The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been an American literary classic since it was published in 1900. Adaptations of the popular story, more typically known as The Wizard of Oz, have been far and wide, including sequels, prequels, silent movies, large Hollywood productions, animation and three smash Broadway Musicals including “WICKED,” which is currently depicting the backstory of the witches of Oz and packing them in nightly at New York’s Gershwin Theatre.
By far the most successful and beloved representation of the story is MGM studio’s 1939 classic movie musical starring Judy Garland. In honor of the film’s upcoming 75th anniversary, a restored 3-D preservation has been making the rounds at area theatres.
While the 3-D enhancement cannot in anyway improve upon perfection, the experience of seeing the film, once again for so many of us, on an IMAX screen turns out to be a truly special treats. We are reminded yet again how stunning the set, art and production design remains while marveling at the beauty and detail of what the studio’s finest talents achieved.
Now, every facet of the Wizard’s Throne room, the Lion and Witch’s haunted forests and Munchkin Land can be seen in full detail – and the results are breathtaking. Don’t forget that every setting was created from scratch on MGM’s vast sound stages. The poppy field alone took up two of the studio’s largest stages when a removable wall that divided them was opened.
The soundtrack, too, has gone through restoration and the results are incredible. Enough cannot be said for the outstanding musical score by Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg and Herbert Stothart respectively; all of whom won well-deserved Academy Awards for their work.
Of course, there is also the outstanding cast, each perfectly suited to their roles and giving iconic performances including Judy Garland, in the role which made her a star, and what may be the finest sustained performance by a teen actress in Hollywood history. Then there was the loose limbed clowning of Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Jack Haley’s sensitive song and dance Tin Woodsman, Frank Morgan’s blustering Professor Marvel/Wizard, Billie Burke’s dithery and elegant Glinda, Margaret Hamilton’s truly terrifying Wicked Witch of the West and even Toto, too. Second only to Garland is Broadway legend Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion. Lahr’s casting in this film is truly heavenly. Just watching him work comedic magic with his constantly straying tail is worth the price of admission.
Here we have a perfect example of the finest talents at Hollywood’s greatest studio during the height of the golden era surpassing even themselves. When Margaret Hamilton asked the producers why they were spending so much money on the project, she was told that the studio planned to re-release the film once more after ten years had past. “Ten years,” she questioned? “Who would want to see this movie in ten years?” Seventy years later, The Wizard of Oz, 3-D or no 3-D, remains as fresh and wonderful as if it had been made yesterday.