The Wizard of Oz

Produced by MGM, released 1939 by MGM, 35mm Technicolor negative, 1.37:1 Academy screen ratio, mono sound, 112 mins.; re-released 1949, 1956; TV showings were frequent after 1956 making this film the most watched movie of all time; Laserdisc released 1989; theatrical re-release 1998 of restored print; DVD released 1998 by MGM

1900 book from LC
1901 ad from LC
poster from LC
poster from IMDb

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Lyman Frank Baum was born near Syracuse, New York, in 1856, and moved to South Dakota in 1887 where he edited a weekly newspaper in Aberdeen until 1891. He saw firsthand the farm revolt that would grow into the Populist movement. He moved to Chicago and saw firsthand the depression that began in 1893. he was a lifelong Democrat and marched in parades for William Jennings Bryan in 1896. He continued to support Bryan and his anti-imperialism in the 1900 campaign. He wanted to write stories that would, he said, "bear the stamp of our times and depict the progressive fairies of today," and in 1899 wrote the fairy tale of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The book reflects the 1896 election that pitted a Republican East against a Democratic West (in the book the Wicked Witches are East and West) and gold vs. silver (the yellow brick road and the silver slippers) and common man vs the rich (the Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion represent farmer, labor, Bryan). Dorothy (who represents the common man) and her little group march to the Emerald City (as Coxey's Army marched to the Capital). The Wicked Witch of the West used her powers to stop Dorothy, including Winged Monkeys (the Indians) whose King says "Once we were a free people, living happily in the great forest, flying from tree to tree, eating nuts and fruit, and doing just as we pleased without calling anybody master" but this "was many years ago, long before Oz came out of the clouds to rule over this land" (Oz was the President). The monkeys do the bidding, good or bad, of the holder of the Golden Cap (white man's money and power). Innocent Dorothy is imprisoned by the Wicked Witch but wins freedom with a bucket of water (irrigation freed the farmers of the plains from drought). The Wizard flees in a hot air balloon (politicians were full of "humbug" and deluded the common man with false promises) leaving Dorothy to find her own way home to ease the suffering of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry (the common man triumphs due to his/her goodness and selflessness).

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revised 11/19/03 by Steven Schoenherr | Baum | Victor Fleming's Wizard | Filmnotes