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The Wizard Of Oz

September 5, 2009
The Wizard Of Oz

(Victor Fleming, 1939)

What’s The Story? Farm girl Dorothy (Judy Garland) is snatched from rural Kansas by a tornado and dumped into a world of witches, wizards, talking scarecrows, human/lion hybrids, flying monkeys, disturbing dwarfish folk and men with upturned funnels on their heads.

What’s It About? It’s a political allegory for late 19th-century America. L Frank Baum, author of the original book
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, was a political activist, and illustrator WW Denslow had dabbled in caricature.

The Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Yellow Brick Road, silver slippers, cyclone, monkeys, Emerald City, little people, witches and wizards
were all popular images in political cartoons of the 1890s.

Baum and Denslow simply drafted them into a single story, all carried by an everywoman character Dorothy, representing the American people.

According to historian Hugh Rockoff, the Tin Man is the downtrodden industrial worker. The Scarecrow is the farmer.

In the book, the Scarecrow and Tin Man work together to defeat the tyrannical Wicked Witch Of The East
(future president Grover Cleveland, who supported the rich-favouring gold standard currency).

In 1890s Minnesota, the Farmer-Labor Party, a coalition of industrialists and farmers, was big news.

The Lion is 1896 Democrat Presidential candidate William Bryan (described as having “a great roar but no bite”). The Wicked Witch Of The West was Republican William McKinley, who won the Presidency. The Munchkins are the ordinary citizens, the ‘little’ people.

So, Dorothy follows the Yellow Brick Road (the gold-standard currency) to the promised land of prosperity (Emerald City) but finds the whole thing is an illusion constructed by the Wizard Of Oz (Republican chairman Mark Hanna) to dupe the American people (Dorothy).

It isn’t the Yellow Brick Road that gets her home, it’s the ruby slippers (representing the free silver movement – the alternative currency of the people).

So that Christmas childhood fixture is really a barely veiled call for revolution in America.

There’s no place like the home of the brave…

Weird Fact: The now-iconic ‘Over The Rainbow’ signature tune almost didn’t make the film. MGM thought kids wouldn’t get it,
and that it would be degrading for Judy Garland to sing in a barnyard.

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