Cinema and Media Studies The Wizard of Oz
by
Alissa Burger
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0360

Introduction

The Wizard of Oz (1939) has become a cultural touchstone for everything from American identity to adventure and self-actualization. Many elements of the film are instantly recognizable the world over, including the Yellow Brick Road, the ruby slippers, Dorothy’s trio of companions, “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” and the adage that “there’s no place like home.” Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), the film follows much of Baum’s narrative trajectory, while also adding new and innovative elements to the story, including a streamlining of Dorothy’s Oz adventures and an amplification of her desire to return to Kansas. Conversely, The Wizard of Oz has also inspired a wide range of adaptations, revisions, and allusions of its own, including Sidney Lumet’s film The Wiz (1978), Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and the 2003 Tony Award–winning Broadway musical Wicked, which was adapted from Maguire’s novel. The themes of The Wizard of Oz continue to resonate with viewers decades after its initial release. As a result, while some of the critical work featured here focuses on the MGM film exclusively, much of the commentary and critical engagement surrounding The Wizard of Oz connects the film with other versions of the story and the significant role of The Wizard of Oz within the larger popular culture landscape. The Wizard of Oz has been interpreted through a range of critical frameworks, including historical analysis, American identity, religion and philosophy, gender and sexuality, and the musical genre. Spurred by an enthusiastic fan base, multiple works examine the making of the film and catalogue the vast range of Oz merchandise and memorabilia.

General Overviews

Several books on The Wizard of Oz provide general overviews of the film, combining information on L. Frank Baum’s novel, the making of the MGM film, audience reception, close consideration of the film itself (including production details and trivia), and the legacy of the Oz story in popular culture. The annotated Baum 2000 provides an excellent foundation for understanding the story and its range of adaptations, while Scarfone and Stillman 1997, Scarfone and Stillman 2013, Scarfone and Stillman 2019, Corliss 2014, and Nussbaum 2014 focus specifically on the MGM film within this larger context.

  • Baum, L. Frank. The Annotated Wizard of Oz. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000.

    With annotations by Michael Patrick Hearn. In addition to the full text of Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (originally published 1900), this annotated edition includes comprehensive notes by Hearn that analyze Baum’s text; the MGM film; a diverse range of other adaptations of the Oz narrative; and the lasting legacy of this story in print, on screen, and in the larger popular culture landscape.

  • Corliss, Richard, ed. The Wizard of Oz: 75 Years along the Yellow Brick Road. New York: LIFE, 2014.

    This commemorative anniversary collection on The Wizard of Oz includes profiles on L. Frank Baum and Judy Garland, behind-the-scenes information on casting and production, a close reading of the film itself, reflection on the film’s reception and legacy, and consideration of the film within the larger historical and cultural context of other films in “The Class of ’39.”

  • Nussbaum, Ben, ed. The Wizard of Oz: Celebrating 75 Years of Movie Magic. Irvine, CA: i-5 Publishing, 2014.

    This lavishly illustrated commemorative magazine includes sections on L. Frank Baum, Munchkinland, the adaptation process, Oz adaptations that preceded the MGM film, historical interpretations, music, Judy Garland, Victor Fleming, the Wicked Witch of the West, theatrical Oz-based productions, television and film inspired by The Wizard of Oz, Baum’s further Oz stories, and Toto. Extensive and accessible, this magazine provides a range of images from the film and other popular culture incarnations.

  • Scarfone, Jay, and William Stillman. The Wizardry of Oz: The Artistry and Magic of the 1939 M-G-M Classic. Rev. and exp. ed. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema, 1997.

    Focuses on visual production elements of the MGM film, including makeup design, costumes, props, set design, special effects, and promotion materials for the film. Includes a prologue that situates the film within a range of influences, including L. Frank Baum’s novel, earlier Oz adaptations, and the fairy tale of “Snow White” (as well as the 1937 Disney film).

  • Scarfone, Jay, and William Stillman. The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion. New York: Harper Design, 2013.

    Includes sections dedicated to each of the major characters from the film, with the goal of presenting rarely seen images, new material, and newly discovered quotations from those involved in the production. Also includes a section on the film’s international reception and legacy. Features a collection of nineteen removable memorabilia items, including high-quality photographs and reproduction of original studio promotional materials.

  • Scarfone, Jay, and William Stillman. The Road to Oz: The Evolution, Creation, and Legacy of a Motion Picture Masterpiece. Guilford, CT: LP, 2019.

    Provides historical analysis of the development of the Oz story, starting with L. Frank Baum and considering the versions of Oz that preceded the MGM film, including a 1903 Broadway musical and a series of radio programs from 1931 to 1932 and from 1937 to 1938. After establishing this larger context, the authors provide a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the MGM film.

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