‘The Wizard of Oz’ Still Teaching Timeless Lessons 80 Years Later

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All images are courtesy of Danny Leddin’s “Wizard of Oz” home collection.

Yesterday, I took my brother, Danny, to see his favorite movie on the big screen. Anyone who knows Danny, knows how much he loves The Wizard of Oz, so when I saw that TCM and Fathom Events were bringing the film back to theaters for the 80th anniversary, I had to get tickets. Despite the fact that Danny watches parts of this movie almost daily, it had been a long time since I had seen the entire film. Towards the end, I found myself with tears in my eyes as the purity of this whimsical film washed over me as if it were my first time seeing it.

The biggest takeaway is, happiness can be found in your own backyard. Partially meaning that you don’t always have to travel far and wide to find your place in the world. The other half of this, is that everything you need, is already within you. The Scarecrow felt lesser because he didn’t have a literal brain, but was able to come up with helpful information while on the journey to Oz. The TinMan did not have a physical heart, but showed compassion as he was concerned for the well-being of the group, particularly Dorothy, throughout the course of the story. And the Lion, fearing he has no courage, manages to face his fears to save his friend.

 

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While most of us have actual brains and hearts (and some of us have courage,) we often focus on the pieces of ourselves that are missing. The true beauty of this film is that it proves you have the missing pieces within you, you just have to be willing to look for them and work for their emergence.

There’s a reason that this film has stood the test of time, and it’s only partially due to the fact that it was a Technicolor triumph at the time of its release. The bigger reason is that the story’s message and characters can resonate with each of us, as we’re on a life-long journey to be the best that we can.

I encourage you to watch this movie, especially if you haven’t seen it as an adult. Find the message that speaks to you, and use it as a means to be kinder to yourself and to others.

 

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Okay, now that the sappy stuff is out of the way, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about this movie on a Hollywood level. Can you imagine what a feat this must have been in 1939? Seeing something go from sepia to full color was probably a mind-blowing experience for audience members.

The Wizard of Oz is what comes to mind when I hear the phrase “movie magic,” and it is the exact reason that I had to drag Danny out of the theater at the end – he was under the spell of this beautiful, fantastical film and didn’t want to leave.

With 80 years comes a lot of stories and memories, many of which can be found on DVD special features (some available on YouTube) and in the trivia section of IMDB. I took the liberty of pulling some of the lesser known tidbits about the film and included them below. Comment and share your favorite stories/memories of this movie!

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  • When the wardrobe department was looking for a coat for Frank Morgan (Prof. Marvel / The Wizard), it decided it wanted one that looked like it had once been elegant but had since “gone to seed.” They visited a second-hand store and purchased an entire rack of coats, from which Morgan, the head of the wardrobe department and director Victor Fleming chose one they felt gave off the perfect appearance of “shabby gentility.” One day, while he was on set in the coat, Morgan idly turned out one of the pockets and discovered a label indicating that the coat had been made for L. Frank Baum. Mary Mayer, a unit publicist for the film, contacted the tailor and Baum’s widow, who both verified that the coat had at one time been owned by the author of the original “Wizard of Oz” books. After the filming was completed, the coat was presented to Mrs. Baum.
  • 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.
  • In the famous “Poppy Field” scene (in which Dorothy fell asleep) the “snow” used in those camera shots was made from 100% industrial-grade chrysotile asbestos–despite the fact that the health hazards of asbestos had been known for several years.
  • The day of Judy Garland’s death there was a tornado in Kansas.
  • Judy Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, was married to Jack Haley’s (the TinMan) son, Jack Haley Jr., from 1974-79.
  • Despite the fact she played an adversary to Judy Garland’s Dorothy, Margaret Hamilton and Garland got along well on set. Garland showed off a dress to Hamilton that Garland was going to wear on stage for her graduation. However, Louis B. Mayer sent Garland on a tour with Mickey Rooney and Garland never got a chance to wear her dress on stage with her classmates. Hamilton was so angry she called Mayer and yelled at him.
  • Jack Haley and Bert Lahr are known to have written some of their own dialogue for the Kansas sequence.
  • The original costume of The Cowardly Lion that Bert Lahr wears sold for $3.1 million in November 2014 to a collector.
  • The “steam” that shoots out of the Tin Woodsman’s hat is actually talcum powder. This is obvious since it falls rather than just disappearing. The steam shooting from the Tin Man’s cap startles Toto, who runs out of the shot.
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