1939 - Dir: Victor Fleming
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 31st October, 2009 (Family matinee)
First of all - rest assured that this film IS in colour. It starts out in black and white but after a few minutes all will be revealed. It’s just a little cinema magic trick - and there are plenty more to come!
For those of us who have grown up knowing this film it seems impossible that it’s seventy years old this year. There’s only one member of the FeckenOdeon’s Committee who was alive when the film was made... and even he would have been too young to be taken to see it. We’ve all enjoyed it on the telly but very few of us have experienced it on the big screen - the way children originally saw it in 1939.
The world in 1939 was a very different place. War was about to be declared and people had just endured a recession that made our recent financial crisis look tiny in comparison. The plight of Dorothy at the beginning of the film would have been familiar to many in the audience. The little girl is lonely, living with poor relatives (we are never told what happened to her parents). Her little dog is all she has and now someone is trying to take it away from her.. but then she and we are transported into a magic land. We all escape from our daily woes and worries for a while. What an experience it must have been to leave the drabness, gloom and poverty, settle into a warm seat and immerse yourself in the colourful fantasy of Oz. It was an exquisite and extravagent fantasy - the very best that Hollywood could afford - and it was based one of America’s favourite books. Small wonder that the nation and the world loved Oz. All this wouldn't be half as impressive if The Wizard hadn’t gone on to work his magic on successive generations.
The film became a Christmas institution on television and has been reprinted and reshown the world over - a resilient 70 year old with a big future!
· Colour films were rare in 1939 and Technicolor was an experimental process. Technicians found that the yellow brick road came out green in early parts of the filming and had to be repainted to make it look yellow.
· The Munchkins are portrayed by the Singer Midgets, named not for their musical abilities, but rather for Leo Singer, their manager. The troupe came from Europe, and a number of the Munchkins took advantage of the trip to remain in America and escape the Nazis.
· Toto’s real name was Terry. Judy Garland wanted to keep her at the end of filming but her owners refused and she went on to star in another six movies.
· It was originally intended to use a real lion to play the Cowardly Lion - for some reason the plan was abandoned and the lion was dropped - a fate also suffered by the original candidate for the part of Dorothy - Shirley Temple.