Original release: August 29th, 1939
Running time: 103 minutes
Director: Victor Fleming
Writers: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, L. Frank Baum
Cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton
Adventures are important. They’re food for the soul and mind. A change of scenery, meeting new people, and facing new challenges can help us to grow on a personal level, and shape us into the people we want to be. They can also help us to appreciate what we already have; sometimes nothing’s better than sitting on the sofa with your friends and a cup of tea. The first step can be very difficult though, and we might need a bit of a push to get it going. The world is a massive place, as scary as it is exciting, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know…
In Kansas, farm-girl Dorothy (Judy Garland) dreams of travelling “somewhere over the rainbow”. With her best pal Toto in mortal danger from the mean old Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton), she runs away. As she’s returning home, a tornado hits, and she’s unable to join her Auntie Em (Clara Blandick) and Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin) in the storm shelter. She’s hit by a window shutter, and when she wakes, her house is spinning up, up, and away, landing in the magical world of Oz.
Once there, she meets the good witch Glinda (Billie Burke), the Wicked With of the West (Margaret Hamilton), Tin Man (Jack Haley), Lion (Bert Lahr), and Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), and she embarks on the adventure she’s been dreaming of. Dorothy’s time in Oz is her first time away from home, and away from her family. It’s a rite of passage almost, treading the fine line between dependence and independence. She wants to pull away from the familial embrace, but isn’t quite ready to have the apron strings cut completely. When she’s in Oz, the place over the rainbow she’s been singing of, all she wants to do is be able to go home.
From a black and white farmhouse to the bustle of Oz, saturated in colour and bursting with song and life, Dorothy’s quite right to feel overwhelmed. She learns different isn’t always better, and that you should be careful with what you wish for. She’s also learning that you can have too much of a good thing, and that you don’t need to commit to just one thing in life.
It’s completely acceptable to try a little bit of everything. That’s not to say her time in Oz is a bad thing. It’s a radically new experience for her, one full of eccentricities, differences, and challenges, and she discovers that with a little bit of help form her new friends, she can step up to the plate and be the strength they all need to carry on with their quest. She is given the opportunity to experience life without the interference of her family and the chance to succeed on her own terms.
Dorothy relies on her new friends just as much as they rely on her, and it’s this strong support network that gets them all through their time in Oz. One message we can all take away from Oz is that we’re all stronger than we think. The Lion is already brave, the Tin Man is already capable of love, and the Scarecrow is smarter than he knows. We’re all filled with the qualities we covet in others, and maybe we just some help us to draw out our best versions of ourselves. All we need to do is try; the real world will still be waiting when we get back.
Frances likes words and pictures, regardless of media. She finds great comfort and escape in film, and is attracted to anything character-driven with a strong story. Through these stories, she will find meaning in the world. Three movies that Frances thinks are really good for this are You and Me and Everyone We Know (Miranda July), I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK (Chan-Wook Park), and How I Ended This Summer (Alexei Popogrebsky).
When Frances grows up, she would like to write words and make pictures and have cool people recognise her on the street and tell her that they really enjoy her work.
She can be found overreacting and over-caffeinated on Twitter @penny_face, a childhood moniker from her grandmother owing to her gloriously round face.