Details from “The Wizard of Oz” That Stand Out or Surprised Me (1939)

Warning: contains spoilers***

As one of the most favored films from Hollywood’s golden age, The Wizard of Oz has so many memorable moments. There are the obvious ones, such as the song, “Over the Rainbow,” and wicked witch of the west’s signature line, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!”

And then there are the details that many may have put little to no thought into them. Here are the details from this film, and the impressions they left on me.

The movie was much older than I’d originally thought as a child 

When I watched this film regularly at 9 years old, I had thought that the movie could not have been older than the 80s, when CGI first resembled that of the 21st century.

Some of the reasons included the tornado scene, the flying bubble that reveals Glinda, and the fire that reveals the wicked witch of the west–all of which would need CG-technology today. I remember how surprised I was when I learned that the movie came out in the 1930s.

Then I came up with a theory that it might have been edited in the 70s with the same level of animation, similar to 3D, used in the first Star Wars movie. But the film as we know of today was portrayed the same in 1939, leaving me confused about how elements, such as the tornado, could have been executed without CGI.

I did, however, discover that there are people who can create hyperrealistic art, whether it’s through drawing or painting. It’s possible that the studio hired hyperrealistic artists to animate the elements, such as the tornado or Glinda’s bubble.

The age of the actress who played Glinda

I forget why, but I was researching something related to The Wizard of Oz, and discovered that the actress who played Glinda, named Billie Burke, was born in the 1880s. So, she was in her 50’s during the movie’s production. 

At first I thought to myself, Wow, she looks good for 50’s. But when I looked at a picture of her closer to the camera, I saw her aging signs. The costume and makeup probably made her look younger.

I don’t know how old Glinda is supposed to be, but according to the musical, Wicked (which technically isn’t canon, since it’s based off the film adaptation, and not the book), she and the wicked witch of the west are the same age. But the actress who played the witch, Margaret Hamilton, was about two decades younger than Billie Burke.

Yet, I don’t think it matters. The costume and makeup Billie Burke had to wear made her look youthful enough to pass as a peer to Margaret Hamilton.

How the scarecrow and tin man can function fine without a brain or heart

I suppose the tin man could live without a heart because he isn’t made of flesh or bones like humans are. But the scarecrow still being able to function and even live without a brain leaves a poor impression on me–especially when he tells Dorothy that people can still talk without brains, and Dorothy agrees.

That is a terrible message to teach kids! Without a brain, you wouldn’t even be alive

It would have been more believable if the scarecrow had a brain, but yearned for more intelligence. Or if he had some magical equivalent to a brain, but could still live and function.

When the scarecrow said, “Well, that’s too bad” when the cowardly lion was afraid to count sheep in order to go to sleep.

Seriously? That’s all he could say? Very nice, Scarecrow.

There are many other ways that can help you fall asleep without counting sheep, aside from sleep aids, like Melatonin. But those didn’t exist until 3 decades after The Wizard of Oz was filmed. 

The scarecrow or the tin man could have suggested to the cowardly lion other ways to help him sleep, such as certain breathing techniques – except that was unknown to Western societies, and probably still is.

The cowardly lion could have just counted in general, not necessarily anything specific. But at least the two and Dorothy invite him to go see the wizard with them.

How Dorothy’s hair length changes throughout the film

It yo-yos from being just past the shoulders to about elbow-length. 

When I was younger, I found that odd. I also considered myself crazy for a bit.

Nope–it actually happened. And it’s sloppy.

However, films are often shot out of order. So, as Judy Garland grew out her hair, the filming probably didn’t happen in chronological order.

They could have asked Judy Garland to maintain her hair length throughout the time the camera men shot the movie. But what’s done has been done.

Dorothy is supposed to be much younger than 16 – the age Judy Garland was when she played her

I didn’t learn this until years after I first watched this movie. I even discovered Shirley Temple, who was probably 9 or 10, auditioned for the role of Dorothy.

Dorothy’s age is not revealed in the book, although on one of the book covers, she appears to be between 8 and 10.

Because she is supposed to be a lot younger than 16, the filmmakers tried to make Judy Garland look younger. One technique they did was putting a blonde wig on her. But instead, they used other methods, such as wearing something over her chest to flatten it.

How Dorothy is very different than in the book

While there are some scenes where she doesn’t whine when something bad happens, such as when she gets mad at the lion for scaring Toto, she does at other times.

One notable moment is when the witch has flying monkeys abduct her and Toto, Toto escapes right before the witch locks up Dorothy inside a room, and Dorothy sits there and cries. She even waits for her [male] companions to rescue her instead of figuring out a way to escape on her own.

There was once an R-rated parody of this movie on YouTube, where Dorothy is fierce and tough, and beats up some bad guys. I remember thinking, Wow, this Dorothy is far more likable than in the actual “Wizard of Oz” movie.

Of course, people have acknowledged that women are not weak and can be just as tough as men. But in the 1930s, movies often depicted them as damsels-in-distress. It was probably because women didn’t have the same rights as men, and sexism was acceptable and possibly standard. 

Ironically, L. Frank Baum, who wrote the book this movie was based off of, developed Dorothy as a strong female lead. It was as if he’d been a seer – but he, unlike many other men, supported the idea of women’s rights.

Unfortunately, he died in 1919, before women gained rights, such as the right to vote in 1920. That also meant that he didn’t live to see his book become films.

Why films? Because the 1939 movie adaptation of The Wizard of Oz was not the first? There was a silent film version in 1925.

When Dorothy asked the makeover people if she could have her eyes dyed to match her dress in “The Merry Old Land of Oz” number

I know this movie is fantasy, but why would Dorothy want her eyes dyed? Wouldn’t that hurt?

She already has the blue bow tie in her hair. If she wanted her eyes to match her dress, then she could have asked for contact lenses, although she doesn’t wear glasses, so she unlikely needs them.

The redundancy in the characters’ lines

This is not uncommon in older films, especially before computer software, or even computers, existed. 

While there are signature lines that are meant to be repeated, such as the wicked witch of the west’s message to Dorothy, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!”, some of them were probably unintentional.

One line that stands out to me is, “I don’t see why not. Why don’t you come along with us? We’re on our way to see the wizard.” Dorothy says that after she meets the other companions. 

Filmmaking comes with lots of work and tight deadlines as well as necessary do-overs of scenes. Subtract the technology that helps with editing, and the production is much tougher.

How the song, “Over the Rainbow,” doesn’t break the fourth wall

When Dorothy longs for a place that isn’t accessible by any vehicle, she sings about a place over the rainbow – it’s way up high, and a land she discovered in a lullaby.

After the tornado lands Dorothy and Toto into a mysterious area, she enters, and the movie is now in color. She even says, “We must be over the rainbow.” 

As much as it seems, she is not breaking the fourth wall. The message of the song, “Over the Rainbow” is about hope that bad times will end. Dorothy even includes how her dreams will come true in a better place. 

Which brings me to the final point…

When Dorothy says that she never wants to leave her home at the end of the film

Regardless of what Dorothy wishes for, after confronting the witch, she saves her companions instead of achieving her own goals. She also realizes that what made her happy was those around her in Kansas, such her Auntie Em, who actually love and care for her.

So when Glinda tells Dorothy to tap her toes together while in her ruby slippers, and say, “There is no place like home,” she is back inside her room in Kansas. Her loved ones surround her. She even says that she’d never want to leave her farm.

I’ve thought to myself, You’ll go insane if you stay there all the time, Dorothy. I mean – all of us real people did when the Covid-19 Pandemic started.

This is one of the times where if I could talk to a fiction character, I would. For this situation, the best, and most accurate phrase would be, “Be careful of what you wish for.” 

I think that is one of the biggest morals of the story.


Do you agree with my picks? Are there moments from The Wizard of Oz that stand out to you? Let me know in the comments if you want.

Published by Sunayna Prasad

I enjoy writing stories, creating artwork, watching movies and TV shows, cooking, and traveling. These are the topics of my posts. I also publish books, where you can learn about them on my website, Be sure to copy and paste the link and subscribe to my newsletter on the email list button on the homepage.

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