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“The Wizard of Oz”: 70 years later, its legacy is still alive

By Sharone Goldman in Arts & Culture

The “Wizard of Oz” is a name that alone evokes ghostly forests, cackling witches, and an enchanted World that we can quite literally say can only by attained within our wildest dreams. The vibrant colors, quotable lyrics, and countless adaptations make it hard to believe that this movie was produced over seventy years ago! That’s right: this 1939 film is truly timeless.

Most of us go to the cinema and forget what we watched the following morning. Many movies are forgetful and insignificant. This is not surprising, seeing as our range of options consists of “Mall Cop” and “Hot Tub Time Machine.” So what makes the Wizard of Oz so popular? By today's standards, "Oz's" special effects are unrealistic, its acting is mediocre, and its plot is totally predictable. Why do all generations love it so much?

One of those reasons is simply how iconic it is. "Iconic” is the perfect description for Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton. Garland, as Dorothy, portrays a youthful girl full of dreams and unalloyed curiosity. Hamilton plays the very typical witch: Green, hideous, embellished in warts and capable of tremor-evoking laughter.

This movie is also really hilarious, with all its corniness and simplicity. We love the robotic munchkins, as they warble “ding-dong the witch is dead!” We guffaw at the Cowardly Lion, a grown man (or feline!) who can hardly keep his senses. The fragility of the poor Scarecrow and the sweetness of the Tin man’s wishes are heart melting.

Life is complicated, and “The Wizard of Oz” presents something in black and white, meaning that the audience needs not ponder over the ethics of the protagonist or the motives of the antagonist. In “The Wizard of Oz”, The Wicked Witch of the West is wicked because, well, they say she is. The Good Witch is kind because she is pretty and wears an innocent pink dress.

Perhaps one of the reasons we adore “The Wizard of Oz” so much is because it's overflowing with imagination. It is unconventional, over-the-top, and delightfully ridiculous. Everybody needs that in their lives; a break from mundane cubicles, classes, and nonfiction essays and to delve into a place where everything that doesn’t work comes together in a fabulous land called Oz.

“The Wizard of Oz” has been the source of inspiration for Gregory Maguire’s incredible novel, Wicked. This book explores the roots of evil and questions whether the Wicked Witch of the West truly is as forbidding and malicious as she is portrayed to be. Her name, Elphaba, which is derived from the initials of the original “Wizard of Oz” author, L. Frank Baum, connotes a role-model for today’s youth who feel misunderstood and labeled. This book is widely popular with its rich text and thought-evoking plot. It was so magical and unique, that “Wicked” has been adapted into the infamous Broadway musical that shares its name. Lovers of musical-theater all know that Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth portrayed the “evil” and “good” witch with matchless talent. This show is truly a sensation that stirs up both tears and laughter.

The family movie nights persist. The Musicals continue reaching wild audiences. One might inevitably find themselves humming munchkinlander lyrics. “The Wizard of Oz” appears to have an immortal legacy.

The Wicked Witch of the West might be “undeniably and reliably” dead, but this movie has a future that is as bright as Dorothy’s glittering ruby slippers.

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