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.