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"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore..."
Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale (1939)

The Wizard of Oz is a Hollywood musical produced by MGM in 1939.

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A richly detailed watercolor painting of The Wizard of Oz

The film was one of the very first full-length pictures along with few others, such as Gone With the Wind (1939) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), to be shot in Three Strip Technicolor instead of in all black and white or Two Strip Technicolor. It was directed by Victor Fleming. The songs were written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and one of them, "Over the Rainbow," won the Oscar for "Best Song of the Year." It was also the film that gave Judy Garland one of her most iconic roles. She won a Juvenile Academy Award for her performance as Dorothy Gale.


The film is loosely based upon the original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. The book was originally published in the year 1900 and though the film version departs a great deal from the actual source material, leaving many characters out and dropping several elements in order for the story to translate on to the big screen for its time, The Wizard of Oz never loses the moral and tender message that the book gave and is known to be one of the most timeless, ceremonially watched family movies ever. The film is also famous for being traditionally played every year annually on various television stations during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"Are you a Good Witch, or a Bad Witch...?"
Billie Burke as Glinda (1939)
"Then close your eyes, and tap your heels together three times, and think to yourself; There's no place like home... "
―Glinda (1939)

THE WIZARD OF OZ Detailed Synopsis[]

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Oz Movie Poster

Dorothy's Dilemma[]

The film starts out with credits, which open up with a very cloudy background in a black and white sepia tone.

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After the film dedicates itself to the ones young at heart, we open with it taking place in rural Kansas, also filmed in gloomy sepia tone. Although it was released in 1939, cars, phones, and household electricity, things that were a part of everyday life in the 30s, are never seen in any of the Kansas scenes, hinting that it is probably set in an even earlier time period. The first character we are introduced to is the protagonist and heroine of the tale named Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland). She is a girl in her early teens, and slightly troubled orphan seen running down the prairie dirt road with her little pet dog, Toto. They have just come from the unseen schoolhouse, as they return to her Aunt Em (Clara Blandick) and Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin) who both live at an old farm up the road. After a disastrous encounter with the snooty and mean-spirited neighbor, Miss Gulch, (Margaret Hamilton), she is in a deep dilemma. To her dismay, it seems as if neither Aunt Em or Uncle Henry cares or is interested in this as she tries to tell them about her problems. They are simply far too busy to be bothered by her and her childish nonsense as they are accessing the baby chicks.

The other three wise cracking hired farmhands, Hunk (Ray Bolger), Hickory (Jack Haley), and Zeke (Bert Lahr), are also too busy at work on the wagon and pigpen and do not want to hear Dorothy rambling and ranting on about her misfortune that took place earlier that day. Everyone tells her to just try and stay out of the way and find a place where there isn't any trouble. However, she daydreams of a carefree and more colorful world, a land where there isn't any trouble. She starts to wonder if there really is such a place "over the rainbow".

Later that day, Miss Gulch finally arrives on her bike to the Gale farm and announces to Uncle Henry that she will have Toto destroyed because he got into her garden, chased her old cat, and even bit her when she hit him on the back with a rake in defense. She has gotten the local Sheriff to give her a legitimate order for him to be taken.

Despite Aunt Em defending Toto, Miss Gulch insist that he is hers bow. She takes him away from a crying Dorothy and puts in the basket on her bike to be destroyed. Dorothy is devastated and runs to her bedroom heartbroken. Luckily, while Miss Gulch is riding her bike down the dirt road, Toto is clever enough to jump out of the basket to escape and he loyally runs back to Dorothy.

Dorothy is delighted when Toto returns. But then she also realizes that Miss Gulch will return for him sooner or later. So she decides to pack her basket and traveling suitcase to run far away to escape all her troubles.

After a few miles of walking aimlessly, Dorothy crosses a small bridge where she encounters a friendly fortune teller named Professor Marvel, (Frank Morgan) who stays by himself with his horse, Sylvester, in a wagon beside the road by a calm creek. Dorothy asks if she can come with him to see all of the crowned heads of Europe. He guesses correctly that she is running away and pretends to consult a crystal ball in his wagon (in reality taking Dorothy's basket and looking at a photo of her and Aunt Em as she has her eyes closed). He tricks her, for her own good, and makes up a phony story about Aunt Em being suddenly ill and grief stricken over her leaving and might die from a broken heart. She then realizes how selfish she has been by not thinking about Aunt Em's feelings and not taking her guardians into consideration. In a panic for Aunt Em's health, she grabs Toto and after thanking Professor Marvel turns around and heads back home right away.

It's A Twister![]

However, by this time, a deadly cyclone has hit the Kansas prairies and is heading for the Gale farm. Aunt Em looks for Dorothy as she screams out her name. But Uncle Henry takes a frightened Aunt Em as there is no time to wait for her, and with the farmhands everyone safely hides in the storm cellar.

The wind howls and blows terribly, but Dorothy finally reaches the storm cellar, she is unable to get in because it is locked. Despite her cries to let her in, the sound of the wind is too fierce for her voice to be heard. She runs back into the farmhouse and finds shelter in her bedroom. The pressure of the wind is so strong and violent by now that it finally causes her bedroom window to break inward and hit her in the forehead, knocking her unconscious as she lays on her bed beside Toto. Then, a strange thing happens, the cyclone lifts the farmhouse from its foundation without demolishing it and it twirls upward until it reaches the clouds and is sucked into the heart of the cyclone.

When Dorothy awakens minutes later to the sound of a rooster crowing at her window, she looks out, sees the inside of the cyclone, and realizes she must be up in it. Then she and Toto see many other people and even animals who were also caught up in it. And to her horror, she sees none other than Miss Gulch who is still riding her bike. She suddenly makes a hideous transformation and turns into a Wicked Witch with a pointed hat and long cape as she confidently flies on her broomstick while laughing at Dorothy in a crackling voice. The house then begins to spin and twirl in the air uncontrollably and the cyclone finally releases and drops it, falling with gravity as it descends from out the sky.

Not in Kansas anymore[]

"...Kansas she says is the name of the star..."
―Glinda (1939)

The farmhouse finally lands, and all is silent. Once the coast is clear, Dorothy grabs Toto in her arms and eagerly rushes to the front door to step outside. As it is opened, the film transitions to Technicolor. Dorothy is amazed and left speechless by what she sees before her very eyes. She finds herself in the midst of a country consisting of marvelous landscaping and breath-taking beauty. The sky above is bright blue and there are lovely green hills in the distance with tall, stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Meadows and banks of giant gorgeous flowers blossom on every hand and birds sing sweetly. A little way off is a small babbling brook of blue water that leads into a little blue pond filled with giant lily pads which is centered in the middle of what seems to be a little town of little houses with domed roofs, all built for little people. Dorothy then realizes she is no longer in Kansas but must be over the Rainbow.

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Not in Kansas anymore...

As Dorothy stands absolutely mesmerized by the sights around her, Glinda, (Billie Burke) the beautiful Good Witch of the North, appears before her in a big pink magic bubble. Dressed in an elegant glittering gown adorned with diamonds and a matching headpiece, she slowly approaches Dorothy to ask her if she is a good witch or a bad witch. She denies being any type of witch at all, neither Toto. Glinda then informs her that she is in the magical Land of Oz, and that her farmhouse landed on the Wicked Witch of the East and killed her. As Glinda says this, she also points with her wand directly at the farmhouse, to Dorothy's shock, there indeed are two stocking feet sticking from under it adorned in a dazzling pair of sparkling Ruby Slippers. Glinda also tells Dorothy that the Munchkins are the little people who live in the east.

Thanks to Dorothy, the Munchkins are now free from the Wicked Witch forever who apparently kept them in her bondage for a long time. As Glinda assures them that Dorothy will not harm them, they come out of their hiding places and a big celebration is thrown throughout Munchkinland. Dorothy is even declared a heroine by the Mayor and all of the Munchkin county council.

The celebration is interrupted when the Wicked Witch of the East's green skinned sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, appears in a cloud of fire and smoke. She is said to be much worse than her sister and very angry to see she is now dead and demands to know who is responsible for her demise. Glinda then reminds her of her sister's precious ruby slippers, but before she can take them to claim as her own, Glinda cleverly uses her own magic powers to teleport them onto Dorothy's feet to keep them out of the hands of evil. Just as the Wicked Witch reaches out to grab the slippers they vanish and as a result her dead sister's bare stocking feet curl up and shrink under the farmhouse. When the Witch asks where they are, Glinda reveals that Dorothy is now their new official owner.

This upsets the Wicked Witch tremendously and she threatens Dorothy to give the slippers back as she is the only one who knows how to properly use them. But Glinda tells her to keep tight inside of them for their magic is very powerful. Glinda reminds the ill-tempered Witch that she has no power in Munchkinland, and advises her to immediately leave at once before someone drops a house on her too! So she threatens Dorothy to watch her back, and vowels to get her sooner or later, and Toto too. She vanishes in a cloud of fire and smoke the same way she came. Soon Dorothy asks Glinda how she is supposed to get back home to Kansas, since she did not bring her own broomstick. Glinda tells her that only the great and Wonderful Wizard of Oz can truly help her. And Glinda explains that he is the most powerful and mysterious figure within all the land and lives as a recluse in the Emerald City, which is a very long journey from Munchkinland. To get there, Dorothy must follow the Yellow Brick Road which leads all the way to the city gates. Before departing, Glinda carefully warns her to never let the ruby slippers of her feet even for a moment, or she will be at the mercy of the Wicked Witch. Glinda then kisses her upon her forehead for luck and gracefully disappears up into the sky inside her pink magic bubble again.

The Munchkins wish Dorothy and Toto a happy journey and wave farewell as they skip along the yellow brick road before them.

On the Yellow Brick Road[]

Along the yellow brick road, Dorothy reaches a wide fork, and while confused as to which way to turn next, she also meets a talking Scarecrow, perched up on a pole in a nearby cornfield to scare off the crows. He is deeply unhappy because he can't fulfil his purpose and successfully scare the crows away. He also is unsatisfied because he doesn't have a brain. Dorothy tells him about the Wizard and how she is on her way to see him. With her approval, the Scarecrow decides to come along with her and Toto in hopes that the Wizard might give him some brains as he will send Dorothy back to her home in Kansas. They then set out on the yellow brick road again and continue on with their long journey.

After tricking some rather mean trees and getting some of their delicious apples to eat for a hardy snack, they discover a Tin Man on the side of the road hidden by trees and bushes. They see that he is entirely made out of tin and also completely rusted. He mumbles in agony for his oil can and Dorothy and the Scarecrow oil up his joints so he can properly move again and talk without any restraint. After thanking them for freeing him from his prison of rust, he tells them a sad story, that he is empty inside because the tinsmith who made his tin body forgot to add a heart to love. After thinking it over, they invite him to also come with them so the Wizard can give him a heart as he will give Dorothy a way home and the Scarecrow a set of brains.

While getting properly acquainted, the trio is interrupted and threatened by the Wicked Witch who appears above them on the moss-covered roof of the Tin Man's wooden cottage. She warns them that if they venture any further or help Dorothy in anyway, that she'd stuff a mattress with the Scarecrow and use the Tin Man for a beehive. She conjures a fire ball in her hand and throws it toward the Scarecrow before disappearing again. The Scarecrow is afraid he will get burned but the Tin Man quickly puts the fire out with his funnel hat. He and the Scarecrow both reassure Dorothy they will make sure she gets safely to the Emerald City whether they get a brain, a heart, or not. After announcing that they are now all best friends, they began their quest to see the Wizard.

They follow the yellow brick road which eventually leads them into a dark and scary forest in the night, with only the moonlight to guide them. It turns into a thick jungle filled with many dangers to be aware of such as lions, tigers, and bears. Here they come across a Lion, who bounds out of the darkness and onto the road before them. He loudly roars furiously at them to scare them. He mercilessly bullies the Scarecrow and Tin Man who both fall down at the side of the road while Dorothy hides behind a big tree. The Lion sees Toto, who barks and growls at him, so he pursues to bite him. Dorothy, afraid for him, defends him and slaps the Lion on the nose very hard before lecturing him. To the trio's surprise, he has a breakdown and begins to cry and sob. He finally confesses and admits to tell them the truth about being a coward. He even admits he is scared of himself and hasn't slept in weeks.


Dorothy and her friends sympathize and forgive the sad Lion before inviting him to come with them to see the Wizard.

Later on, the travelers make it out of the dark forest and into the bright daylight again. There before them, over hills and meadows of beautiful Poppies, they see the magnificent Emerald City of Oz sparkling and glowing in the distance.

However, the Wicked Witch has been spying on them the entire time through her magic crystal ball within her dark castle. She creates a magic potion to poison the poppies in the field they are crossing to put Dorothy to sleep and sabotage her to slow her down so she can finally retrieve the ruby slippers and use their power to become the most powerful figure in all of Oz.

The poppies are indeed attractive to the eye, but soothing to the smell and they begin to take full effect when the travelers are halfway into the field. This almost works as the Witch planned, and Dorothy, Toto, and the Lion are put into a deep, deep sleep as the Scarecrow and Tin Man cry out for help. Glinda hears their pleas and uses her wand to make it suddenly snow out of the clear blue sky to stop the poppies' scent. Dorothy, Toto, and the Lion almost instantly wake up only to find the Tin Man has rusted himself while crying. After they oil him again, they all happily continue the journey. They safely reach the gates of the glorious Emerald City at last.

Merry Old Land Of Oz[]

At first, the Guardian of the Gates is skeptical to let them into the city, but they are welcomed to enter inside thanks to the ruby slippers. Once he sees them, he immediately opens the large green doors that lead into the glorious city.


Inside the city, its citizens are all fashionable people, wearing fancy green outfits and attractive robes. Before they are allowed to see Oz, the travelers must take a tour of the beautiful city in a green buggy drawn by the "Horse of a Different Color". They are all taken to the beauty shop and salon to wash and tidy up to look presentable for meeting with the Wizard. The Scarecrow gets restuffed with brand new straw, the Tin Man gets his tin body polished, Dorothy has her hair done, and the Lion has his claws clipped and mane permed and adorned with a red silk bow.

Meanwhile, the Wicked Witch is still very displeased that they arrived in the city unharmed and sets out on her flying broomstick to skywrite in big, thick, black smoke above the city in giant letters which read, "SURRENDER DOROTHY".

Dorothy, her companions, and the city's citizens all panic and question who Dorothy is as everyone crowds together to consult the Wizard. The Soldier with the Green Whiskers tries to calm them down, tells them to go home, and there is nothing to worry about. They do as they are told and leave. But Dorothy's companions tell the Soldier that she is the "Witch's Dorothy" and to please inform the Wizard at once!

Soon after the Wizard's palace gates are thrown open and lead into a very tall and wide yet dim hallway. At the end of it lies the great throne room of Oz. The travelers meet the great and powerful Wizard in the form of a giant-oversized translucent green head above a large green throne surrounded by green smoke and flames of shooting fire. Each of them is allowed to speak with him one by one as he screams and shouts at them in a powerful intimidating voice, but no one dares to talk back or question his authority. He tells them all he is indeed willing to grant their requests. But here's the catch, he will do so only if they bring him the Wicked Witch's broomstick first to prove they are worthy enough to deserve his assistance and usage of power. The travelers then have no choice but to obey his commands, which sadly would require them to destroy and kill the Wicked Witch. While entering into the dark and very spooky Haunted Forest in Winkie Country, which is the only way to reach the Wicked Witch's castle, about a mile or so away, she looks in her crystal ball and sees them coming. She wastes no time and sends her Winged Monkeys out into the sky to bring her Dorothy and Toto and reminds the pact to not damage the ruby slippers. They fly away to the Haunted Forest.

Fly, Fly, Fly, & Seize Them![]

The travelers see the winged monkeys in the sky approaching them and turn and flee in different directions. The monkeys are just as fast and quickly attack, terrorize and bully them. Some beat and ruff up the Tin Man and pull the Scarecrow apart, leaving his straw scattered all around him. Three capture Dorothy and Toto, lifting them high into the sky bringing them to the Witch's castle as Dorothy screams in fear.

Back at the castle, the Wicked Witch is now more satisfied as ever and tries to take the ruby slippers by threatening to drown Toto in a river below the castle, even putting him in a basket in a very similar manner to Miss Gulch. Dorothy finally surrenders and agrees to give up the ruby slippers to the Wicked Witch in return for Toto.

But when the Wicked Witch tries to take the ruby slippers off Dorothy's feet at last, they shoot unpredictable and violent sparks out that burn her hands painfully. Toto jumps out of the basket and gets away to call for help. He safely escapes the castle grounds before anyone can catch him. This infuriates the Wicked Witch, who insists that it's more than Dorothy will.

The Wicked Witch then decides she has to kill Dorothy in the process if she wants the ruby slippers all for herself. And as she leaves, she locks Dorothy in her tower chamber with the hourglass of death, which represents Dorothy's time to be alive. She abandons a frightened Dorothy, leaving her all alone as she goes off to figure out a way to take the ruby slippers off Dorothy's feet without damaging their power.

Meanwhile, Toto makes it back to the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion and takes them to the castle, showing them the way over a very rocky mountain. When they arrive, they see the castle is guarded by the Winkies, who are armed with sharp spears.

They successfully and surprisingly beat up three of the Winkies who try to come up on them from behind. They wear their uniforms to enter the castle in disguise. Toto leads them up the stairs to the tower chamber Dorothy is locked in. The Tin Man breaks the lock with his axe, freeing the distraught, imprisoned Dorothy just seconds before the hourglass of death runs out of time. She is happy to see Toto and her companions again, but there is no time to lose! They all quickly try to flee from the castle out the main door but are caught red handed and attacked by the Wicked Witch and Winkies who are ordered to seize them. After a chase scene up the castle walls, the Winkies corner them and aim the sharp spears they carry directly at them threatening to stab them.

The Wicked Witch approaches the travelers, cackling with glee. She wickedly taunts them all as she decides to kill them with Dorothy being last so she can watch. She raises her broom and sets the end on fire with the flame of a torch on the wall and places it on the Scarecrow's arm, setting it on fire. He begins to panic and shout; Dorothy throws a nearby bucket of collected rainwater at him to put out the fire, but some of it also accidentally splashes the Wicked Witch in the face. This brings her death and causes her to melt away — putting an end to her beautiful wickedness.

To Dorothy's shock, the Winkies are thrilled that the Wicked Witch is dead, freeing them from her evil spell for serving her forever. They all hail Dorothy and bow down to her. To show their appreciation, they thank her by also offering her the Wicked Witch's broomstick as a reward and souvenir trophy.

The Man Behind the Curtain[]

The travelers make it back to the Emerald City. The Wizard seems surprised to see them return in one piece. He tells them that he'll "have to give the matter a little thought" and asks them to "go away and come back tomorrow" to collect their rewards. But Dorothy is angered at this so she demands for him to keep his promise and send her home. Toto sneaks off and pulls back a green curtain at the corner of the throne room, revealing an old grey-haired man (Frank Morgan) behind it speaking into a microphone and operating a complex machine, and Dorothy finds out that he is really the Wizard. Just using machines to project the giant head giving its audience a fake illusion. she tells him that he is a very bad man for doing so, but he insists he is a very good man, but, on the other hand, just a very bad Wizard.

The Wizard tells the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion that they actually have what they have been wanting the entire time, and gives the Scarecrow a diploma, the Lion a medal, and the Tin Man a heart-shaped testimonial watch to remind them of this, and so others will recognize them too. Keeping his promise and satisfying them, he then turns to Dorothy and tells her that he is also from Kansas and came to Oz in a hot air balloon that was caught in a storm on a windy day at the circus fair. He then tells her he will gladly take her and Toto back home, even accompany her, and they will return to the land of E Pluribus Unum.

When the balloon is ready to be launched, the Wizard tells the Emerald City's citizens, who are gathered around to watch him, Dorothy, and Toto leave together, that the Scarecrow will officially rule over them until he returns, if any, assisted by the Tin Man and Lion. Before the last few seconds of the departure, Toto jumps out of Dorothy's arms to chase after a Siamese cat with blue eyes who is meowing at him in the crowd. She rushes off after him, not wanting to leave him. Unfortunately, the balloon's ropes are released, and it floats away into the sky before Dorothy and Toto are able to return. The Wizard sincerely apologizes as it rises higher and higher into the sky and is never seen again. Dorothy is devastated and begins to cry as her companions try comfort her. She tells them that she may never see Aunt Em and Uncle Henry again and doesn't know what to do. The Lion suggest for her to live in Oz, but she tells him that it will never be like Kansas.

No Place like Home[]

When all hope seems to be lost, Glinda descends in her pink magic bubble into the city and the citizens all give her a low bow in her presence. She then calmly approaches Dorothy and explains that she always had the power to get back to Kansas. She explains to the Scarecrow that she chose not to tell her before because she wouldn't have believed her, and she needed to learn for herself and not take her blessings for granted. She then realizes she didn't have to run away to find her heart's desire because it was in front of her the entire time. Glinda informs her that she has learned her lesson of value to become a better person and appreciate the people who love her. And that there really is no place like home after all and tells her the ruby slippers will take her home in two seconds, and Toto too!


After a tearful goodbye to her companions, Dorothy holds Toto tightly in her arms, closes her eyes, taps her heels together three times, and thinks to herself, "There's no place like home." Time seems to stop as everything magically begins to go back to the way it was.

Back in a black and white sepia tone, Dorothy awakens in her bedroom and is back in Kansas. Aunt Em is at her side and has a cloth over her forehead to ease the bump on her forehead. She tries to explain what she saw in Oz, but a doubtful Aunt Em and Uncle Henry then tell her that the adventure she described was just a dream from the bump on the forehead. But she is convinced that her journey throughout the Oz was all in fact real. Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke come in (whom she notices resemble her companions), and Professor Marvel (who resembles the Wizard) shows up at her window to see if she is all right. Toto jumps up onto her bed, and she tells everyone that she promises to never run away ever again, because she loves them all and "There's no place like home".


The End[]

Miss Gulch is nowhere to be seen, nor is she mentioned. This hints that she might have been severely injured or died in the cyclone. Her fate is left up to the viewers' imaginations. Since she turns into the Wicked Witch flying on her broomstick, she may have died just as the Wicked Witch of the East did under Dorothy's house.

Differences between the source material and the adaptation[]

  • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels, L. Frank Baum intended the Land of Oz to be an actual place. An undiscovered uncivilized country inhabited by magical creatures and beings. In sequels, it is stated that Oz is cut off from the rest of the normal world because it is all surrounded by a great vast Deadly Desert. Anything living that touches this desert, dies by instantly turning to sand. Oz is not just a delusion or dream that Dorothy had as it was made to be in the movie. In the later Oz novels that Baum wrote as sequels to his first book, it is stated that the long-lost daughter of King Pastoria, Princess Ozma, the child Queen and rightful ruler of Oz, magically cut the portal off and closed any possible way to be visited by outsiders to keep Oz pure from any non-believers. She did this right after Dorothy was made an official Princess of Oz. Ozma then invited Dorothy and Toto to live in Oz permanently along with a few other people including even Aunt Em and Uncle Henry.
  • In the book, Dorothy is a young girl, a mere child and not a preteen as it was portrayed in the film. It never mentions her age, but Baum stated her character was no older than twelve.
  • In the film, Dorothy attends a schoolhouse, as it opens up with her running home from there and Toto getting into Miss Gulch's garden. In the book, her education is never mentioned, most likely she was home schooled like many country raised farm-children were of her time.
  • There are three hired farmhands who work at the Gale farm in the film. In the book only Uncle Henry, Aunt Em, and Dorothy reside there. The farmhands were created for the film by Noel Langley.
  • In the book, there is no Miss Gulch or Professor Marvel. Miss Gulch was created for the film by Noel Langley. Professor Marvel was created forit by Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf.
  • Dorothy never runs away from home in the book.
  • The first Witch to greet Dorothy in Oz is indeed the Good Witch of the North, yet her name is not Glinda but Locasta, or (in some versions) Tattypoo (although it is not certain what her actual name is as it is not given by Baum in the novel), and she is an old wrinkled woman all in white with a pointed hat. Glinda does not make an appearance until the end of the book.
  • In the book, Good Witches in Oz are said to only wear all white. Also, it is stated that when Glinda is brought into the plot at the end, she is wearing a long silk dress of pure white, not a glittering gown of light pink like in the film. And she is said to be very beautiful and young-looking despite being thousands of years old. She was not middle aged looking as Billie Burke was either.
  • The Munchkins only wear blue in the book. As the Winkies only wear yellow, the Gillikins of the North only wear purple, and the Quadlings of the South only wear red. And the Emerald City's citizens only wear all green. Also, in Munchkinland, there is no Lollipop Guild or Lullaby League. Nor is there mention of a Mayor or Coroner.
  • The magic shoes that Dorothy wears are Ruby Slippers with bows in the film. They were originally Silver Shoes with pointed toes in the book. The change was made to accommodate primitive Technicolor technology.
  • The Wicked Witch of the West does not make an appearance until the middle of the book.
  • In the book, Dorothy's farmhouse does not land right in front of the yellow brick road. She has to find it, but it doesn't take her too long.
  • In the book, the Land of Oz is a very vast and large place. It takes weeks for the travelers to reach the Emerald City. Dorothy's overall stay in Oz was for a few months instead of a day or two like it was portrayed in the film. This is verified in the book, when Dorothy returns home to Kansas, Uncle Henry has built a new farmhouse since the cyclone carried the old one to Oz. (This always verifies that Dorothy's trip to Oz was real.)
  • In the book, Dorothy and Toto attend a great feast and banquet held by a rich Munchkin man named Boq in her honor for killing the Wicked Witch of the East. She also spends her first night in Oz at his house, and even has a hardy breakfast with his family before continuing her journey to the Emerald City.
  • In the book, there are indeed Fighting Trees, but they do not talk or have apples on the branches. They are planted there at the boarders to keep trespassers out of Quadling Country.
  • In the book, the Tin Woodman used to be a real man of flesh and blood who has a tragic backstory involving his true love. But it is not mentioned in the film.
  • In the book, beasts called Kalidahs chase after the travelers. They are a rare type of animal in Oz with heads of tigers and bodies of bears who kill for meat to eat. In the film, Dorothy and her companions only mention "lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)".
  • In the book, the Scarecrow gets stuck in the middle of a raging river when the travelers make a raft to cross it. He is then rescued by a female stork.
  • In the book, when the travelers are within the Poppy Field, the Queen of the Field Mice and her Field Mice help the Scarecrow and Tin Man rescue het sleeping Lion after the Tin Man saves the Queen from a wildcat who tried to eat her.
  • In the book, when the travelers enter the Emerald City, they are forced to wear green tinted spectacles by the Guardian of the Gates before being allowed in so the brilliance of the city does not blind them. Also, unlike the film, there is no Horse of a Different Color in the Emerald City.
  • Dorothy is given a pretty green dress of embroidered silk to wear before meeting the Wizard by a servant girl named Jellia Jamb in the book.
  • In the book, the Wizard is a (supposed) shapeshifter; when the travelers meet him, they all meet him one by one and to each he appears in a completely different form. In the film, he only appears as a great giant head to them, who are given an audience all at once.
  • In the book, the Wicked Witch of the West is never mentioned to have green skin as it is portrayed in the film. Nor does she wear all black, teleport in a cloud of fire and smoke, or fly on a broomstick in the sky. She has an umbrella that she uses to beats her slaves with though. And she only has one eye and wears a patch over the other's socket. Her working one is as powerful as a telescope and can see all parts of Oz no matter how far off they seem.
  • In the book, the Wicked Witch's castle is actually quite lovely inside. Everything is yellow and the rooms are said to be beautiful. Dorothy is ordered to clean them daily during the time of her captivity. It is not a black castle with a dark medieval look as it was portrayed in the film.
  • In the book, the Wicked Witch sends killer wolves, crows, bees, and her slaves, the Winkies, to kill the travelers who are trespassing in her land. Luckily, they defeated all four attacks.
  • In the book, the Wicked Witch owns an enchanted Golden Cap that once belonged to a Gillikin Queen named Gayelette who lived in a jeweled palace in the northern quadrant of Oz. She was also a powerful sorceress. The cap itself held a very powerful charm, which allows the owner to order the Winged Monkeys to obey any command three times as they are its slaves. It is never mentioned or used in the film, but it is seen in the Witch's green hands while she is in her tower chamber. And there is a deleted reference to this in the continuity script, where the Witch says to Nikko, "Bring me my wishing cap! I'll call the Winged Monkeys to fetch me those slippers!"
  • In the book, the Wicked Witch also enslaved the Cowardly Lion and made him wear a harness to pull her chariot around.
  • In the book, the Wicked Witch tries to steal one of Dorothy's silver shoes by placing an invisible bar on the floor where she was cleaning. She tripped over it, not knowing it was there and one of her silver shoes fell off when she hits the floor. This is what triggers her to retaliate and throw a bucket of water on the Witch (instead of putting out a fire).
  • After being left behind by the Wizard in his balloon, unlike the film, Dorothy must travel to meet Glinda instead of Glinda coming to her. This leads the travelers on yet another long set of epic adventures as they encounter the fighting trees, Hammer-Heads, Dainty China Country, and a giant killer spider.
  • Glinda is the Good Witch of the South, not the North like in the film, and she does not travel in a pink magic bubble. Also in the book it is said that she lives in a red ruby castle in the South and sits on a throne of rubies. Her soldiers of the castle and court are entirely all female that are all around the same age as Dorothy, who is no older than twelve.
  • At the very end of the book, when Dorothy knocks her heels together three times and says, "Take me home to Aunt Em!", on her flight back to Kansas the silver shoes fall off of her feet and land in the Deadly Desert where they are lost forever. In the film, Dorothy says, "There's no place like home," when she taps her heels together three times.
  • When Dorothy is sent back home, she does not wake up in her bed. She lands in the prairie field right in front of the farm and shoeless instead.

Musical Ending[]

It was revealed in the RSC's musical adaptation that Miss Gulch was injured by a telegraph pole during the cyclone and her leg was in plaster, thus she was unable to pursue her lawsuit to have Toto destroyed.


See also: Wizard of Oz minor cast; Wizard of Oz vocal cast.


See also: LeRoy's List.


The makers of the film were strongly influenced by the success of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which showed that a fantasy film could attract an enthusiastic adult audience - a trick that earlier Oz films, including those made by Baum's Oz Film Manufacturing Company, had failed to master. Many of the changes made in Baum's original story were designed to recreate the success of Disney's movie; some of these, like a beautiful Wicked Witch of the West (to be played by Gale Sondergaard), did not survive into the finished film.

As a negative example, the filmmakers could look to the 1933 Paramount version of Alice in Wonderland, a notorious critical and popular flop. It had boasted a distinguished cast of stars and character actors, including Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, W.C. Fields, Edna May Oliver, Charlie Ruggles, Sterling Holloway, and Edward Everett Horton - who were generally unrecognizable under their heavy makeup. For The Wizard of Oz, care was taken so that the actors in heavy costume and makeup remained recognizable.

Fantasy was a tough genre for Hollywood. A year after the film, an adaptation of Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird that starred Shirley Temple (and costarred Sondergaard) would prove another notable flop and ended her career as a successful child actress and America's leading sweetheart.


Making the film[]

Mervyn LeRoy produced the film, with Arthur Freed as assistant producer. Its genesis was complex, employing multiple directors and screenwriters. Fleming had the director's credit, though George Cukor, Norman Taurog, Richard Thorpe, and King Vidor also worked on the project. An early plan to have Busby Berkeley direct the musical numbers never panned out.

Noel Langley is credited with adapting the original book, and Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf are credited as the authors of the screenplay - though more than a dozen individuals, including Herman Mankiewicz, were involved in various ways. The multiple versions of the film's script have been preserved; they make a stack five feet thick.

Jack Dawn designed the makeup for the characters. Makeup man Jack Young had the daily job of turning Margaret Hamilton into the Wicked Witch, while Charles Schram was responsible for the Cowardly Lion. By August 1938, the studio had set up a special annex where personnel drafted from the mail room and messenger service were trained in makeup; some of these people remained in the craft afterward. Still, so many actors and extras needed makeup in some scenes that the studio issued an open call to the local craft unions for free-lance hairdressers and makeup men.

Special effects for the movie were created by Buddy Gillespie and filmed by Max Fabian. Warren Newcombe created shots involving matte paintings for backgrounds, using techniques he originated. Sixty-five sets were used; the most complex was the Munchkinland set. As many as 150 painters may have worked on the film. Four separate horses were tinted for the Horse of a Different Color sequence.

Betty Danko, Hamilton's stunt double, was badly injured in an accident on the set; Hamilton suffered burns in another incident. Two of the flying monkeys were hospitalized after falling from the wires that made them "fly." Ray Bolger wore a suit protected with asbestos for the scene in which the Witch sets the Scarecrow on fire. Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Woodman, but endured a severe allergic reaction to the aluminum makeup the character wore; he had to be replaced by Jack Haley.

The film was edited by Fleming and Blanche Sewell; Fleming worked in the editing room in the evening, after directing Gone with the Wind during the day.

MGM studio records placed the cost of making the movie at $2,769,230.30 (in 1939 dollars) - half a million dollars over its budget. Production occurred between 12 October 1938 and 16 March 1939. (The movie had originally been scheduled to begin filming in the Spring of 1938 and to be completed by the end of that year; but delays in virtually every aspect of the production rendered that original schedule moot. See: Timeline.) Test screenings began in June; final editing was completed by 5 July, and the musical score finished on 9 July. The movie premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on 15 August 1939.

And after...[]

The film won two Academy Awards in 1940: in addition to Harburg and Arlen's award for Best Song, Herbert Stothart won the award for Best Original Score. The movie was nominated in four other categories too, losing the Best Picture Oscar to Gone with the Wind. (Judy Garland received a miniature Oscar for the best performance by a juvenile.)

The film earned $3,017,00 for MGM during its initial exhibition. This, however, was not enough to equal the production costs plus the million dollars spent on distribution and advertising. The film did not make a profit until it was re-released, ten years after its original showing; in 1949 it earned another $1,500,000 at the box office.

The first television broadcast of the film took place on 3 November 1956 on the CBS network; the audience of this initial broadcast has been calculated at over 44,000,000 viewers. A second TV broadcast of the film in 1959 (at an earlier hour) won an even larger audience. Annual broadcasts of the film followed through the ensuing decades, leading to the film's reputation as a classic.

By 1983, the film had earned somewhat under $6,000,000 at the box office, and $13,000,000 from television broadcast rights. Ted Turner bought the MGM film library, including The Wizard of Oz, in 1985; by 1988, worldwide television sales had increased to $34,500,000, plus $16,700,000 from the sales of 850,000 video cassettes.

The film has been restored using new technology more than once, including a major effort for a 1998 theatrical rerelease and the 2009 release of it on Blu-ray Disc.


The Wizard of Oz (1939)/Gallery


Billie Burke played a beautiful witch, at the age of 55; Margaret Hamilton played an ugly witch, at the age of 36. Hamilton found it unpleasant to eat while in costume: her green makeup got onto her food.

During the Tin Man's solo dance, a puff of "steam" is emitted from his funnel hat. MGM technicians simulated the steam with a puff of talcum powder.

For the poppy field scene, stagehands planted 40,000 artificial flowers into the floor of the set on Stage 29 at the MGM studio.

More than 300 extras were used for the Emerald City scenes.

Despite the remarkable aspects of the production, the MGM publicity department perpetrated wild exaggerations of the relevant facts. MGM publicity director Howard Strickling released a 32-page memo that claimed that 9200 actors "faced the camera" in the film, that 3200 costumes were created, and 6200 personnel "on all branches of production" worked on the project. His numbers were nonsense (yielding one costume for every three actors, for example). In fact, about 500 performers appeared in the film, and a thousand costumes were created. MGM had fewer than 4000 employees in total in the late 1930s, and not all of them worked on the film.



  • The film airs once a year on TBS in the United States. The most recent airing was on Thanksgiving 2023.
  • The yellow brick road was actually wood painted yellow.
  • The Lion's costume was actually made from real lion pelts.
  • At one point MGM's Leo the Lion was considered for the role of the Lion.
  • Margaret Hamilton suffered severe burns from pyrotechnics on set. She returned on the condition that she wouldn't have to do any more scenes with explosions. Her stunt double, Betty Danko, was used for them. However, whilst filming the scene where the Witch skywrites "Surrender Dorothy" with her broom, the broom exploded, and Danko was sent flying through the air and got badly injured. The studio brought in Eileen Goodman to finish the stunt, with Hamilton standing in-front of a projection for closeup shots.
  • There is a rumor that one of the Munchkin actors committed suicide on the set. This urban legend is referred to as The Hanging Munchkin by fans.
  • The Scarecrow's hat, the original film script, and one pair of Dorothy's ruby slippers are preserved in the vaults of the Smithsonian.
  • This was one of the first films to be produced in Technicolor.
  • When the Wicked Witch of the West disappears, the Castle Thunder is heard.
  • After Dorothy frees the Scarecrow he does a jig dance on the yellow brick road; an outtake survives of it but was never used in the film; likewise while Dorothy; the Scarecrow; the Tin Man, and the Lion are in the Haunted Forest on their way to the Wicked Witch of the West's castle, the Witch sends insects after them and remarks that will take the sting out of them; a brief scene was filmed of them as seen through a fly's eyes-a this point a song was supposed to be played and sung "The Jitterbug"[1] all that survives is a still photograph of them on a dark stage and a brief outtake scene of them dancing[2]. About 20 years later Garland did sing this song, however, neither of these outtakes were used in the remastered version of the film. Ironically In 2016, the song was used in the 2016 direct-to-video animated film Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz, with the heroes facing the Jitterbug, which was sent after them by the villainous Nome King. This version was performed by Dorothy's singing voice actress Amy Pemberton, the Scarecrow's voice actor Michael Gough, the Tin Man's voice actor Rob Paulsen, and the Cowardly Lion's voice actor Todd Stashwick. Both the RSC and MUNY stage musicals include this cut number.

External links[]

Site-logo Films Site-logo
Live-Action adaptations Silent films Fairylogue and Radio-Plays (1908) • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) • His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914) • The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914) • The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914) • The Wizard of Oz (1925)
Modern films The Wizard of Oz (1939) • The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969) • 20th Century Oz (1976) • The Wiz (1978) • Return to Oz (1985) • The Dreamer of Oz (1990) • The Wizard of the City of Emeralds (1994) • The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005) • After the Wizard (2011) • Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) • The Wiz Live! (2015)
Inspired films Flying Monkeys (2013) • OzLand (2015)
Guest Appearances Inkheart (2008) • Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)
Animated adaptations Feature films Journey Back to Oz (1974) • The Wizard of Oz (1982) • The Wizard of Oz (1983) • The Wizard of Oz (1991) • Lion of Oz (2000) • Tom and Jerry & the Wizard of Oz (2011) • Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (2014) • Guardians of Oz (2015) • Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz (2016) • Urfin Jus and His Wooden Soldiers (2017) • The Steam Engines of Oz (2018)
Guest Appearances The LEGO Movie (2014) • The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Upcoming adaptations Wicked: Part One/Wicked: Part Two (2024-5) • Dorothy & Alice (TBA) • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (film) (TBA) • Toto (film) (TBA)
Short films After Oz (2007) • The Land of Oz (short film) (2015) • Dorothy in the Land of Stars (2017) • Unknown, Lost, or non-English Adaptations