March 10th…“WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE AS A CHILD AND WHY?”
Small hands covered my little boy eyes in fright, yet, I couldn’t help but spread my fingers open, just a crack, to peek through and see the latest scene from the 1939 classic, “The Wizard Of Oz”. I was tantalized, transfixed, terrified and tickled by all the components that combine to orchestrate any story into a sort of magic that captures and transports you into another realm of life experience other than your own.
From the fearsome, powerful tornado that whisked Dorothy and Toto (her dog) away to the Land Of Oz, to the petite Munchkins that were so cute as they spoke or sung in their high voices and dressed so colorfully in their extravagant costumes. From start to finish, this film was easily my very favorite as a little boy….and even today, is up there in the Top Ten of my adult movie listing.
In my own little life and that of our son, in later years, I experienced and saw that children tend to take their world around them very literally. So, when it came to watching this amazing movie for the first time or two, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of all that transpired in Dorothy Gale’s (Judy Garland’s) life in Kansas and then in Oz.
Take the tornado scene, for instance. Having been raised in the “tornado alley” of Minnesota, I heard plenty of horror stories from my parents about the horrendous power wielded by a wild tornado wind. I even saw a photo once of a dead cow after a tornado had passed through a local farm. There was a 4″x 4″ wooden beam shot through the cow, just like a giant arrow, by tornado winds. I stared in amazement at that photograph! Therefore, when I saw that tornado in the film (even though it was only a muslin sock on the miniature set), I was convinced that it really DID lift up Dorothy and her entire house and took them, literally, over the rainbow to Oz.
When an actress plays her part so perfectly, one forgets that she’s just acting and is entranced that she really IS who she portrays. Such was the case with Miss Margaret Hamilton who played the part of The Wicked Witch Of The West. Her every move and facial nuance struck a deep fear within me. To my little boy’s conscience, she WAS the epitome of evil. In reality though, as I found in later life, Miss Hamilton was a gentle, Christian soul who loved children very much (she was a certificated Kindergarten teacher in her early years) and even taught Sunday School at her church.
Still a fan, and having grown into my young adult years, I came across a book about my favorite movie that was so fun to read. “The Making Of The Wizard Of Oz” by Aljean Harmetz is an excellent source of behind the scenes stories of who was in the film and stories of what happened during filming. Take, for instance, “The Horse Of A Different Color” scene. “JELLO” powder crystals were used to make the horse change color in each scene of that song. The only tasty problem was, the horse kept wanted to lick off the “JELLO” 😉
I’m sure every generation has their film of reference, their story of fantasy that imprints special moments upon their conscience. “The Wizard Of Oz” was that moment for me. The uncountable times I’ve seen it, over the years, does not lessen its magic; it only opens an opportunity to investigate the joys once again for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.