Monthly Archives: November 2009

Auntie Em, it’s a classic

From the opening views of the farm in sepia tones to the incredibly short closing credits, you have to admit: there’s no other movie like The Wizard of Oz. They knew it then, too. Could be that’s why no one has ever attempted a remake.

I bought the 70th Anniversary Edition the other day, which WB just released this year. Kay came over to watch it with me last night. So many memories…I remember going to Mary Sue and Wendy’s house next door one year; they were the only people we knew at the time who had a color TV set. I’ll never forget it. The musical motif for the witch’s entrances, her laugh, when Miss Gulch turned into the hag during the tornado, when she turned to the camera and laughed at Dorothy through that magic glass thingy, when she wrote “SURRENDER DOROTHY” in the sky** — it all frightened me to death. Anyway…

You won’t believe the picture quality. I took a screen shot from the Flash movie on the Warner Bros. website that shows the comparison between the 2005 restoration and the latest one.

Such clarity. The way her shoes sparkled, the greens (especially the greens, yikes) — all incredibly bright. The groundbreaking techniques MGM used to incorporate Technicolor — then a brand new effect — into a black and white film made the movie even more of an elite fantasy; something no one had ever seen before.

The accompanying bonus disc was quite interesting. Many of us know the basic trivia (Buddy Ebsen was the original Tin Man but was hospitalized for weeks for breathing in the aluminum dust from the makeup; Shirley Temple was asked to play Dorothy, but Fox wouldn’t loan her out; Bert Lahr’s lion costume weighed 90-some lbs.), but here are some facts you may not know:

  • Richard Thorpe, the film’s first director, had Judy Garland wearing a long, wavy blond wig, and heavy “baby doll” makeup. When he was fired, George Cukor came in and declared that Dorothy should “just be herself.” The resulting look is what you see today.
  • “Over the Rainbow” was cut from the original 1939 release; Louis B. Mayer feared it slowed the pace of the movie, and that it was undignified to have a movie star sing such a beautiful song in a barnyard. Thank the gods (and exec producer Arthur Freed) it was added back into the rerelease in the 40s. Kay and I are both amazed to this day by how a 16-year-old girl pulled off that gorgeous song as no one else has since. She could teach all the American Idol teenyboppers — and the rest of us, too — a huge lesson in professionalism and style. I think few really realize how talented she was.
  • Ray Bolger was originally slated to play the Tin Man. He just couldn’t see himself in the role, being a dancer, and, in his mind, perfect for the part of the Scarecrow. He went personally, with his wife for moral support, to the producers and lobbied his case. (He won.)
  • There were entire sections of the plot that never made the final cut, although some lines that refer to these scenes remain in the film.
  • Ray Bolger and Jack Haley (the Tin Man) were the highest-paid stars on the set. They each got $3,000 a week. (Judy Garland made $500 a week.)
  • Judy was put on diet pills in order to keep the weight off before and during production. One has to wonder if that was a dangerous beginning of sorts. Certainly, the end came all too soon for her. A heartbreaking tragedy.
  • W. C. Fields was originally asked to play the Wizard, but he wanted too much money. I think they got a way better deal with Frank Morgan, don’t you? He ended up playing five different roles in the film.

There are dozens more of these entertaining factoids; too many to list in one post. I say you should rent/buy this DVD (I paid only $15 for it at Target) and enjoy some memories of your own.



** The skywriting bit was filmed by holding a camera beneath a glass table and having someone write “Surrender Dorothy” on it using a syringe full of ink.

Holiday movie menu

Even though my Thanksgiving break isn’t over yet (Deer Huntin’ Day tomorrow, so no school — gotta love teaching out in the sticks), I’m looking forward to Christmas vacation. Between spending as much time as possible with Jake and Justin and getting the new district website done in Joomla, I plan to see a movie or two. Behold:

  1. Sherlock Holmes, and not because Robert Downey is dreamy. Really.
  2. New Moon, because I liked the books. Not particularly looking forward to the mopey, depressed teenage girl aspect, however. I never was one, and I don’t like to be around them. But I do love all things vampiric.
  3. Avatar, because I think it’s impossible for James Cameron to have a bigger triumph than Titanic. And it looks quite good, actually, so I may be proven wrong.
  4. It’s Complicated – I am not a Baldwin fan, but this does look really funny.
  5. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and not because of Heath Ledger, don’t ya know.


Of course, I will watch White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life, just because they’re wonderful, and probably catch The Santa Clause because it’s cute, and because it is the last movie I ever saw with my mother, back in 1994.

Christmas shopping is pretty much done. Howdya like that??

Wish I wouldn’t have scheduled a gig for my v-jazz group this afternoon, however. Would have been nice to just be lazy all day. Ah well. Good music is always a fine reason to get out of the house.

Enjoy your Sunday — the holiday insanity begins.


Still on about the food

Well I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving (sorry Suze – I hope your tuna sammich was tasty!). The holiday itself is rather silly when you think about it: getting together one day a year to be thankful, or worse, to “celebrate” what is one of the most egregious examples of skrooed up history ever, or worst, to see how much you can eat before you lapse into a diabetic coma. Still, I love that we are able to gather together and collectively acknowledge how fortunate we are for food and shelter throughout the whole year. We did that in fine style at the Finkhouse last night. It was great.

We (or I should say, Mavis) dry-brined the turkey this year. I highly recommend it. If you are weary of dry white meat on your bird, then this is the holy g-r-r-r-ail. It was a 4-day ritual, but boy did it pay off. Home run, Mave!

So anyway, still on about the food…

I was on a Slovenian-American site this morning and a link caught my eye. It’s a YouTube vid of a man going to a raw milk machine. A mlekomat. No homogenization; no hormones added. Just raw milk right from Bessie at the farm down the road — put into a milk machine. Is that cool or what?

You’ll see the guy in the video first purchase an empty bottle, then put it in the machine, and presto — raw milk. I’ll bet it’s funny to see one of these on a country road out in the middle of nowhere.

Just a little Black Friday weirdness for ya.

Nuevo día

‘Tis a new day indeed. For the first time since December 2006, I am free of Boston University. Completely. Permanently. All that’s left is getting the final grade, receiving the diploma in the mail, and depositing the course reimbursement from my school district into the Route 66 Vacation Fund. Life is grand.

I submitted the final draft of my thesis last night. No more edits; it’s over. I went downstairs where the Thriller was working on homework (he is just beginning his 2-year grad school odyssey), and just sort of sat there, numb. He asked me how I felt, and I had trouble deciding. Relief, I guess, but even moreso I think it is a sense of disbelief. It’s been so much a part of my daily existence for three years, I’m not sure what to replace it with.

But I’m sure I’ll find something. :-)

Ross reminded me last week about an upcoming Beatles show on the History Channel. It premiered last night (I missed it; after finishing the thesis, I turned on the Cavs game and promptly fell asleep watching it), and fortunately, I recorded it. So, on this quiet Thanksgiving morning when the house is asleep, and before the craziness of the day begins, I am going to make some delicious coffee, curl up on the sofa, and watch me some Fabs.

A happy Thanksgiving to all my fiends this day — have a great time with your families! I know I will.



Thumbs up for Donny

I never watched Dancing With the Stars until this season, and I didn’t start watching even then until the semi-finals. But I had to see if Donny Osmond could win it — especially with singer Mya in the competition. She is quite the fine dancer, and everyone “knew” she was going to walk away with it.

Imagine my surprise when I stayed up until 11 last night to watch the final announcement — and they gave the trophy to Donny. How cool is that?

I can only imagine the ensuing controversy. It’s begun already in the blogs I’ve read this morning. I have several thoughts about it:

1. It’s not completely about dance ability. Sure, it’s mostly about it, but dance is also theater. It’s entertainment, at least where DWTS is concerned. And while Mya (never heard her stuff, but I assume she is good) was very entertaining to watch and incredibly accurate, Donny was consummately entertaining to watch. He’s been in show business since he was, oh, five years old? That would be 1962. He’s got the “entertaining people” thing down to less than a second thought.

2. Fan base counts. Let’s face it, who has the better-known name, especially when you consider the demographics of the viewership? Their call-in votes were 50% of the decision, as I understand it.

3. Don’t go all Joe Namath and expect to be right. Guaranteeing a win for Mya — which was done every day by countless entertainment bloggers — is dangerous business. I think the producers look for that kind of trend and do everything they can to thwart it, because, as we all know, it’s all about ratings. Maybe viewers were thinking the same thing, and wanted to shake things up a bit by not voting for the odds-on favorite. I mean, why watch if everyone already knows the outcome? That won’t sell commercial time.

4. He’s Donny Osmond. For people my age and older, that means something. A *huge* something. Preteen girls in 1971 loved him; boys wanted to be him. He and his brothers were the whitebread America answer to the Jackson Five. Then they got their own show, added Marie, and became a national treasure. Sweet family with big white teeth, doing cute, hokey production numbers. I loved it. Still do.

So home run for Donny — the poster boy for “Over Fifty But Can Still Keep Up with the Kids.” Good job.

Fink out for the last day of school until Tuesday. Yay!

Photo credit: TV Guide