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My Analysis of the Film "The Wizard of Oz"

Updated on July 23, 2017

"The Wizard of OZ" Film

Introduction

The Wizard of Oz film: My analysis of its contextual information, story/plot, aesthetic choices, and social/personal impact, including areas that work together to develop the theme of the movie.

Contextual information

Film title: The Wizard of Oz

Directors: Victor Fleming, Mervyn LeRoy, King Vidor, George Cukor, & Norman Taurog

Cinematographer: Harold Rosson

Major Actors/Actresses: Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, Frank Morgan as Marvel/Wizard of Oz, Ray Bolger as Hunk/Scarecrow, Jack Haley as Hickory Twicker/Tin Woodman, Bert Lahr as Zeke/Cowardly Lion, Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch, Margaret Hamilton as Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West, Charles Grapewin as Uncle Henry, Pat Walshe as Nikko, & Clara Blandick as Aunt Em.

The actors Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, and Margaret Hamilton each played two parts. The first character listed for each was family, friends, and neighbors of Dorothy in Kansas. The second character listed for each of these actors/actresses were their characters’ names in the Land of Oz.

Year of release: 1939

Story wrote by L. Frank Baum & Noel Langley

Type of film: American classic film (family)

Genre: Fantasy Film

Sub-Genre: Musical

Story/Plot

Story/Plot

A film’s story is what is happening in a movie. A film’s plot is how what happens in a movie happens. (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011)

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and Noel Langley, which was produced in 1939 is categorized in the fantasy genre. This film is a classic. Television broadcasts of The Wizard of Oz began in 1956, which made this film one of America’s all-time favorites. Since its first airing on television, this movie has been shown annually.

Summary: Dorothy, a young, restless, orphaned girl, who is being raised by her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. Together, they live on their Kansas farm. On the farm, there are two farm hands, too. Dorothy has a little dog, Toto, who she loves. Dorothy and her dog are inside their farmhouse when the tornado sweeps through the house and takes it up into the air with Dorothy and Toto inside the farmhouse. The house whirls and twirls in the sky. After traveling a great distance, the house finally lands. Dorothy steps out of the house, and cannot believe her eyes. She is definitely no longer in Kansas. Instead, she is in a colorful, magical, mystical, adventure land. When Dorothy’s house settles down on the ground, it lands on and kills the evil ruler of the Munchkins – who are the little people who live in Munchkin Country. This evil ruler is also known as the Wicked Witch of the East. The Munchkins are very happy, singing songs and praising Dorothy for having killed the Wicked Witch of the East. The Good Witch of the North, Glinda steps up and greets Dorothy. She gives Dorothy a pair of ruby red shoes. They are the shoes that the Wicked Witch of the East was wearing when Dorothy’s house landed on top and killed her. These shoes are said to be magical shoes. Dorothy is told that she will need to go to the Emerald City where the Wizard of Oz is and ask him for help in getting her and Toto back home to Kansas. Glinda, the Good Witch, kisses Dorothy on her forehead. This is a magical kiss that is to keep Dorothy safe from any trouble.

On Dorothy’s way down the Yellow Brick Road, she meets Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion. All three of them go with Dorothy and Toto to see the Wizard of Oz. They each have a wish that they want the Wizard to grant them. Dorothy and Toto want to go home to their Kansas home and family. The Scarecrow wants a brain. The Tin Woodman wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion wants courage. On their way along the Yellow Brick Road, this group sees many strange looking characters that can do unexpected things. They talk with some of the characters, and others they just go on by.

Dorothy, her new friends, and Toto, finally arrive in Oz. Dorothy asks to see the Wizard. The Wizard tells Dorothy and her group that they must kill the Wicked Witch of the West before their wishes can be granted. On the way to find this Wicked Witch of the West, the group encounters many obstacles that the witch is sending out to keep them from reaching her. This Wicked Witch even has a crystal ball that she looks into and sees exactly where Dorothy and her entourage are and what they are doing. The group arrives at the Wicked Witch’s house. The Wicked Witch gets a hold of one of Dorothy’s ruby red shoes. The Wicked Witch knows that Dorothy’s ruby red shoes have magical powers. Dorothy becomes angry about the Wicked Witch taking her shoes that Glinda had given her. Dorothy then grabs a bucket of water and throws that water on the Wicked Witch of the West. The water causes the Wicked Witch to melt. Dorothy is then able to recover her ruby red shoes.

Dorothy with her three new friends and little Toto manages to get the help of Winged Monkeys to get her and her group back to the Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz. After they arrive in Oz, Dorothy and her group tell the Wizard of Oz that the Wicked Witch of the West is now dead due to Dorothy killing this witch with water -and that now they want their wishes granted.

While Dorothy is trying to speak to the Wizard of Oz, the curtain opens up and exposes Oz for who he is, just an ordinary man, and not a wizard at all. Dorothy and her friends find out that the Wizard is an old man who had arrived in Oz from Omaha, his homeland. He had arrived in a hot air balloon. Since that time, the Wizard has wanted to return to his home and work in a circus once again.

The Wizard grants Dorothy (with Toto), the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion their wishes. The Wizard grants these wishes in the only way he can. He uses symbols to represent the real thing that the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion want. The Wizard is unable to produce the real thing, but the threesome is just as happy and satisfied with the symbols of their wishes that the Wizard gave to them. With these symbols, the Scarecrow now has emotions, the Tin Woodman can think critically, and the Cowardly Lion is now brave. Dorothy asks what about her and Toto. Can he get them back home to their farmhouse in Kansas? The Wizard says he can with his hot air balloon, and that he is going home, too.

Then, the Wizard of Oz gets up once more to say good bye to his people in Emerald City. He is going to take Dorothy and Toto back home to Kansas in a hot air balloon. The Wizard is going back to his home in Omaha. The Wizard, Dorothy, and Toto all get inside the basket of the hot air balloon. Then, Toto scampers out of the hot air balloon basket. Dorothy gets out of the balloon’s basket and runs to catch Toto. By the time Dorothy scoops up little Toto, the hot air balloon has already lifted off and up in the air with only the Wizard in it; and he is on his way back home. Dorothy is sad because she thinks she has missed her only opportunity to get back home to her family, friends, and her Kansas farm.

After seeing if the Winged Monkeys could get the two of them back to Kansas, Dorothy goes to the palace to see Glinda the Good Witch of the North. Glinda tells Dorothy that she has had the power to go home all along. The ruby red shoes can take her anywhere she wants to go, Glinda says, even home. Dorothy tearfully embraces her friends and says good bye to Glinda and her three friends.

Holding tightly to her little dog, Toto, Dorothy clicks the heels of her magical shoes together three times while she is wearing them. Dorothy keeps saying “There is no place like home. There is no place like home. There is no place like home.” Then, she wakes up finding her uncle, aunt, and other members of her family looking down at her. They are very happy that she is finally awake and well. Dorothy is very happy to be back home. It turns out that Dorothy had dreamed about this fantastical Land of Oz and all of the colorful, mystical, magical creations there. The tornado winds had torn the window pane out and struck Dorothy in the head which caused her to become unconscious and have this fantastical dream about her and Toto being in the mystical, magical Land of Oz.

My Understanding of the Fantasy Genre as used in The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz feature-length film is categorized in the fantasy genre. This fantasy film is not about reality, not the dream part of the movie anyway. This is a fun, fantasy film for viewers to watch. The Wizard of Oz is a good film for children. It provides adults with the opportunity to escape from their everyday concerns, and just enjoy the colorful, fantasy world of Oz. In this film, audiences can watch magical characters who can do things that they would not be able to do in real life. There are magical, mystical characters in fantasy films. In the Wizard of Oz, there are magical, mystical characters, such as the witches with their super powers. There is also a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, and a Cowardly Lion who can walk and talk, and even sing. After all, this motion picture is a fantasy film.


#1 THE WIZARD OF OZ

The tale of a young Kansas girl who dreams of a better world "somewhere over the rainbow." When Dorothy is thrust into the eye of a tornado and lands in the fantasy world of Oz...

Aesthetic choices

Mise-en-scene (lighting, sound, music, composition of frame, costuming)

Lighting: High-Key lighting was used in the filming of the Wizard of Oz. This is a common style used in musicals, especially during the classic Hollywood age (College Film & Media Studies, n.d.). In the Land of Oz, scenes were well-lit, bright, colorful, and cheerful most of the time. In the Kansas scenes, the lighting was darker and drab by the use of the sepia-toned filming; and the lighting was not bright during the Kansas scenes.

Sound: Sound bites were added to sound like a tornado coming and the powerful winds blowing during the tornado scene in Kansas. There is also noise added for the sound of the window pane that flew inward and hit Dorothy in the head. Sound bites were also created and added to the film for other things that were flapping and flying around when the wind comes blowing through Kansas. Throughout the scenes in the Land of Oz, sound bites are added. These sounds all provide the sounds that would be heard in reality - if these occurrences were really happening.

Music: Even though this film is listed as number one in the Fantasy genre, it is a wonderful musical, too. There are many songs throughout the film, and they have been integrated into this film very well. The songs never distract the audience from the action that goes on in the movie. Instead, the songs add a wonderful touch to The Wizard of Oz film (Ztrail, 2012). “The film perfectly integrates the musical numbers with the action of the plot, thus, enhancing and advancing the film’s suspenseful narrative.” (Dirks, n.d.)

Composition of frame: In film, the composition of a frame is the placing of the characters where you want them in a scene, and also the placement of everything else (props) that you want in that scene’s shot. The reason for this is to create the effect on the audience that the director desires.

The composition of a frame in a film can help create mood, tension, and foreboding. Composition of a frame is usually best when accomplished in thirds. Then, placing the main characters in that scene exactly where the director wants them to be, and then placing other characters and the props in the film where the director wants them to go. This composition of a frame is to obtain the best results possible for each scene in the film.

In The Wizard of Oz, some scenes are close-ups, such as a close-up of Dorothy’s face. Other scenes have Dorothy with Toto and her three friends skipping down the Yellow Brick Road; and the composition of frame in this scene allows you to get a distance shot that takes in the characters, the Yellow Brick Road, and surroundings. The composition of a frame in a film is very important to the success of each film.

Costuming: Judy Garland was almost17 years old when she played Dorothy in this film. In this movie, she was playing the part of a younger girl. She lost some weight for this film but still needed to have her chest bound as not to appear more mature.

The costumes were designed by Hollywood’s famous one-name designer, Adrian. She deserved an Academy Award for her fabulous work on the costumes in this film. Costumes of all sizes for people of all sizes. In 1939, costumes as in this film were for the stage only and not used in movies. Adrian changed this by going with a tall, pointy, black hat for the witch; extravagant munchkins; a straw-stuffed scarecrow; a funnel-capped, tin man; trees that talked; and even flying monkeys. (Fraley, 2011)

The grown-ups in Kansas wore basic clothing for living in Kansas on a farm, nothing special or fancy or colorful. In the Land of Oz, most everyone was wearing bright, colorful, and cheerful clothing. The Wicked Witch of the West was dressed as a witch in black witch’s clothing with a black, pointed hat; and she was green. The Good Witch of the North, Glinda, was very kind, very pretty, dressed very beautifully; and she held a magical wand.

Editing (cuts and transitions, shots used, angles)

The Wizard of Oz used editing techniques to bring about emotion and suspense without the use of special equipment.

The film begins with Dorothy in Kansas and ends with Dorothy seen back in Kansas. The Kansas scenes are all shot in sepia-tone. The Land of Oz scenes were all shot in color. This shift in color techniques was to depict Dorothy’s feelings of boredom and restlessness living on a Kansas farm (sepia-tone) to the colorful scenes of the Land of Oz depicting adventure and excitement for Dorothy while in the Land of Oz.

At the time of the making of this film, there was a definite lack of computer technology, especially as we know it today. The Wizard of Oz was filmed using linear editing techniques. These editing techniques were used to bring emotion and suspense to this film – without the use of special equipment or computer technology.

When Dorothy’s house lands in Oz and on top of the Wicked Witch of the East, the camera pans outside the door of the house first, then a close up of Dorothy’s face, then back to Dorothy’s surroundings, showing viewers the magical place of Oz where her house landed.

The Wizard of Oz used continuous editing which means that they were using a continuous shot. This mostly occurs when the characters are walking on a path, and the camera pans out.


The Wizard of Oz used a slow change to color, fade-outs, and also dissolve editing techniques that transition the film in ways films no longer do today. Due to computer editing, the editing is obvious at times. We notice these editing flaws especially nowadays because we are used to getting the best in editing techniques today. The film also used a simple overlaying, editing technique. This technique is used when the Wicked Witch of the West looks into her crystal ball and sees Glinda flying in the sky, Dorothy sleeping in the poppy field, and Glinda casting a spell on Dorothy at this time. With the overlaying, editing technique, viewers see the same scene in the crystal ball just as the wicked witch sees what is happening. (Jleigh10, 2013)

Even though this film did not use any computer generated imagery, the editing techniques brought out the beauty, the dreamlike quality, feelings, and emotions of all the characters.

Social/Personal Impact of this Film

Impact that this film had on society at the time of its release

(politically or culturally, positive or negative)

In Oz, there was a government, social statuses, wealth and poverty, and individual communities present such as Munchkin Land. In 1939, the people of the U.S. were going through a Great Depression, and unemployment rates were very high, even up into the double digits. This Depression lasted into the 1940s before things improved for our country and its people.

This film is about hope and the possibility of a better life. It was the message that people in our country needed to hear and to believe in during the Depression and the difficult times that prevailed for around one decade in the U.S. at that time.

This film did cause the production and sales of many lunch boxes and school supplies that showed various scenes from The Wizard of Oz film.

How did society affect this film (i.e., what currents in society led to the creation of the film)?

The Great Depression started in 1929 and lasted into the 1940s. At the time this film was produced, unemployment was up in the double digits. This film was an escapist film that gave people in the United States the opportunity to forget their troubles for a time. The Depression was a very good reason for the 1939 date of this fantasy film.

“These were powerful messages at a time Americans needed hope and promise. If fairy tales provide [us with] a moral for living, then The Wizard of Oz was an American fairy tale designed to provide a formula to overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of fear and anxiety.” (Streich, 2009)

What can be Gained through Film Analysis?

Knowledge of how films are constructed from original story and script to the finished product and the release of these films can be gained. A better interpretation of the meaning that the film makers are delivering in each film can be gained. Movie watchers can gain much more than just entertainment from most movies by knowing how and taking the time and effort to analyze the movies they are watching. Many times, there are messages about past events and people, present events and people, and even possible future happenings. By analyzing films, one can tell the period that a movie is representing. This can be accomplished by noting the style of clothes that characters in the movie are wearing. Taking notice of cars that are parked on the sides of the streets in the movie can also tell the audience the approximate year that a movie is portraying. Take note of actors’ body language and facial expressions, and even without dialogue or sound, you can tell how one character feels about another character in the scene. Vocal clues are present to let you know their feelings, too, such as if they are shouting at another person or talking romantically to another person. Props are very important, too, in that they complete each scene in a way to portray exactly what the director wants each scene to portray. Props complete the scene.

By analyzing films, viewers can gain a lot more information from a movie that they are watching. Many times, there are messages in movies. Movies portray real life and times. Sometimes movies portray fantasy, such as with The Wizard of Oz.

My Concluding Thoughts on this Film

Conclusion of my analysis of the film The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz film: This concludes my analysis of this film’s contextual information, story/plot, aesthetic choices, and social/personal impact, including areas that work together to develop the theme of the movie. All of these things are important to the development of the theme in The Wizard of Oz. This is a film that was made in 1939. Therefore, special effects were not technologically advanced as they are today. The acting was excellent in this film. The part of Dorothy was played well by Judy Garland. “Judy Garland touched audiences with her vulnerability, with her humanity, unlike any other star in Hollywood.” Film historian Tony Maietta said. “She reached out to people and wrapped them up in her arms.” (Fraley, 2011b)

The Wicked Witch was played well by Margaret Hamilton. The same is true for the rest of the characters. The Kansas scene was sepia-toned and looked realistic as a dull, empty, vast farmland; and the Three-Strip Technicolor brought out the vivid colors in the Land of Oz, such as the brilliant yellow of the Yellow Brick Road and the blue water that flowed downstream was a brilliant blue. The costumes were excellent for the various actors and actresses of all shapes and sizes. The songs were well-chosen for this film, and were sung in just the right places in the movie, which added mood and tone, and also kept viewers aware of what the actors and actresses were thinking and feeling. If it were not for this movie being of the fantasy genre, it could be in the musical genre for in this movie there are many songs sung. This classic film was made for children, but contained a message for adults, too.

References

Dirks, T. (n.d.). The greatest films. The “greatest” and the “best” in cinematic history. AMC film site. Retrieved online at www.filmsite.org/wiza.html

Fraley, J. (2011/12/27a,b). The wizard of oz (1939). Film spectrum. Retrieved online at www.thefilmspectrum.com/?p=3634

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2011). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. This text is a Constellation™ course digital materials (CDM) title

Wikipedia. (2014). The wizard of oz (1939 film). Retrieved online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wizard_of_Oz_(1939_film)


Ztrail. (2012/06/24). A blog about great movies -The wizard of oz (1939). The cinema corner. Retrieved at http://thecinemacornerblog.blogspot.com/2012/06/wizard-of-oz-1939.html




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