Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Lizard Of Oz

Last night, my honorary granddaughter, the Munchkin, and I caught a late night showing of the Wizard of Oz on cable. She was completely mesmerized. I doubt if she blinked until Dorothy was back in Kansas.

This definitely was not my first viewing. When the boys, What’s-His-Name and the The-Other-One, were little, they would become fixated on a single movie and repeatedly watch it until even the cats would hock up a hairball as soon as the boys shoved the tape into the VCR.

When the boys were a little older, they became fixated on Memphis Belle. After a couple of hundred viewings, I had nightly dreams about bombing Munich. This used to make me feel guilty, at least until I visited Munich. Now I wish I could have the dreams again.

I’m not sure how many times we watched that movie, certainly enough for my wife and me to lip sync the parts along with the actors. Enough so that it was not at all uncommon for the breakfast table conversation to center around the various merits of the B-17F as compared to the Lancaster. For several years, however, long before the Memphis Belle, the boys were hooked on the Wizard of Oz, or as the boys called it, the Lizard of Oz.

I know we watched that movie at least 200 times. I got where I could identify individual munchkins. (The guy dressed in green plaid must be the director’s favorite; he is in almost every scene.) All of us, the boys, my wife and I could mouth every part with perfect timing; we could have acted out the entire movie by ourselves, including Dorothy, the witch, and the flying monkeys.

Actually, my wife and I didn’t mind watching the movie as we’ve always enjoyed it. Now that I think on it, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who didn’t love the movie. If you are old enough to remember phones with dials, shoes without Velcro, or when a one pound coffee can actually contained 16 ounces of coffee, you probably remember when this movie was shown just once a year on TV. The network would advertise it for weeks and on the night it was shown, every kid in America was ready. Just before the show started, the mothers of America would say in unison, “Now if this is too scary for you, you don’t have to watch it.”

Damn straight that witch was scary, but there was no way a kid would admit it to his mother. A thing like that would get you talked about. My mom would tell some other mom about how I had gotten scared, then that mom would tell it to her son, who probably was just as scared, and the next thing you knew your entire year of third grade turned into living hell.

It is amazing the extent that this movie has soaked into our culture. Can anyone go a whole month without hearing one of these phrases?

  • Toto, I don’t think we're in Kansas, anymore.
  • Not nobody, not no how.
  • We’re off to see the wizard.
  • I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too.
  • If I only had a brain…
  • I’m melting! Melting!
  • Ding Dong, the witch is dead.
  • Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
  • The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken!
  • Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

There is something comforting about an old and comfortable movie. According to my wife, we watched the movie on our honeymoon. And we may have for all I know, that’s not the part of the honeymoon I remember.

After 71 years, think of how the world has changed. When the movie premiered in the summer of 1939, FDR was president and you could buy a new car for under $700 and for an extra dollar, you could buy 10 gallons of gas. Hamburger was fourteen cents a pound, and a new house was less than $4000. In Europe, Hitler was lusting for Poland while the rest of the continent was as nervous as a Chihuahua in freeway traffic.

After all these years that movie is still wonderful. Somehow, the topics the movie deals with; family, home, courage, and the triumph of good over evil, will be with us forever.

One thing has changed however; in today’s world, if Dorothy was to find men without brains, hearts, or courage, she wouldn’t be in Kansas. She’d be in Congress.


  1. ...let us not forget...

    "Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh, My!"

  2. Good one. And I forgot, "Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Oz." I use that on the boys.