RING AROUND THE ROSIE . . . A CASE OF WINKIE SPEAR!
[Or a case of reverse drag: On THE WIZARD OF OZ soundstages at MGM in 1938-39, the actors who paraded the courtyard in defense of the Wicked Witch of the West were made-up to resemble Margaret Hamilton in her featured role. This photo of a Winkie Guard mannequin was taken earlier in October at The OZ Museum by marketing honcho Marissa Streeter, but you’ll have to read here – and scroll down to one of the photos below – to see why the big green guy is so proudly central to this month’s blog.]
One of many highlights of this month’s Wamego, KS, OZtoberFest came on Saturday morning, October 5th, when The OZ Museum unveiled its latest acquisition. It takes a specially constructed eleven-foot-tall case to house it, but an authentic “Winkie Guard” spear -- actually used in the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie musical version of THE WIZARD OF OZ – now holds one of the specific “pride of place” corners of the world’s preeminent repository of Oz memorabilia. On OZtoberFest Saturday, the Winkie spear attracted nearly eight hundred eager viewers, and the count has since climbed well beyond one thousand. (As an average of forty-thousand visitors annually tour the museum, it’s lovely to imagine the level of excitement this new treasure will elicit in the years ahead.)
The prop was purchased at auction earlier in 2019 and joins several other extremely rare MGM items in Wamego’s ever-burgeoning collection. The latter already includes several original Munchkin costumes from the OZ film, as well as a miniature rubber winged monkey, used (with many others, marionette fashion) in the background of the movie’s Witch’s Castle and Haunted Forest sequences.
For those die-hard MGM fans wondering about some of the foregoing nomenclature, I should acknowledge that the word “Winkie” never appears in the OZ motion picture. It’s prevalent, however, in L. Frank Baum’s original book, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900), when he uses it to name the western section of Oz, where the Wicked West of the West resides and rules. (In Baum’s text, the Munchkin Country is the eastern quadrant of the land, and the Quadling Country is that to the south – with the Emerald City in the dead center of his astounding geographic creation. It isn’t until Baum’s second Oz book, THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ  that the name of the fourth, northern section is provided: the Gillikin Country.) So the Winkie Country – and its residents, the Winkies – are prominent in the Oz book.
They’re also prominent in many descriptive paragraphs in the OZ “continuity script” of March 15, 1939. This was a shot-by-shot, line-by-line synopsis of the rough, two-hour, first assemblage of the entire film, prepared by editor Blanche Sewell. As she describes the action in every moment of the picture, she repeatedly references the Wicked Witch’s guards as Winkies. However, nowhere (even in the twenty-minute-longer version of OZ Sewell is notating) does anyone say the word “Winkie” on-screen.
Thus, any confusion is understandable!
[Oh, it’s not easy being green . . . but here you can actually see what its plus-side (and all the excitement) are about. This MGM OZ movie treasure may now be examined from all angles in its new Wamego home -- and here’s another round of gratitude to Marissa Streeter for the photography.]
A few notes about the MGM Winkie corps:
[In this classic movie still, only one Winkie is fully visible – but his implement is already lowered to accompany the liquidation (through the set floor) of Wicked Witch Margaret Hamilton.]
Of course, the Winkies in THE WIZARD OF OZ film (and all the Oz books) are genuinely happy and wonderful citizens -- once they’re freed from the spell and control of the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s Winkie leader Mitchell Lewis who willingly offers her broomstick to Judy Garland when Dorothy requests it; in fact, Lewis had a bit more dialogue with the Kansas girl before it, too, was cut by editor Sewell in her effort to bring down the OZ running time and length. In the preceding scene, as the Witch commands the Winkies to chase after Dorothy & Company, the evil soul was shown to swat at the guards with her broom. When that moment was deleted, the brief sequence after Hamilton’s demise had to be cut as well. As originally scripted and photographed, however, the Lewis/Garland conversation went like this; the (ultimately) deleted lines are capitalized:
Leader of the Winkies: She’s . . . she’s dead! You’ve killed her!
Dorothy: I didn’t mean to kill her . . . really, I didn’t! It’s . . . it’s just that he was on fire!
Leader: Hail to Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead!
Winkies: Hail! Hail to Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead!
Dorothy: YOU MEAN, YOU’RE . . . YOU’RE ALL HAPPY ABOUT IT?
Leader: VERY HAPPY – NOW SHE WON’T BE ABLE TO HIT US WITH A BROOM ANYMORE!
Dorothy: The broom! May we have it?
Leader: Please! And take it with you!
Dorothy: Oh – thank you so much! Now we can go back to the Wizard and tell him the Wicked Witch is dead!
Leader: The Wicked Witch is dead!
This, of course, led into a brief reprise of “Ding-Dong! the Witch is Dead” as sung by the Winkies, which then pictorially/cinematically dissolved into a long procession of Emerald Citizenry. More than three hundred green-clad extras sang and escorted Dorothy and her friends (the Scarecrow brandishing the Witch’s broomstick) back to the palace of the Wizard. But all of this footage, as has been discussed in previous blogs, was cut from OZ during its “test” sneak previews in June 1939 and left on Metro’s cutting room floor.
Oh, well . . . as Humphrey Bogart puts it in CASABLANCA: “We’ll always have Paris.” And, as of NOW, Wamego will always have a Winkie spear. 😊
In conclusion, I’d most definitely like to add many thanks to any and all of you reading here. The video blog installments across these past six months have been great fun to prepare and deliver, but it’s also very nice for me to once again return to written journalism; I hope some of you will enjoy the “switch-back” in formats. 2020 promises to bring a solid mixture of both types of communication, so please stay tuned – and, if you feel these mini-histories and commentaries are interesting, informative, or worthy, please don’t hesitate to share them with any OZIFIED friends by guiding them to The OZ Museum Facebook page.
Finally – a heartfelt appreciation to all of you, both veterans and newcomers, who traveled to Wamego this month to celebrate Oz in person. OZtoberFest proved to be a triumphant, happy occasion, with several thousand in attendance; jam-packed crowds at The Columbian Theatre for the stage presentations of THE WIZARD OF OZ, and eager enthusiasts who came to the special programming about Oz, the ruby slippers, and the MGM film during the day.
I’m grateful to-the-max for all who shared joy!
Article by John Fricke