Monday, November 29, 2010

Off to See the Wizard

One of my family's after-Thanksgiving rituals is watching The Wizard of Oz on TV.  We started this back when my parents owned a black-and-white television; I was in seventh grade before I realized that Oz was supposed to be in color.  Even in black-and-white, though, the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys scared the crap out of me.

By now familiarity has neutralized the terror, but I love the movie even more than I did at the age of eight.  I don't know just why it has such a hold on me.  I read the book and didn't like it nearly as well, although the part where the ants (not a snowstorm) rescue Dorothy and her friends from the poisoned poppy field was pretty cool.  I guess I love the part-deco, part cartoon sets and costumes, the slightly hammy acting, and all the accumulated lore surrounding the film.  Did you know that the studio originally wanted Buddy Ebsen to play the Scarecrow?  He wanted to be the Tin Man instead, but had to bow out entirely when he was hospitalized for a reaction to the silver makeup.  I also think it's hysterical that the actors had to drink their lunches so they wouldn't mess up their face prostheses.  You can't make this stuff up.

This year was special because Barry and I watched the show on our giant new high-definition television.  All the colors were much brighter;  I always thought the Horse of a Different Color was a washed-out lavender, but this year it was a rich purple, and the greens in Emerald City were almost painfully bright. We also saw the toucan perched in the apple orchard and the crane flapping around next to the Tin Man's house for the first time.  Amazing detail.

Last year I read Wicked by Gregory Maguire.  It was well-written and did a good job of rehabilitating the Wicked Witch's reputation.  What a downer.  The witch I want is Margaret Hamilton, complete with hooked nose, clawlike fingernails and unforgettable laugh.  After all, without her, the trip down the Yellow Brick Road would have been just a walk in the park, and where's the fun in that?

"It's not subtle or restrained. It's not any of the things you like to think apply to your acting. " ~Margaret Hamilton

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