded guilty-pleasure mode!

  3. I like how your behaviour over the scheduling changes on tv made your favourite film a guilty pleasure. This was a fun article to read! :)

    As for the children...Katharine Hepburn once sang, "I like dogs with rabies / I hate babies."

  4. Thank you for this "wonderful wizard" of a post! I share your love for this movie. As a huge Judy Garland fan, The Wizard of Oz holds a special place in my heart (insert Tin Man joke here). I actually have the entire movie memorized, and my friends get a huge kick out of asking me to recite various scenes. I love how the film is loved by so many generations. Unlike you, I adore kids (I'm a preschool teacher)--I can see how the colors of Munchkinland might be thrilling to the sensory-seeking child, while the goodbye scene would be a tearjerker for the adults, evoking memories of things past (to use your analogy!). Thank you again for your insightful and entertaining words!!

  5. It's always those forces beyond our control that bring us guilt. Like the ruby slippers, the power to change that is with us all the time.

    I overheard this conversation between two teenage boys: -
    1st kid: When we play (insert video game name here), why do you always say "I'll get you and your little dog too"?
    2nd kid: (long pause) I don't know. It's something my grandmother says.

    The great traditions are dying.

  6. Kim,
    I have to admit that I came into this review thinking "Oh another OZ review, we all love Oz so what's so bad about admitting that"

    Needless to say I am most pleasantly surprised. Not your typical review but a wonderful look at how the film affects you. I am not one that watches Oz every time it re-airs nor do I even tape it to watch during those times but if I'm flipping channels I'll stop for a few and watch Oz if it's on. I don't think I've watched it from beginning to end in over 10 years. However, if it were to be shown in one of our larger than life theaters here I would be one of the first in line. Of course using your idea of a viewing companion by taking a kid would be the perfect way to see it. There's nothing better than seeing a kids reaction to something, wondering if it's the same as how you're feeling. It is TWOZ after all.

    If they did a re-make of OZ today would you be interested in seeing it? With all of the CGI today which would most likely make it very appealing even though it wouldn't be the original that we all love. A few years ago I wanted to go see the Willy Wonka re-make but I couldn't find anyone willing to go see it (I know, what a shock). The one friend who finally went after much begging and an agreement to buy her ticket and drinks after the show, hated it! She has never let me live it down but that's fine. I guess she didn't have the same reaction to the original that I did. With all that said, sometimes it's best not to re-make an iconic film even if you are trying to recreate that feeling we all had when seeing something so magical for the first time.

    Thanks for sharing your guilty pleasure Kim. I really enjoyed your post.

  7. Kim, I wondered how you were going to posture THE WIZARD OF OZ as a guilty pleasure! What I really liked about your post was how you described your changing "relationship" with OZ. For me, it's always been an unfaltering relationship (though I was bummed when CBS stopped showing it, too). However, I've experienced "difficult relationships" with other movies. By the way, I tried to watch Oz with the Pink Floyd album in the background and just didn't get it. Ditto for playing the "Mister Ed" song backwards...

  8. Kim, I had no idea you were the W.C. Fields of the CMBA! He hated children too! LOL! Perhaps I will start calling you W.C. -- well, maybe not. If we were in England, that would have a rather unpleasant connotation....

    Like Rick, I wondered what you would say about WOZ as a GP (ah, the age of abbreviations). You almost had me in tears about the yearly event and how it died. I miss that too, very much, family together and knowing that so many other families were watching it at the same time. We don't really have that kind of cultural togetherness with TV anymore, except maybe sports (yuck). In my case, being older than you, I always saw WOZ on a black and white TV when I was little. Then we got our first color TV - what a fabulous surprise when Dorothy opened the door and there was Oz, in all that gorgeous color!

    I really love your choice and the reasons behind it. And you had me on the floor with "What happened was just this...My eye began to twitch. My skin, to itch. And suddenly I started to unhitch. Just then the Ditz—that’s right, I asked a Tween to go with me." Wonderful stuff! Kudos, Kim!

  9. Kim, I have always had a steady, loving relationship with "Oz." But I have seen other films that I have found I have liked or disliked more than I originally thought on a later reviewing. If I only had a brain I'd welcome you to Munchkin Land and remind you there's no place like home.

  10. Eve (or can I call you Patty, I never know), any comment that comes from you is truly appreciated. I'm glad you were enchanted.

    FlickChick, GWTW was a relationship I developed later in life. My mother and aunt were the only ones who watched it for years and then they pulled me in when I got older. Thanks for your comments.

    Katie, I love that quote from KH! Thanks for reading.

    Backlots, you may be shocked to read this (being a teacher yourself), but I taught middle school for five years. LOL! They absolutely loved me...I became a confirmation sponsor for had her famous artist mother devote a canvas painting to me...countless others invited me to birthday parties (even in the summer months!), and I ALWAYS had to make several trips out to my car at Christmas and the last day of school due to an enormous bounty of gifts. On my last day of teaching (and the last day of school to boot) 90% of my class cried--as did I. Sounds strange doesn't it? I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the classroom with them, it was outside where they became intolerable. Does the make any sense? Perhaps it's a control issue. Still, I always get a chuckle out of it! Thanks for reading...I hope I didn't shock you too much.

    Caftan (is that what you are wearing in your pic?), that's a sad story about those boys playing video games! Thanks for your comments.

    Page, no, I wouldn't want to see a remake--that would make me physically ill. Willy Wonka's remake wasn't too bad for me, since I'd only recently seen the original before I saw the Depp/Burton venture. Thanks for your comments.

    Rick, all I can ask is this: In what state did you watch it with Pink Floyd playing in the background?

    Becky, almost in tears? I obviously failed in my mission! I'm glad you got my song reference...I was afraid it would go unnoticed and I worked really hard on the rhyme scheme! No mention of Proust from my classic book lover? For shame! As for the WCF issue,,,see above comment! LOL!

    Toto, you live! I'd most appreciatively visit you in Munchinkinland. Thanks for reading.

  11. Oh dear, I have apparently been a moron and not recognized a Proust reference -- I still don't! I am forced to admit that I have not studied Proust very much. What did I miss?

    I LOVED your song -- how could it go unnoticed? And please don't feel you failed in your mission just because I am an overly-emotional sob-factory the last few days. It is not a tragic feeling I had, but a bittersweet one. Otherwise, you had me laughing. And BTW, the song of the guards at the castle has always been the favorite thing for my siblings and me. It's great! (Love the lion's tail waving out the back of the coat!)

  12. Like Rick, I wondered how you were going to have THE WIZARD OF OZ as a guilty pleasure. Then I thought about how most musicals where on the fluffy side, but.. with the film THE WIZARD OF OZ, the story does have a serious side, like when the Witch informs Dorothy that, "The last to go will see the first three go before her...and her mangy little dog too!" Scary stuff!!

    So, you really suprised me with how the movie and characters changed over time for you. A very different and entertaining review. Good job!!

  13. Thanks for sharing such lovely memories of watching OZ as a child. I also remember those yearly EVENTS on CBS; but now, in the DVD and cable age, OZ watching is not quite the same anymore. Still, for us of, shall we say, a certain age, OZ will always exist as a wonderful Technicolor memory in a corner of our minds. Really enjoyed your beautifully written review.

  14. I have no children for a reason: I don’t like them.

    And that's when I needed to order a new keyboard.

    I have to admit, The Wizard of Oz is an unusual choice as a "guilty pleasure"...but after seeing the movie ad infinitum for so many years (I watch it with my ten-year-old niece, since she's usually around for the holidays) and reading your review I can see it -- there are so many things in it that I missed the first several times, things like the fact that all the Wicked Witch of the West wanted what was rightfully hers (her sis' slippers) and that Glinda is not a good witch, she's a (expletive deleted). (I could have gone home any time I wanted? Come here and let me give you a necklace of fingers...) Loved reading about your history with the was a super review.

  15. I wondered why The Wizard of Oz is a guilty pleasure. You hooked me with the odd choice! :)

    I would imagine seeing it on a large screen would almost transport you onto the yellow brick road.

    I'm glad you were able to enjoy it in any format.

    - Java

  16. Becky, you missed a lot of thought-provoking words! Shame on you, classic book lover.

    Dawn, thanks for reading. I'm glad I didn't upset anyone with this being a guilty pleasure.

    GrandOM: thanks for reading and I'm glad you liked the reflection. Come by more often.

    Ivan, while there are no disclaimers on my site, please no that we don't reimburse people for things that might happen to their computers while reading this blog. LOL! Glad you liked the review.

    Java, it was a surreal moment watching it on the big screen. It took a few minutes to adjust. Thanks for reading.

  17. Kim, have you ever seen a weirder comment than the asian gibberish? What the hell is up with that?

    1. Um, I think that comment was strange and I removed it. What a find even stranger is that you saw it from a post that is more than four months old. I think I'll ask you if you really sent this, because I think someone has been hacked.

  18. That was a very interesting review, Kim. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A very personel perspective and truly a Proust moment. Everybody knows The Wizard of Oz, but only you can tell of your personal experience with the film. Nicely done.

  19. I watched it on CBS (I didn't remember what network) and I remember it being around Easter? April? Am I right? I still remember that when Dorothy starts on the yellow brick road and waves goodbye to the munchkins that it would always be a commercial break!

    I never tried the Pink Floyd thing, what did you think of it?

    1. I always remember it being on in the fall (November was the big month). There were a lot of commercial breaks, but that was good for popcorn and bladders. As for the Pink Floyd thing, it is a holiday tradition for me and Mr. Clooney.