“The Wizard of Oz” — Where Are You When We Need You?
On this date in 1939 the movie “The Wizard of Oz” premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. That year is often referred to as “Hollywood’s Golden Year.” In addition to The Wizard of Oz, there were several other classic timeless movies released that year including Oscar winner for best picture, “Gone With The Wind,” John Wayne’s first major motion picture, “Stagecoach,” and Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Other notable films that year included “Dark Victory,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “Love Affair,” “Of Mice and Men,” and “Wuthering Heights.”
Things Were Tough In 1939
There was a lot going on in 1939 and not much of it was good. War was looming, The Great Depression was still going strong, and the US Department of Agriculture started the very first food stamp program in Rochester, NY. It would end in 1943.
People needed to escape reality in 1939 and since it would be a few years before there would be a TV in every living room audiences found themselves watching the only affordable entertainment available — movies.
Wizard of Oz: A Fantasy That Hits Home
The Wizard of Oz had everything that was going on in moviegoer’s lives at the time. An economic tornado was turning their lives upside down. The three things most people thought you needed in life to succeed. Brains, a heart and courage would get people through the tough times they visualized in their future.
Evil witches (people in power with money and influence), controlling the “little people” (that would be you and me in today’s world). The journey of an unlikely heroine, the scarecrow, tin man, cowardly lion, and her little dog that were all searching for government (The Wizard) to solve all their problems and get her back to Kansas and the good life.
The Wizard Was Not The Answer
Dorothy and her friends sadly discovered that the Wizard was just so much smoke and mirrors. A high-tech magic act with no real substance or help. But the Wizard was able to show, metaphorically at least, that the scarecrow really did have brains, and the tin man had a heart and the cowardly lion had the courage deep inside him.
I wonder how many people walked out of the theater with a different mindset than when they walked in? Did they understand that the power to make their lives better was inside them all the time? Did they stand outside the theater clicking their heels whispering, “There’s no place like home?” I would like to think they did.
Some Final Thoughts
Metaphors are powerful things and The Wizard of Oz is loaded with them. Almost every visual and line is filled with double meanings and positive reinforcement. I’m not sure if the writers set out to describe the world in a better way or the movie just happened by accident.
Either way it’s pretty hard to argue with the finished product. Brains, heart and courage and finding the way home — isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Too bad more movies don’t follow that storyboard. It might make going to the movies fun again. I’m not sure “Ironman 4” will have the same effect on moviegoers today as The Wizard of Oz had on moviegoers in 1939. I believe each of us has a yellow brick road that will eventually get us through life’s challenges and take us home. Are you following yours?