Straight from Dorothy’s Mouth

Years ago a friend told me a few things about movies in 1939. I have not been able to verify much of these things, but those who know me also know I’m not one to let the truth get in the way of a good story.

In 1939 movies were in Black and White, but two movies came out that year to make the change to color. They were “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz“. In a situation similar to the last two Beatles album, one was completed first and the other was released first, but in any event, both came out in 1939. For many people, one or the other was the first movie in color they saw, and many went to the show just to see what a movie in color looked like.

The Wizard opens in Black and White. I did not realize this until my friend told me this tale about color movies. I grew up watching The Wizard on a B&W television set. What swirls up from my memories of seeing the movie each year it was shown on television is first the music and then the flying monkeys of the Wicked Witch. Those flying monkeys were as terrifying to a fellow as the music was wonderful. Maybe what I remember is the flying monkeys first and the music second.

Hundreds of people went to the show to the The Wizard of Oz mainly to see a color movie. When the show opened, they saw black and white. The looked around and each other and murmured. “Color” didn’t look any different from the movies they had been seeing all of their lives. But they gradually settled back and became interested in the drama surrounding Dorothy and Toto being chased by an angry old woman on a bicycle. Then a tornado.

The house settles and the door opens and Dorothy steps into Oz. The scene is dramatic. Dorothy (actually a stand in) is filmed from behind in a sepia colored dress facing the door of a sepia painted house with Oz briefly visible in color through the door and she steps into the new world. In that instant all of those who had been used to seeing movies in B&W were treated to the brilliant colors of the world of Oz. There was an audible gasp from the audience. So this is what color movies are like.

There is a lot of wonder and magic in the movie: colorful scenes, colorful characters, a colorful story. There is a long colorful road, and in the end, “there’s no place like home.”