Eighty years ago, on August 25, 1939, The Wizard of Oz debuted in theaters across the nation. The now classic story of the young girl from Kansas who finds herself transported by tornado to the Land of Oz ranks as one of the greatest movies on record. It's the best known and familiar to almost all adaption of Frank L. Baum's 1900 work, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The volume was one of many in a series Baum wrote about the land he created from his imagination.
Phrases from the film have found their way into our vocabulary. Who doesn't know that "We're not in Kansas anymore" means you've experienced an unexpected location shift? What little girl hasn't dreamed of wearing a pair of ruby slippers or a blue and white checked gingham dress?
From the drab black and white scenes set on the Kansas plains to the glorious Technicolor magic of Munchkin Land, the Yellow Brick Road and the great Emerald City, Dorothy Gale's story draws the view with movie magic.
Dorothy's quest to find the Wizard of Oz so she can return home pairs her with three unique characters, a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion. Upon arrival, Dorothy kills the Wicked Witch of the East when the house from Kansas drops onto her. The witch's ruby slippers magically appear on the girl's feet and Glinda The Good Witch of the North points her to the Yellow Brick Road to begin her journey.
Along the way, Dorothy and the friends she gains along the way are all seeking something from the Wizard. Her desire is to go home - the Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tin Man a heart and the Lion seeks courage.
They must pit their wits against The Wicked Witch of The West, who seeks revenge for her sister's death, the Witch's elite team of Flying Monkeys and other hazard.
Dorothy, clueless and unsuspecting, manages to kill the witch - her mission to seek audience with the Wizard.
But the Wizard turns out to be human, a balloonist who was swept off course and landed in Oz years before. He has no magical powers but using common sense, he is able to satisfy the dreams of everyone but Dorothy.
Before she can despair, the Good Witch arrives to tell her she's had the power all along, based in those ruby slippers.
It's a complex story with many elements. As one of the first films to use color (the movie debuted the same year as another classic, Gone With The Wind), it's memorable for that alone but there's more for it to remain popular eight decades later.
It's a story about bravery, about friendship, about perseverance, and about life.
The essence is the power of good to win over evil, the simple farm girl in braids over the vicious Wicked Witch of the West.
It's life embellished with more than a little fantasy and fun.
During my childhood, there was one chance a year to watch The Wizard of Oz and I anticipated it for weeks in advance. Then I incorporated the story into my play, turning an Easter basket into Dorothy's basket. And I read the book.
Fast forward to parenthood and it was one of the first films we shared with our kids. Like me, they embraced it. My daughters had ruby slippers I found on sale one year and one of my daughters wore a Dorothy costume dress until she outgrew it. In high school, my daughter Megan was part of a cast who performed the play at Neosho High School.
Eighty years later, the Wizard of Oz is as fresh as ever, a timeless story that gains new fans with each new generation. If you are in the minority who hasn't seen it, it's time!
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy writes a weekly column, From A Writer's View, for the Neosho Daily News where she also serves as reporter and staff writer.