"The Wizardry of Oz" by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman
Reviewed by David Marshall James
June Tenth marks the 90th anniversary of Judy Garland's birthday, and what better way to celebrate than with this lush and luscious volume about the behind-the-scenes creation of her best-known film?
(For those seeking an equally extravagant journey through the full Garland film oeuvre, turn to John Fricke's "Judy: A Legendary Film Career" [reviewed this past summer].)
Originally set at a cost of $1.4 million, the lavish production of "The Wizard of Oz" was completed for more than $2.7 million, almost 100 percent over-budget. (For a picture of the final production report, see "M-G-M: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot" [also reviewed earlier].)
Nevertheless, as this work meticulously demonstrates, no expense was spared, as evident in the exacting details of costumes, make-up, sets, and special effects.
One of the chief delights of this volume is to focus on the intricacies of those costumes, character make-up's, sets, props, costumes, and special effects in the hundreds of photographs. You'll notice particulars that just, well, whiz by in the film, such as the zodiac floor in the Wicked Witch of the West's throne room.
M-G-M spent almost $200,000 on two sequences that were cut before the film's premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theater on August 15, 1939. These include "The Jitterbug" song and dance in the Haunted Forest, placed prior to the arrival of the WW of the W's Winged Monkeys.
You can still here the Witch command, "Send a little insect on ahead to take the fight out of them," in spite of the excision of "The Jitterbug."
An even more regrettable loss is "The Triumphal Return to the Emerald City" following the melting of the Witch. This was the largest-scale production number in the film, placed on its most striking set, which is truly saying something, given that all the Oz sets are spectacular. The costume designed for the Emerald City prime minister is breathtaking, and you could cry Tin Man tears over the disappearance of this footage.
The only deleted sequence from the film that survives-- an extended dance by the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) in his cornfield-- can be viewed in the 1985 retrospective "That's Dancing!".
Among the hundreds of photographs are the never-before-published on-set pictures by Life magazine photographer Peter Stackpole. When the periodical featured a layout on the production, it consisted of Kodachrome stills instead, most probably to underscore the Technicolor photography.
Every Ozophile will want to see the Stackpole gallery.
Turner Classic Movies usually shows "The Wizard of Oz," commercial-free, on or near July Fourth, befitting its status as The Great American Film. TCM also presents a marathon of other Garland films on June Tenth-- a birthday tribute to the eternally young lady.
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