80 years after its premiere, I appreciated this masterpiece for the first time. I find it impossible to think of a more magical film; it is fascinating the ability and talent to adapt the original work of L. Frank Baum, it probably is one of the best adaptations made of literary works.
The production, cast, special effects; everything is magnificent and, without being a connoisseur of the Golden Age of cinema, I risk saying that this film promoted a quality leap in cinematography. To this day, the productions that achieved this level are counted.
I wonder why movies of the genre have lost that ambition, the examples we have today are exceptional regarding special effects but sacrifice that "magic" that dominated in 1939's The Wizard of Oz for a more acid tone to appeal to young adults, when what we really need is to retrace the yellow brick road.
Over the rainbow
The film begins with Dorothy (Judy Garland), in a rural Kansas, bored with routine and life in "sepia tones", I want to highlight the brilliant choice of photography to make a contrast when she goes to Oz, full of life and colors, music, adventure: everything she longs as she sings "Over the rainbow", a song that marked the history of cinema and achieved her an Oscar for the best original song. Something that remained as an anecdote is that the production almost deleted it from the film because they considered it very slow and out of tune with the energy that the rest of the songs have.
Judy Garland defined it as part of her life, in each public presentation that the actress attended everybody asked her to sing this song. Even today, so many generations later, it is impossible not to associate it with the cinema and its magnificent history.
Dorothy falls asleep in the field and when a strong wind wakes up, a tornado hits the area, she tries to go to the shelter where her family is but the door won't budge and her only option is to enter the house. There, an eloquent scene takes place where Dorothy sees through the window all the objects and people being absorbed by the tornado, all in a very funny way. She hits her head and when she wakes up, she's no longer in Kansas.
Looking for her way back and accompanied by her little dog Toto, Dorothy soon realizes she will need the Wizard of Oz and starts an adventure journey where the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion soon join her. They also have their own reasons to ask the Wizard of Oz for help.
There are some changes in the adaptation of the original book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), for example, the famous ruby slippers that Dorothy receives in the film are actually silver in the work of L. Frank Baum.
When the protagonists come to meet the Wizard of Oz, they are first greeted with an illusion where he shows himself as a giant head floating, and that is the only way he represents himself until Dorothy discovers his true identity, but in the book the characters do not go in a group to meet him, and this is how The Wizard of Oz decides to represent himself in different ways for each one of them.
A curious change is that in the book the good witches are two, the Witch of the North and the Witch of the South, while in the film they adapted them into one.
Something that surprised me when reading the book is that in a hilarious way the author makes both the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, kill at various moments of the story; even going so far as to narrate a moment in which Tin Man kills forty wolves, really striking.
We're not in Kansas anymore
It is curious that The Wizard of Oz has not been transformed into a film saga, Frank Baum wrote 15 books and the film of 1939 only used the first. James Rolfe, director and film critic, assumes that this is because over time, the work of Baum became public domain, and no Hollywood producer wants to risk investing millions in a new production so that another study then competes with the same story.
I do not want to dwell too much because I know how many thousands of lines have been written about this foundational piece of cinema and culture in general. What I can promise is that having seen this wonder my curiosity awakened in watching the prequel of the year 2013 starring James Franco, Oz: The Great and Powerful. It will be very interesting to see how the people behind the camera connected with this movie, generations of film makers separated by centuries, literally.
Process of the illustration
Originally, I thought of two concepts for this illustration, one was Dorothy saying goodbye to her friends while walking along the yellow brick road but I discarded it because I usually use paper of a size smaller than what I needed to incorporate the details I put into my pieces.
The second concept I discarded was a scene where Dorothy and her friends visit the Wizard of Oz for the first time and they are intimidated by his illusions, this idea was discarded because the ominous essence it wouldn't have made justice to the film.