Danny Tyree: ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at 75: Memories and might-haves
According to the ideas4writers website, August 12 marks the 75th anniversary of the U.S. premiere of MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz.” Ah, the memories start flowing.
For a few years, my father made a tradition of providing pizza as my brother and I watched the annual CBS airing of the movie. The pizza partially made up for the fact that my family had only a black-and-white TV until I was 20. Yes, I grew up missing the breathtaking impact of the transformation from Kansas to Oz and being bewildered by the “horse of a different color” line.
A farm silo on our route to the next town was always excitedly greeted as the Witch’s castle. We had a Boston terrier named Pee Wee, so it was a big deal when the Cowardly Lion told Toto, “I’ll get you anyway, Pee Wee.”
Alas, after the first few viewings, my childhood innocence was muted by “National Enquirer” coverage of the sad end of Judy Garland.
In the mid-90s my wife and I were awed by the panoramic Emerald City display at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.
I can almost remember when the phrases “I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” and “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” hadn’t been done to death.
Of course I’m not alone in treasuring the film. “Why don’t they make movies like that anymore?” people often ask. Um, they do still make movies that take incredible liberties with the book or that feature gaping plot holes. But beyond that, modern culture would require too many changes if the movie were being made today.
Miss Gulch’s bicycle ride would be interrupted by international authorities testing her for steroid use.
If debris from the tornado gave Dorothy a concussion, an NFL official would rush in to advise, “Walk it off. Walk it off.”
Product placement would change “Follow The Yellow Brick Road” to “Follow The Yellow Brick Road, if you’re too cheap to spring for GPS.”
Instead of visible wires holding up the Cowardly Lion’s tail, we would have special effects wizards holding up the breasts and chins of whatever aging starlet used her connections to get the Dorothy role.
The Lion would ask for courage — until he realized that was a real buzzkill for raising campaign contributions. The Scarecrow’s quest for a brain would launch the whole zombie scene. (“Munchkins: the fun-size treat.”)
The Wicked Witch of the West would escape, as drought-wary Dorothy hesitated to throw a bucket of water on the flaming scarecrow. Oh, he would probably really be “flaming” in 2014. (“Let me have those ruby slippers or I’m going upside your head with an isosceles triangle, girlfriend!”)
In the final scene, a bewildered Dorothy would say, “You were there ...and you..and you...everybody except my agent, who is going to help me make a boatload of money off this out-of-body experience!”
Instead of Professor Marvel popping in, Willie Nelson would show up to say, “I’ll have some of whatever she’s smoking.”
Dorothy would finally realize “there’s no place like home — unless the new place gives you a green card and a lot of freebies.”
I wish I could write more about my second-favorite movie of all time, but time flies. And so do monkeys. Brrrr! So do monkeys! Anybody seen my emerald night light?
Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.