This week we celebrate the 80th anniversary of that movie that’s somewhere over the rainbow, The Wizard of Oz!
I really don’t have to tell you anything about this movie, do I? The movie gave us a lovely performance by Judy Garland, a Scarecrow who needed brains, a Tin Man who needed a heart, and a Lion who just needed some courage. Oz memorably transitioned into eye-searing color into everyone’s mind when it transitioned from the sepia-toned plains of Kansas to the Techicolor Wonderland of Oz.
The movie featured Margaret Hamilton, who would traumatize generations of children to come with her cackling Wicked Witch of the West.
Hamilton seems like she’s having a ball as she taps into her inner villainy. She rockets about on that broomstick with glee and a devil-may-care attitude. She has just but one horrible goal: to get those ruby slippers. And your little dog, too!
We probably won’t know the full extent of Margaret Hamilton’s performance. According to IMDB trivia, many of her scenes were cut because they were too frightening for audiences. Also on IMDB:
Over 35 years after the release of this film, Margaret Hamilton revealed her approach to the character of the Wicked Witch in an interview with Fred Rogers for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968). Hamilton saw the Witch as a person who relished everything she did, but who ultimately was a sad, lonely figure – a woman who lived in constant frustration, as she never got what she wanted.
Sadly, screenwriters and playwrights everywhere just couldn’t understand the motivations of a woman who just has a ball jerking everyone’s chains around. What if she was evil because she was jilted… by a man?!?!? I mean, that idea is so ridiculous no one could possibly….
Oz, the Great and Powerful?
Oh, Sam. Oh, no.
This is, of course, a terrible idea. You don’t need Lindsey Ellis to tell you why this is messed up. The Wicked Witch is not alone, either. From Darth Vader to Malificent to Ernst Stavro Blofeld to Cobra Commander to Dracula whose story is no longer untold to Hannibal when he rose, screenwriters just cannot let monsters be monsters. A lot of them have such soap opera motivations. Jilted lover. Secret brother. Hates sand. That sort of thing.
Let’s hope that Joker gets it right.
So today’s prompt, I’m honor of one of the most beloved family films of all time: What is the worst attempt to flesh out an iconic villain’s backstory? Alternately, when has a villain backstory worked?
As always, let’s talk about movies!
Also in related milestones: Zardoz celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. It’s the The Wizard of Oz, but with more Sean Connery.
Like, A LOT more Sean Connery.
Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Partially-animated edition. Pete’s Dragon
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