For Thanksgiving, we decided to see “The Sound of Music” and “The Wizard of Oz”. Both DVDs we happen to have, thanks to a neighbor who moved away.
I haven’t seen SOM for 55 years, literally, when I was a child going to a movie theater in 1965. I’m going to have ear-worms for weeks (“Climb every mountain,” “Doe a deer, a female deer,” “I am sixteen, going on seventeen.”)
Plot spoiler alert: after the long interludes during which Maria comes to be the governess for the seven Von Trapp children and totally wins them and their father over, Maria marries Captain Von Trapp. A ten-minute scene happens during which she is dressed in a fabulous wedding gown, somberly walking down the aisle of an elaborate church, while the song, “What To Do About Maria”, celebrating her independence and exuberance, is played like a dirge—if religious devotion couldn’t “tame” her spirit, matrimony will. Then Maria kind of fades into the background (hmmm….).
The story briefly focuses on Captain Von Trapp’s problems with the invading Third Reich (essentially, he’s drafted). We have some Nazi suspense, then the family is seen trekking up a green hill among the Alps, without food or water or even warm coats, while a chorus (not them) sings “Every Mountain.” The End.
Tom and I looked at each other and said, “Huh?” My movie guide gave the film four stars, probably because of the abruptness of the end. I didn’t remember much of the plot from 55 years ago but, I mean, this is supposed to be a movie about the Von Trapp Family Singers crossing the Alps by foot to escape to Switzerland.
The movie, for it to end there, really should have had a coda (like so many movies these days). Something like:
“The Von Trapp Family Singers crossed the formidable Alps, by foot, managing only to get a few blisters on their feet. Entering neutral Switzerland, Captain Von Trapp effectively dodged any military action during World War II. He and wife Maria had seven children of their own, for whom the Captain’s eldest daughter by his first wife was pressed into acting as governess. The Family Von Trapp Family Singers competed in several music competitions but First Place thereafter evaded them. They had enormous Thanksgiving parties in Geneva, Switzerland in their tiny chalet. The End.”
(Just kidding. Of *course* the Swiss don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.)
I first saw “The Wizard of Oz,” also as a child, on television. The film was released in 1939, way before my time. I distinctly remember the thrill when the sepia tone of the beginning changes to full Technicolor—and what color it is!—when Dorothy opens the door into the Land of Oz. A door is a very effective visual and written symbol. We thoroughly enjoyed the film but Tom said, when it was over, “There are really not that many songs. Where is the Wicked Witch’s song? The Wizard’s song?”
Fair point, but I will have a couple of ear worms from that movie, too. (“Ha ha ha, ho ho ho, and a couple of fah-lah-lahs, That’s how we while the day away in the merry old land of Oz” and of course “We’re off to the see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz”)
Garland does look a little plump at age sixteen—she was only four foot eleven—and they costumed her as a much younger girl.
We saw “Judy” two weeks ago. “Judy” is a very sad story, a tragic story taking place toward the end of Garland’s life, but Renee Zellweger is sensational as Garland. My Facebook friend Lindalee reminded me that Zellweger won the Academy Award for Best Actress of 2019, the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award, and a couple of more awards for her totally convincing performance.
The “Judy” script shows, through flashbacks to the sets of “Wizard”, the pressure put on her as a teenager to lose weight, stay awake for back-to-back performances, and fall asleep, all through pharmaceuticals, which damaged her for the rest of her life. Everyone at the studio called her “ugly.” Louis B. Mayer, the powerful producer who gives her a mixed-message pep talk about her talent at the beginning of “Judy,” in fact called her “my little hunchback.”
Zellweger looks like the anorexic Garland became and captures her mercurial moods, depression, fear of performing, attempt to be positive to her children, and also her hilarious wit. The two long-suffering assistants on her London tour buy her a fancy cake to commemorate the tour’s end, and the woman asks Garland if she wants to do the honors of cutting it. Garland demurs and replies, “Every time I cut a cake, I end up married to some jerk.” She was married five times.
But! You don’t need at all to see “Judy” to enjoy “Oz.” A great movie night was had by all.
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