Friday, December 18, 2009

Must Watch Friday: The Wizard of Oz

Modern Heat author Heidi Rice gets all nostalgic about the ultimate fantasy quest movie — the original, Judy Garland version of Frank L Baum's classic The Wizard of Oz. Why? Because of the wonderful things it does, of course!!

Being as it's only seven days to Christmas, I wanted to pick a great Christmas movie to get us feeling all warm and fuzzy and sparkly for the festive season. As I did It's a Wonderful Life last year that narrowed the field a little — but that still left White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street (the old version not the new one!), Love Actually (but actually I didn't like that one much... way too cheesy), Scrooge (the Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol), and a host of other great Christmas-themed movies to choose from. But then, suddenly, another movie popped into my head which has always meant Christmas to me, even though there isn't a Santa in sight.

Why does The Wizard of Oz mean Christmas to me? 

Well, it's because the BBC here in the UK schedule it every single Christmas Day at about 3pm in the afternoon and when we were kids my mum (who was such a huge fan she even called one of her dogs Oz!) would get us to sit down and watch it with her.

So what are the wonderful things it does?

For starters there's the catchy, hum-along songs. Tunes so memorable that as soon as you say the titles you'll be humming them in your head. Like "We're Off to See the Wizard" or "If I Only Had a Brain" or "Follow the Yellow Brick Road"... And of course the best song of all (which amazingly nearly got cut from the finished film because Louis B Mayer thought it slowed the pace!), Judy Garland's sends-shivers-down your-spine version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".  Tons of people have covered this song since (just try sticking it into YouTube and you'll get the picture), but noone sings it with more heart and soul than Judy.

Then there's the superb casting: Not just Judy at the peak of her powers, when she was a beautiful teenager and all her troubled times were mostly still ahead of her. But also all those character actors — from Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch of the West to Bert Lahr's hilarious Cowardly Lion — who each took their one big chance to shine and ran a marathon with it... all turning in career-defining performances.

And don't forget the glorious Technicolour photography, the eye-popping set design and the gorgeous process art which is so lush and lovely it's still a feast for the eye — and makes today's CGI-enabled movie magic look decidedly ordinary by comparison.

Plus there's the dreamily good script which took Frank L Baum's original story about a young girl's quest to get home and moulded it into something that will make you laugh, cry, sing, dance and gasp with amazement.

And last, but by no means least, the fact that this movie can still make me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Mesmerised and excited with the complete conviction that magical things really do happen and there is 'no place like home' — especially at Christmas time.

This movie is Hollywood's Golden Era at its most golden. And when the BBC show it again this year, I'll be sitting on the couch with my sons, my little nieces and nephews, my brother and sisters and my mum (while my DH will hopefully be holding the fort in the kitchen!) and enjoying it all over again — and watching any troubles (such as the fact that I forgot to get the brandy butter) melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops while I do...

Warm and fuzzy feeling: Immeasureable!

Heidi's celebrating the fact that she just sold her seventh Modern Heat, Unfinished Business with the Duke, which will be out next June in the UK. But if you can't wait that long, there's always her Brody Brothers duo which are now out in the UK. Hot-Shot Tycoon, Indecent Proposal is also out in the US as a Presents with Public Affair, Secretly Expecting due out in March next year. Talk to her on her blog, or through her website.


  1. I adore the Wizard of Oz and have done since I was a very little girl. The Wicked Witch of the West used to frighten me and I hide.
    One of the first records I ever owned was the album of the Wizard of Oz. And I used to long for a dress just like Dorothy's.
    It was a huge thrill a few years to go to an exhibition at the LIbrary of Congress and see various bits of memorabilia from the film, including a pair of the ruby red slippers.

    Oh and I did enjoy the muscial Witches which is based on the life of the Wicked Witch of the West -- that does have a little romance...

    Geat chioce Heidi.

  2. I loved the Wizard of Oz, it was a fabulous film. I remember years ago at dance school they did it as a show and I was devastated when I was cast as the scarecrow and not as Dorothy. A couple of years ago I went to a wedding and bought a pair of "Dorothy" shoes to go with my wedding outfit - I felt like a little girl in a sweetie shop and you couldn't have wiped the smile of my face all day. Every girl should have a pair of sparkly red shoes!

  3. Ahh Michelle, that exhibition sounds fab... and yeah, I found the Wicked Witch mighty scary as well, something about her cackling laugh really got to me.

    And Susan, absolutely every girl should have a pair of sparkly red shoes! And who got the role of Dorothy?? sounds like you were robbed!

  4. I was so scared of the witch - she did scare the living daylights out of me when I saw it for the first time! Thankfully I got over it and now love the film. Great choice! Merry christmas, Caroline x

  5. Merry Christmas to you too Caroline!

    BTW, just looked in my TV listings mag and I've discovered that the Beeb aren't showing it this year, I'm gutted, will have to watch it on DVD!

  6. Aaagh no - I'm going to have to go against the grain her and say I loathe The Wizard of Oz. It's the combination of the sickly sugar of Dorothy and Toto, the Wicked Witch and the ending - but the worst thing is the Flying Monkeys. I found that I'd actually blotted them out of my mind the time I saw the film as a child - so there were a real shock when I made myself watch it again as an adult.
    Yuck - no, if I never see it again it will be too soon! One Christmas repeat I'll be happy to miss.

    I have the sparkly red shoes though!