Study Guide for The Wizard of Oz

1. Full Filmographic Citation

The Wizard of Oz. Dir. Victor Flemming. USA: MGM, 1939. &lt101 min. Arnold Gillespie, SpFX. Harold Arlen, music. E. Y. Harburg, lyrics. Based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L. Frank Baum. Color, with b/w frame. [Internet Movie Database adds George Cukor with editing some uncredited scenes and King Vidor dir. the Kansas scenes, also uncredited.]

2. Major Cast

Dorothy Gale: Judy Garland Glinda (good witch): Billy Burke
Aunt Em: Clara Blandick Uncle Henry: Charley Grapewin
Miss Almira Gulch/The Wicked Witch of the West: Margaret Hamilton Hickory Twicker/Tin Woodman: Jack Haley
Zeke/Cowardly Lion: Bert Lahr Hank Andrews/Scarecrow: Ray Bolger
Prof. Marvel/Wizard/(+ Guardian of the Gates, Cabbie, Soldier):Frank Morgan

3. Genre

The Wizard of Oz is prototypical fantasy, including the realistic frame. (As Joseph Campbell notes in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the adventure formula starts out in the everyday world and then moves through some sort of literal or figurative portal into the Land of Adventure.) Still, consider The Wizard of Oz's relationships with S.F.

a. Tin Man/Robots: What makes the Tin Woodman, as imaged on film, both like and unlike classic S.F. robots? Is his quest like that of Mr. Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, who also seeks full and true humanity and thinks it lies in emotions? (See Paul M. Abram and Stuart Kenter, "Tik-Tok and the Three Laws of Robotics," Science- Fiction Studies #14, 5.1 (March 1978): 67-80, for the relationship between Baum's later "Tik-Tok" and Isaac Asimovian robots.)

b. Scarecrow/Sentient Vegetables--and the question of gender:

  1. There are many plants in S.F., but very few of them can talk to you; note, though, the forest in Ursula K. Le Guin's story "Vaster than Empires and More Slow" and the pod-people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
  2. Lions come sexed and gendered, and the name says The Tin Woodman. But why gender Scarecrows male? Birds that can't differentiate animate from inanimate probably don't distinguish male from female. (And why doesn't Dorothy pick up some female friends to travel with? Unless Oz is really kinky, there's no question of sex on the Yellow Brick Road.)

c. Lion: There are feline-analog derived sentient species in S.F. works from fairly respectable novels to Flash Gordon (The Lion Men). Why is the Cowardly Lion here a fantasy figure? HINT: If you've never thought of him as a "feline-analog derived sentient," how did you describe a talking lion?

d. Witches: How are the witches both similar to and different from women (or men) of power in S.F."

e. Assorted Menaces: How are the flying monkeys and such like and unlike animal (and plant) threats in S.F.?

f. Wizard: Does the Wizard attempt to pass himself off as a scientist (of sorts)? If so--why bother with that idea in Oz?

4. Structure/Moral

How is the circular structure of this film both like and unlike the journey out and return in S.F.? Is "There's No Place Like Home" a moral you'd derive from, say, Star Trek or Close Encounters of the Third Kind?