This “motion picture review” of MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz” appeared Sunday, Aug. 20, 1939, in The Kansas City Star. The film played a one-week exclusive engagement starting Aug. 18 at Loew’s Midland theater, 1228 Main St.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Superlative. It couldn’t be better. Don’t make the mistake of believing this Technicolor spectacle is just a show for children. Children will be willing to eat spinach and think it’s Turkish delight in their exhilaration over this old friend, but the adults will love it, too. As a hilarious musical comedy it ranks with Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” and its able cast proves that with intelligent production, human actors still can compete with cartoons when it comes to portraying fantasy.
Bert Lahr’s “Cowardly Lion” is the comedy pinnacle of the year. The music is good, and the public has not been given such a smooth running, well oiled, expert spectacle since the great days of the silent movies when Doug Fairbanks Sr. made the first “Robin Hood” and “The Thief of Bagdad.”
A fine screenplay and a new set of songs expand but do not change the joyous novelty of the original work. For a smashing photographic effect, the Kansas tornado ranks with the descent of the locust swarm in “The Good Earth.”
Don’t miss this movie. You might even want to see it every day this week.
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: (As if you didn’t know.) Dorothy, a good little girl in Kansas, is bedeviled by a neighbor who doesn’t like her dog and who wonders if the land “on the other side of the rainbow” might not be a better world.
An obliging tornado enables her to find out when it blows her farm house down — kerplunk — into the wonderful Land of Oz and (also kerplunk) right on top of the Wicked Witch of the East, who is killed, much to the delight of the Munchkin people, who express their joy in some very diverting singing and dancing. Dorothy is protected by Glinda the Good, who is the most simperingly benevolent fairy in the folklore of all time.
Dorothy gets homesick for Kansas and, wearing the magic ruby shoes of the defunct east witch, sets out for the Emerald City to consult the great Wizard of Oz about the second half of her round trip excursion. On the way she is joined by the Scarecrow, who is badly in need of a brain in order to make the crows take him seriously; the Tin Woodman who craves a heart to fill the “bonging” vacancy inside of him; and the Cowardly Lion, who needs courage in order to maintain the position nature has thrust upon him.
After many adventures, including a harrowing encounter with the Winkies and the Flying Monkeys, she gets an audience with the Wizard and learns he is a humbug blown there in a balloon from the state fair at Omaha. Failing to provide brains, heart or courage, he gives the things that take the place of them — a diploma, a watch in recognition of kindly service, and a medal.
The recipients are perfectly satisfied, and Glinda gets Dorothy back to Kansas in time for supper.