Thorough Analysis Of The Wizard Of Oz From Formal Perspective Essay

Length: 8 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Film Type: Essay Paper: #74343961 Related Topics: Lion, Costumes, Bleak House, Utopia
Excerpt from Essay :

Released in February of 1939, The Wizard of Oz has become one of the most iconic and enduring motion pictures ever produced. The Wizard of Oz was based on a novel of the same name, but the film has far surpassed its namesake novel by L. Frank Baum in terms of popularity and critical acclaim. The film is a relatively rare example of a situation in which the adaptation to screen brought the original novel to a new level. Adaptation credits are shared by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allen Woolf. The Wizard of Oz is a bildungsroman that follows the classic hero's journey structure.

Victor Fleming receives all of the official directorial accolades, but there were actually four additional uncredited directors on the film including George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Tuarog, and King Vidor, who directed most of the Kansas scenes ("The Wizard of Oz: Full Cast and Crew," n.d.). Harold Rossen was in charge of the cinematography for The Wizard of Oz, which was one of the first films to use Technicolor. The production company for The Wizard of Oz was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

The shining star of the movie is Judy Garland, who plays the protagonist Dorothy. On the other hand, the titular character has very few lines or minutes on screen. In spite of being a minor character, the Wizard of Oz becomes a potent symbol driving Dorothy's actions and the actions of those around her as she travels to the Emerald City. The Wizard of Oz was played by Frank Morgan, who also plays a few other bit roles in the film such as the Doorkeeper to Emerald City. Like several other actors, Morgan plays two roles because the film depicts two parallel worlds: the mundane world of Kansas and the fantasy realm of Oz. In Kansas, for example, Frank Morgan plays Professor Marvel in Kansas.

The most notable supporting roles, other than that of Toto the dog, include those that belong to the three companions Dorothy takes with her to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz. Those three characters include the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. Ray Bolger plays the Scarecrow in Oz, but a minor character named Hunk in Kansas. Bert Lahr plays the Cowardly Lion in Oz, and Zeke in Kansas, while Jack Haley plays the Tin Man and a man named Hickory in his life in Kansas. However, the most memorable supporting role belongs to Margaret Hamilton, who plays Dorothy's antagonist in both Kansas (Miss Gulch) and in Oz as the Wicked Witch of the West. Elaborate makeup and costumes make it so that the audience does not recognize the actors in Oz, just as Dorothy does not realize she is in a sort of dream state.

Although The Wizard of Oz is certainly a blockbuster and is classified as a fantasy by the AFI, the film can also be classified as a family movie or even in the adventure genre because Dorothy is on a quest to achieve a goal. The Wizard of Oz is also a musical; songs frequently punctuate the film and add an additional level to the overall film that dialogue alone cannot capture. The story's arc resembles the classic hero's journey, in which a crisis (the tornado) provides the impetus to go on a long and treacherous journey (to Oz), followed by a return home having acquired great wisdom and knowledge.

Dorothy is a girl of an undetermined age, an adolescent who is beginning to struggle with issues related to independence, identity, and her role in society. She encounters a conflict with a powerful authority figure in the community, Miss Gulch, who insists that Toto the dog be taken away from Dorothy because Toto went to the bathroom on her lawn one too many times. Gulch's appearance on screen is always accompanied by a catchy tune...


The tune that accompanies Miss Gulch's bicycle is instrumental, and is not therefore one of the primary songs in the soundtrack.

Whereas her primary caregivers, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, are ready to capitulate to Gulch, Dorothy loves her dog too much and sees Gulch as being a "wicked" woman. Standing up to Miss Gulch -- and tacitly as well to her elder caregivers -- becomes a defining feature of Dorothy's character. Auntie Em and Uncle Henry appear weary. Dorothy's family lives in a poor rural community in which people like Auntie Em and Uncle Henry possess little political, economic, or social power. The Wizard of Oz depicts the triumph of the powerless over the "great and powerful."

A cyclone hits Dorothy's rural community, causing debris to go flying. Dorothy gets hit in the head, causing her to enter the extended dream state that is essentially a parallel universe to her life in Kansas. The cyclone scene uses special effects to show an array of images flying through Dorothy's head as objects and people literally fly through the air as seen through Dorothy's bedroom window. When they awaken, Dorothy and Toto find themselves in Munchkinland, which is everything Kansas is not: vividly colorful and filled with Munchkins and magic. The filmmakers achieve differentiation between Kansas and Oz in a direct and tangible way, by filming Kansas scenes in black and white, and filming Oz scenes in Technicolor.

Dorothy is disoriented when she wakes up in Oz, but an angelic woman who identifies herself as the Glinda the Good Witch of the North appears. Glinda wears the color white, symbol of purity. Glinda informs Dorothy that her arrival has caused a house to fall on the Wicked Witch of the East. It is as if the cyclone has become a manifestation of Dorothy's anger and frustration toward the arbitrary and rigid rules epitomized by Gulch in Kansas. Dorothy's anger and frustration become

Dorothy is initially filled with remorse that her actions could cause the death of another human being, but it turns out the Wicked Witch was a person who is so much reviled in Munchkinland that the otherwise timid Munchkins emerge to celebrate. They dance delightedly and sing a song, "Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is Dead!" The Munchkins are a cast of little people, who sing several songs before Dorothy leaves. Although their presence and role in Dorothy's journey is insignificant, the Munchkins do accentuate the surreal imagery of the parallel universe.

Dorothy is happy to entertain and curious about where she is, but desperately wants to return home to Kansas. Glinda tells her that the Wizard of Oz might be able to help her, and gives her the dazzling ruby slippers from the feet of the Wicked Witch as a talisman. Dorothy is warned that the Wicked Witch of the East has a sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, who will be none too pleased at hearing about Dorothy.

Dorothy and Toto embark on their long journey, their only sense of direction being provided by the Yellow Brick Road. The song, "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" is cheerful and provides Dorothy with a small shot of courage she can use to embark on her journey, as soon she will encounter great dangers.

The first creature Dorothy and Toto encounter is the Scarecrow, a man made of straw who claims he has no brain. Ray Bolger's body language mimics that of a scarecrow, as he moves as if he has no skeleton. Dorothy suggests that the Scarecrow join her and Toto on their journey to the Wizard of Oz in case the Wizard is powerful enough to give the Scarecrow some brains. The Wicked Witch of the West finds Dorothy, and almost sets fire to the Scarecrow. This proves to be the first of many frightening encounters between Dorothy and the Witch. Next, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Toto meet the Tin Man. The Tin Man claims he has no heart, and joins the journey to Oz as well. Finally, the crew joins the Cowardly Lion, who wants to ask the Wizard of Oz for courage.

In spite of the obstacles the Wicked Witch puts on their path, the foursome reaches their destination in the Emerald City. The Emerald City gleams; it is like nothing any of the four have ever seen and they enter with a sense of awe and wonder. When they finally are able to have an audience with the Wizard of Oz, he speaks to them from behind a curtain. The Wizard tells them that they must kill the Wicked Witch of the West, bring him her broom as proof of their deed, and then he will address their needs.

Thus placed on their final quest, Dorothy and Toto proceed to the Witch's castle, a sinister lair in which the Witch keeps a troop of flying monkeys. Dorothy and her friends finally outwit the witch, manage to kill her by accident, and retrieve the broom. When they return to the Emerald City, the Wizard turns…

Sources Used in Documents:


Griswold, J. (1987). There's no place but home: The Wizard of Oz. The Antioch Review 45(4): 462-475.

MacDonnell, F. (2004). "The Emerald City was the New Deal." E.Y. Harburg and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Journal of American Culture 13(4): 71-75.

Payne, D. (1989). The Wizard of Oz: Therapeutic rhetoric in a contemporary media ritual. Quarterly Journal of Speech 75(1): 25-39.

"The Wizard of Oz: Full Cast and Crew," (n.d.). IMDB. Retrieved online:

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