Kansas farm-girl Dorothy (Judy Garland) is feeling very sad because a nasty neighbour wants to have her dog Toto - her only friend - put to sleep. She is planning to run away when a tornado blows away the farm-house. When it comes to ground, Dorothy finds she's in the Land of Oz. She sets off to find the Wizard, who will help her to get home. On the way she meets a Scarecrow who needs a brain, a Tin Man who wants a heart, a Cowardly Lion who desperately needs courage, the Good Fairy of the North (who, she hopes, will save her from the Wicked Witch of the West) and lots of Munchkins. Her many adventures show her that magical is wonderful, but home is best.
Once you see The Wizard of Oz, ideas and images such as The Yellow Brick Road, the heartless Tin Man, the scaredy Lion and 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' will be with you forever. The songs (by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg) fitted perfectly into the plot, advancing the surprise-a-minute story-line. The role of the Wizard was originally written with W.C. Fields in mind but, when MGM didn't offer enough money, he apparently told them he was too busy writing the script for You Can't Cheat an Honest Man!
Frank Morgan plays the roles of the Wizard, Professor Marvel, the Gatekeeper, the cab driver with the "horse of a different color" who performs a musical number, and the Wizard's Guard.
Many of the Wicked Witch of the West's scenes were either trimmed or deleted entirely, as Margaret Hamilton's performance was thought too frightening for audiences.
During the haunted forest scene, several actors playing the Winged Monkeys were injured when the piano wires suspending them snapped, dropping them several feet to the floor of the sound stage.
Terry (Toto) was stepped on by one of the witch's guards and had a double for two weeks. A second double was obtained, because it resembled Toto more closely. Judy Garland very much wanted to adopt Terry after the two spent so much time together shooting the film. Unfortunately, the owner of the dog wouldn't give her up, and Terry went on to a long career in films. She died in 1945 and was buried in her trainer's yard.
The horses in Emerald City palace were colored with Jell-O crystals. The relevant scenes had to be shot quickly, before the horses started to lick it off.
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 immigrate and escape the Nazis. Professional singers dubbed most of their voices as many of the Midgets couldn't speak English and/or sing well. Only two are heard speaking with their real-life voices - the ones who give Dorothy flowers after she has climbed into the carriage.
The location of the Munchkins' star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is 6915 Hollywood Blvd.
The film had five different directors. Richard Thorpe shot several weeks of material, none of which appears in the final film. The studio found his work unsatisfactory and appointed George Cukor temporarily. Cukor did not actually film any scenes; he merely modified Judy Garland's and Ray Bolger's makeup. Victor Fleming took over from him and filmed the bulk of the movie, until he was assigned to Gone with the Wind (1939). King Vidor filmed the remaining sequences, mainly the black and white parts of the film set in Kansas. Producer Mervyn LeRoy also directed some transitional scenes.
Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley had to eat their meals in their dressing rooms, as the make-up they wore frightened the other diners in the MGM cafeteria. Ray Bolger commented in an interview on the reactions that other MGM actors had upon seeing these "weird-looking characters" in the cafeteria.
Bert Lahr's costume weighed 90 pounds.
The House of Winston made a pair of real ruby slippers to celebrate the film's 50th anniversary in 1989. These are valued at $3 million. Some see L. Frank Baum's story containing political and social satire. The little girl from the Midwest (typical American) meets up with a brainless scarecrow (farmers), a tin man with no heart (industry), a cowardly lion (politicians, in particular William Jennings Bryan) and a flashy but ultimately powerless wizard (technology). Although the little people keep telling her to follow the yellow brick road (gold standard), in the end it's her silver (in the original story) slippers (silver standard) that help her get back to the good old days.
Judy Garland later referred to the pint-sized Oscar Juvenile Award she won at 1939's Academy Awards as the Munchkin Award.
The line "Fly my pretties, fly" doesn't actually appear in the movie. The Wicked Witch of the West actually says, "Fly, Fly, Fly."
Nikko, the name of the head winged monkey, is the name of the Japanese town which houses the shrine featuring the famous ‘Hear No Evil/See No Evil/Speak No Evil’ monkeys.
Wizard of Oz: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!
Dorothy: There's no place like home.
Dorothy: Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
Wicked Witch of the West: I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too.
Dorothy: Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!
Wizard of Oz: A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.
GOOFS AND BLUNDERS
The shadow of the camera crew is visible as it pans across the nest of the munchkins hatching in Munchkinland.
The studio lights are reflected in the window as it blows out of its frame toward Dorothy and knocks her unconscious.
The studio lights are occasionally seen reflected in the shiny Emerald City floor.
Several times the studio lights are reflected in the crystal balls for Professor Marval and the Wicked Witch of the West.
When they awake in the field of poppies, a crew member can be seen running under the flowers downstage left.
The Wizard of Oz belongs in that exclusive category of films capable of equally enchanting children and adults. Review by James Berardinelli of Reelviews.
The Wizard of Oz isn't personally one of my favorite pictures, but it's hard to criticize a film which did so much to open up the possibilities of movies. In a sense, most subsequent fantasy and sci-fi films are tributes, if not remakes of Oz. It's not so much a kids' movie as an adults' version of a kids' movie, but that's OK – some of the best books and movies of all time were written for children, but with adult overtones. A morality play with sophisticated touches, The Wizard of Oz is a staple of family cinema and it's likely to be part of our collective consciousness for a long time. Reviewed by David Bezanson of Filmcritic.