Friday, 4 October 2013

The Wizard of Oz

We showed The Wizard of Oz at The Museum of Lancashire* last night. Here are a few bits and bobs that didn’t make it into our introduction.

L Frank Baum’s Oz books anticipated television, laptop computers, mobile telephones, women’s suffrage and advertising on clothing.

The leitmotif for Miss Gulch/ The Wicked Witch of the West is significant and has subsequently been used to indicate a threatening character; it was used in Ally McBeal for Lucy Liu’s character when she first arrived.

At the time of filming Margaret Hamilton was 36. Billie Burke was 54.

Bert Lahr (the film is HIS) played Estragon in the first production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

Is it a dream?  We meet the 'farmhands' and Marvel in Kansas first.  Does Dorothy's imagination turn Miss Gulch into The Wicked Witch of the West?

Marvel comics produced a graphic version of the story in which Dorothy enters Oz via an earthquake in San Francisco. Ultimate  'Lad's Mag' gone gay?

When Dr Frasier Crane accidentally ‘outs’ himself on air, Gill Chesterton compliments him on taking his “first brave steps on that yellow brick road to pride and self acceptance.”

Favourite bits from Salman Rushdie’s (wonderful) essay on Oz (BFI Film Classics ISBN 978-1-84457-516-9); Rushdie, as an immigrant, identifies with Dorothy as a stranger in as strange land. Oz, from Kansas himself, is the ultimate immigrant done well for himself.  Marie loved his observations about shapes; Kansas is ‘regular’- triangles and squares; Oz is all spirals and spires, Evil is deformed and twisted “Throughout The Wizard of Oz, home and safety are represented by such geographical simplicity, whereas danger and evil are invariably twisted, irregular and misshapen’.  Jane loved the idea that Auntie Em and Uncle Henry  kow tow to Miss Gulch because she has money and power whilst Dorothy demands equal justice for all, even Toto. The idea of the inadequate adult does seem to run through the film- Miss Gulch is scary because she is an adult who behaves like a child.

Invisible Homosexuals?  The Stonewall Inn was managed by Ed Murphy; known locally as ‘The Skull”. Prior to his tenure at Stonewall he had been convicted for blackmailing gay men to the tune of $2, 100, 00.00. The news reports referred to the victims as ‘playboys’- the term ‘homosexual’ was not used.  Similarly, Judy Garland’s audience was referred to (in Time magazine) as ‘the men in tight trousers prancing down the aisles” . Gay men were persecuted whilst not being acknowledged!  

Frank Marvel played no less than five characters in The Wizard of Oz; previously, he was most famous for his partnership with Fanny Brice – MGM’s first choice to play Glinda.

Also loved Alexander Sergeant’s musings about space. In Kansas no one listens to Dorothy because they are too busy working. She has no space.  In Oz she is the centre of everything that happens,

Favourite story has to be THE COAT!  The wardrobe department searched second-hand shops to find a suitably shabby costume for Oz.  They purchased a coat which bore the label ‘Property of L Frank Baum’. Baum’s widow confirmed the coat had previously belonged to the author himself. The creator became the created.

After the film we served Lancashire Cheese on a Chorley Cake. Everyone with any taste agreed we were right to do so.

* Go there – it’s BRILLIANT!

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