…and the quest to see everything

Judy Overload: Wizard of Oz

ph. MGM

Frank L. Baum‘s book The Wizard of Oz was a downer when it reveals that Oz is a fake. Either he’s posing as a wizard to stop the anarchy that the bad witches represent or the picture show is his way of fitting into the magical world. The adaptation’s loyal to the source material, as Dorothy’s (Judy Garland) shitty life in the middle of nowhere changes when a hurricane transports her into the magical world where, among many things, she meets Glinda the Good Witch of the North. ‘I beg your pardon, but, I’ve never heard of a beautiful witch before.’

She’s not that pretty. And for a good witch she’s not hesitant to make a girl walk alone in heels with three strange men. Or the ‘munchkin’ explosion – this is the kind of high quality film criticism you can expect from me – at ‘The Witch is Dead’ number, one of the munchkins being a very tall child. There was like a hundred of them MGM, you can’t give up now! Yes, seeing this as a young adult, I couldn’t help but snark at some of the film’s dream logic or gay innuendo.

But as the colour sets in, the performances become livelier. Matt Mazur wrote about Margaret Hamilton’s work, but my MVP is Ray Bolger. Playing Hunk, his klutziness during the BW parts dialed down to 1930s bit-part standards, but when Dorothy meets Bolger as Scarecrow his physicality astounds. Along with this technicolour cast he is more believable, ushering a new era in cinema. Colour doesn’t hide anything. This should have won Best Picture despite the competition, because it presents a challenge for movies to reach new heights.

That doesn’t mean it abandons all ‘older’ methods and cues. The ‘oh-we-oh’ tune sounds like something you’d hear in a film half a decade earlier than this one but it doesn’t make the film feel dated. The way the film can borrow little hints from older and newer styles is simply magical.

Speaking of Judy Garland, Judgment of Nuremberg is playing at the Lightbox today at 6:30. Vincent Fleming’s The Wizard of  Oz is part of TIFF in the Park showing selected musical films. Tomorrow’s is The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

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5 responses

  1. Would you consider me a heretic if I say that her work in JUDGMENT FROM NUREMBERG is probably my favourite performance of hers?

    July 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    • Dammits where were you when I was debating on whether to go watch Judgment at Nuremberg on the big screen? But then it’ll probably be on TCM next month or something 😦

      Sorry for the tone. To answer your question, I’ll believe that she’s been better after this movie e.g. A Star is Born ’54.

      July 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm

  2. Oh, well yeah, A STAR IS BORN is classic Judy.

    July 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    • I need to see “A Star is Born”, badly.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:05 am

  3. I need to see both versions, just to see how Garland and Gaynor stack up on each other.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:27 am

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