[Above: Haley, Lahr, Garland, and Bolger between takes of the ultimately deleted “triumphal return” sequence of MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ.]
What do YOU miss most in THE WIZARD OF OZ film?
I realize such a question might require explanation, so here's some back-story: Just for the fun of it the other day, I started to reflect on what we know about Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1939 classic motion picture. (I'm willing to bet there are Oz fans reading this blog -- and countless more besides -- who pretty much know the movie scene-by-scene, or line-by-line...or frame-by-frame!) But while I was in the process of reviewing OZ in my mind, I found myself concentrating on some of the stuff that ISN’T there. Or that ONCE was there. Or that MIGHT have been there.
In Kansas, Ray Bolger's farmhand "Hunk" foreshadows his Scarecrow incarnation in several lines of dialogue with Dorothy: "You'd think you didn't have any brains at all," and "Your head ain't made of straw, you know." Moments later, "Zeke" (Bert Lahr) anticipates the Cowardly Lion role by encouraging the Kansas girl to stand up to evil Almira Gulch: “She ain’t nuthin’ to be afraid of. Have a little courage!" But apart from striking a frozen (i.e., rusted) pose -- while declaiming, "Someday, they're going to erect a statue to me in this town -- Jack Haley as "Hickory" doesn’t share a suggestion of the Tin-Man-to-come.
Of course, in the rough cut of the film, he did! In between Judy Garland’s conversation with Bolger and Lahr, she wandered across the barnyard to the spot where Hickory was working on his latest invention: an odd contraption devised (as he tells her) “to break up winds, so we don’t have no more dust storms.” When he attempted to demonstrate its prowess, however, the machine spurted oil in his face – certainly an allusion to the “Oil can what?” segment to come in Oz.
It’s worth noting that a reference to the never-seen wind machine remains in the finished film. It’s the “contraption” that Aunt Em – moments later – accuses Hickory of “tinkering with,” spurring his regal posture. (Earlier in the same scrapped sequence, Haley-as-Hickory actively complained, “Oh, it feels like my joints are rusted.” He also described Miss Gulch as “a poor, sour-faced old maid [who] ain’t got no heart left” and recommended that Dorothy “have a little more heart yourself and have pity on her.”)
This entire sequence hit the cutting room floor when MGM trimmed the two-hour “rough cut” of THE WIZARD OF OZ to a more manageable (and customary for the time) 101 minutes in length. Also dropped: Hickory’s brief, subsequent on-screen moment at the approach of the tornado. What remains is its prelude, as Uncle Henry cries out, “Hickory! Where’s Hickory? Doggone it….” In the next – deleted – scene, Henry spotted Haley endeavoring to rev up the wind machine once again: “This is my chance! The cyclone is coming! Let me show you what my machine can do!” Instead, Uncle Henry ordered him off to “help Hunk get them horses loose!”
Anyway, those are a couple of the moments I miss from THE WIZARD OF OZ. There are, of course, others. But if I could have just one segment to reinstate – all of sixty seconds long – there’s no question: It would be the musical number colloquially described as the “triumphal return” (or as it’s officially titled on the music cue sheets, “Ding-Dong! Emerald City” [reprise]). This routine began in the tower of the Wicked Witch of the West; she’s been melted, Dorothy & Co. have commandeered her broomstick, and the Winkie Guards chanted one last time, “The Wicked Witch is Dead!” In the film as it premiered, the scene quickly dissolved to the Head of the Great Oz, asking, “Can I believe my eyes? Why have you come back?” But watch the mouths of the Winkie Guards as the picture segues from castle to throne room. Their lips are moving; they continue to say SOMEthing (even though it’s not on the soundtrack), but what they’re actually doing is beginning to sing, “Hail! Hail! the Witch is Dead….” Their rendition continued for eight bars of music, at which point there was a screen dissolve to a joyous parade of some three hundred green-clad Emerald City extras, who not only sustained the song but escorted the Fab Four through the streets to their second audience with the Wizard.
[Above: MGM’s Wardrobe Department spent several weeks in buying green fabric – or dyeing other fabric green – to costume the men and women of Emerald City for the “triumphal return” segment of OZ.]
This was a sequence of spectacle and full production-number value, with a strutting band, marching soldiers, singing and swaying townspeople, girls bedecked with garlands of flowers, rapt onlookers…and our friend, the Scarecrow, proudly brandishing the broomstick of the Witch of the West. All of this was cut and (to date) lost -- apart from a brief glimpse of footage in the OZ trailer, a handful of black-and-white production stills, a color Kodachrome accompanying the OZ feature in LIFE Magazine (July 17, 1939), some random Technicolor test frames, and a couple of different vocal arrangements from the soundtrack.
[Side consideration to mull: With the loss of the “triumphal return” in the Emerald City, “The Jitterbug” in the Haunted Forest, and Judy’s reprise of “Over the Rainbow” while locked in the Witch’s tower room, THE WIZARD OF OZ became a musical that lacked any musical numbers after “If I Were King of the Forest.” Lahr’s tour de force was followed by thirty-four minutes of strict dramedy.]
Of course, there were many other treasurable moments that were photographed and deleted from THE WIZARD OF OZ release print -- not to mention the entirely-abandoned first two weeks of filming done under director Richard Thorpe (with the blonde, baby-doll Dorothy, the Wicked Witch with her hair down in a sort of Lea Michele flip, and Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man). Also lost”: all the color make-up and costume tests as OZ was being prepared. As far as anyone has thus far been able to determine, all of this footage is long-gone…whether incinerated in a Metro vault fire, decomposed to mush or dust (as vintage nitrate film will do, if not properly stored), or dumped in the Pacific Ocean during the 1970s “reorganization” of MGM.
But let’s end on a couple of happier notes! There’s a scene in one of the early-draft OZ scripts that was dropped from consideration and never filmed, but I always thought the intended idea and dialogue were charming. After Miss Gulch bicycled off with Toto, Aunt Em was to be shown in the kitchen, baking a chocolate cake in a well-intentioned attempt to cheer Dorothy. Suddenly, the woman’s heart was to even further assert itself. She was to turn abruptly militant, whip off her apron, and self-righteously (and humorously) decide to go off and rescue Toto herself, “if I have to massacre the sheriff and the whole Gulch family to do it!” Such action would be interrupted by the advent of the cyclone, but I think Aunt Em, “revving up,” would have been fun to see.
[Above: Clara Blandick, Judy Garland, Terry, Margaret Hamilton, and Charley Grapewin offer a fine example of ensemble performance in the “front room” of the Kansas farmhouse.]
Finally: l know I’m not alone in the theory that it’s possible to “catch” something new in THE WIZARD OF OZ virtually every time it’s viewed. One such recent realization: Apart from a single cutaway shot of Judy Garland in tears, the entire parlor scene with Uncle Henry, Aunt Em, and Miss Gulch is done in one continuous take. THAT’S acting – from four pros.
And Toto, too!
Article by John Fricke