The 1939 MGM Film's Oz
The Land of Oz as portrayed in the 1939 MGM film is quite different from that portrayed in the books. The most notable difference is that in the film the entire land of Oz appears to be dreamed up by Dorothy (thus making it a dream world), although, Dorothy earnestly corrects the adults at the end that she was indeed there. The apparent message is that one should appreciate one's home, no matter how dull it may be. This contrasts sharply with the books, in which Dorothy and her family are eventually invited to move to Oz due to a bank foreclosure on the farm, showing both that Oz is a real place, and that it is a utopia compared to Kansas.
There are many other small differences between the books and the movie. For example, the first witch Dorothy meets in Oz in the book is the Good Witch of the North, a minor character that only had one other appearance in Baum's books. In the movie this character is conflated with Glinda, who is the Good Witch of the South in the book.
It is also worthy of note that the Dorothy of the books is brave and resourceful, only crying when faced with despair, whereas the older Dorothy of the movie (portrayed as a twelve-year-old by sixteen-year-old Judy Garland) spends several portions of the film crying and being told by others what to do, however her fear was overshadowed by Lion's. This is more consistent with Thompson's portrayal of Dorothy—Baum is known for his strong female characters.
The Wicked Witch of the West also changes significantly between books and movie. In the books no mention is ever made of her skin color, whereas in the movie she is green without explanation, although the Winkies she has enslaved are also green. In the book she is portrayed as having only one eye, which could see distant objects like a telescope, but in the movie she uses a crystal ball to watch Dorothy from afar. The 1939 MGM film makes the first reference to The Witches of the East and West being sisters, which was not the case in the book.
The Wizard of Oz does not resort to anywhere near as much trickery in the movie as the book. In the book he entertains each member of Dorothy's party on a different day, and takes a different form for each. In the movie he takes only one false form—that of a giant head.
The nature of the Emerald City is changed in the film. In the book, the city is not actually green, but everyone is forced to wear green spectacles (ostensibly to protect their eyes from the dazzling splendor of the city), thus making everything appear green. In the film, the city is actually green. The architecture of the Emerald City in the movie uses a much more contemporary Art Deco style than Baum could have imagined.
The movie replaces the silver shoes of the book with ruby slippers. This was because full color motion pictures were still a relatively new technology in 1939, and MGM wanted to show off the process. Shiny red shoes were more impressive in a color motion picture than silver ones. Due to the popularity of the movie, the green witch and the ruby slippers are more well known to the general public than their book counterparts, and are even considered iconic.
Famous quotes containing the word film:
“This film is apparently meaningless, but if it has any meaning it is doubtless objectionable.”
—British Board Of Film Censors. Quoted in Halliwells Filmgoers Companion (1984)