I LOVE The Wizard of Oz , and it’s a little surreal to realize that this year marks its 70th anniversary. It was so ahead of its time!
I review a lot of musical theater, and I tend to laugh at myself when the occasion pops up that I say “this is the best show I’ve ever seen!” There have been a few of those encounters, primarily with Wicked, which ironically has a strong tie to The Wizard of Oz. But still, the benchmark of inspiration goes back to the 1939 musical movie adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s timeless tale. If it hadn’t been for The Wizard of Oz, I’m not sure if I would have ever possessed the passion that I have for musicals and theatrical storytelling. Nothing to me, honestly, can ever surpass The Wizard of Oz.
I’ve spent several hours enjoying the 70th anniversary box set collection of The Wizard of Oz, which includes a beautifully remastered release of the movie (on your choice of DVD or Blu-ray) along with hours upon hours of three additional discs offering behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, outtakes, documentaries and even various footage of the story played out on silent film, long before “talkies” came to the silver screen.
All the extras are tremendous, but when it all boils down, it’s the classic movie we all know and love, starring the great Judy Garland, that hits home and brings a flood of inspiration.
I saw the movie for the first time when I was 4 years old. Back in my day, and I’m 38 now, The Wizard of Oz was an annual TV event. It was the biggest TV event of the year! There was a broadcast of it traditionally, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas … long before the advent of VHS and DVDs. Every kid on the planet in those days had the air date emblazoned on their brains, because to miss it was the cardinal childhood sin back then. The Charlie Brown specials, with their glorious Dolly Madison snack cake commercials, came in second.
When I was little, I waited with bated breath for The Wizard of Oz TV broadcast. And my wonderful wiz of a mom made a huge deal of the annual affair. She’d whip up her famous fudge, prepare a huge bowl of hot popcorn and crack open the bottles of RC cola, and we’d hunker down with a bunch of pillows and blankets piled up on the floor in front of our old Zenith console TV, and pig-out on our snacks while singing along with Dorothy and gang through the amazing romp through Oz. And it never failed that we’d wind up bawling our eyes out when Dorothy said good-bye to her pals, especially Scarecrow.
I still cry like a baby during that scene, and I’m proud of it! It’s truly spectacular that such a great piece of art, even when you’ve experienced it hundreds of times or more, can forever strike a chord within your heart and soul … and continue to inspire you while simultaneously bringing back an indelible aspect of your childhood.
The only things missing now are my mom and her fabulous fudge … the popcorn and cola just aren’t the same without them … likewise, the movie… but the childhood memories are so precious!