Advertisement

Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Noel Langley and the Original Script for “The Wizard of Oz”

posted by Nell Minow

Wicked author Gregory Maguire has a wonderful essay on the Smithsonian website about the original screenplay for what is probably the greatest family movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz.

Advertisement

By coincidence, I just finished a book by the author of that screenplay, Noel Langley. The book is The Land of Green Ginger and it has a lot of the charm and whimsy Langley brought to his adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s novel. Maguire writes:

The differences between this version and the final shooting script? Hardly a page escapes without crossed-out speeches and handwritten substitutions. Plot points abound that are later abandoned (the Wicked Witch of the West has a son named Bulbo?). Only a couple of scenes refer to singing, and none of the famous lyrics appear. What would become “Over the Rainbow,” which I call America’s unofficial national anthem, is referred to as “the Kansas song.”

Advertisement

What this draft achieves is the compression of choice elements from a best-selling, although rambling, children’s book. In the original novel, the Wicked Witch of the West dies on Page 155, but Dorothy doesn’t leave Oz until 100 pages on. If Langley stuffs in extraneous characters for ballast (a Kansas farmhand and his sweetheart among them), he also abbreviates the trajectory of the story so that the demise of the Wicked Witch of the West kick-starts Dorothy’s return to Kansas.

The American author-illustrator Maurice Sendak believed that The Wizard of Oz film was a rare example of a movie that improves on the original book. I agree with him. Langley consolidates two good witches into one. He eliminates distracting sequences involving populations Dorothy encounters after the Wizard has left in his balloon—the china people (porcelain figures) and the Hammer-Heads (a hard-noggined race).

Advertisement

No one has engaged more deeply with the Oz story than Maguire, whose book about the Wicked Witch of the West inspired the Broadway smash hit. What I thought most interesting were his thoughts on Langley’s choice to make the visit to Oz a dream. Well worth a read. Here’s “Frozen’s” Idina Menzel singing “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked.”

YouTube Preview Image
Previous Posts

The New Yorker's Actress Profiles: Tilda Swinton, Angela Bassett, Katharine Hepburn, and More
The New Yorker has created a section with some of its best profiles of actresses, including Angela Bassett, Julia Roberts, Diane Keaton, Tilda Swinton, and Katharine Hepburn. They are a treat to read and will inspire you to check out or revisit ...

posted 8:00:38am May. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Exclusive Clip: Wish You Well
[jwvideo vid='sTOlso40' pid='GvkPWNBE'] Ellen Burstyn, Mackenzie Foy, and Josh Lucas star in "Wish You Well," a coming-of-age tale based on the best-selling novel by David Baldacci, who also wrote the screenplay. Foy plays 12-year-old Louisa, ...

posted 10:24:09pm May. 28, 2015 | read full post »

San Andreas
Another summer blockbuster-by-the-numbers, another dad who needs redemption and re-connection with his family, and the only way he can get ...

posted 5:55:26pm May. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Aloha
Writer/director Cameron Crowe presents us with an attractive and talented but messy and compromised hero in "Aloha," and asks us to root ...

posted 5:37:27pm May. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Eva -- Yet Another AI Robot Movie
This is certainly turning out to be the year of the AI robot.  This one stars Daniel Brühl and this time the robot is a child named EVA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ctMc4DFpik&spfreload=10 ...

posted 8:00:25am May. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.