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The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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Article 2

The Hanging Rumor

April 24, 1999

This is just another example of why you really have to see this movie on the big screen to fully appreciate it.

Ever since THE WIZARD OF OZ was released on video there have been rumors of a hanging visible in the background of the Tin Woodsman sequence. In the scenes leading up to the "hanging," Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet the Tin Man while picking apples off the talking apple trees. After they get him well-oiled, the three encounter the Wicked Witch of the West who tries to set the Scarecrow on fire. (The Tin Man puts him out with his hat.) After the Witch leaves, the three head down the yellow brick road on their way to the Emerald City. If you look closely as they are skipping down the road away from the camera, among the trees deep in the background to the left of the road, something moves in the shadows. This is the supposed "hanging" and I'll admit that when you see the film on television and someone suggests to you that a munchkin or crew member is hanging themselves, the movement is pretty convincing.

However, it's because the image in the background is so small when you see it on TV that it looks like someone's hanging. If you see it on the big screen it's obvious what it really is--a big bird (a crane, I think) spreading and flapping its wings. There's no hanging munchkin or crew member or anyone else. It's just a bird. But why the bird? Well, MGM though it would make "over the rainbow" more exotic if there were random birds just wandering around, so they rented several different types from the Los Angeles Zoo (including peacocks and turkeys) and let them loose on the set. If you pay attention throughout the sequences when Dorothy is meeting everyone, you'll notice a lot of random birds around.

Anyway, this ought to prove what a difference it makes to see a film on the big screen, the way it was intended. If you ever get the chance, definitely see this movie in a theatre. It's well worth it and a whole different experience--even for someone like me who's seen the film a hundred times on video. You don't realize the details that you miss watching it on television until you see it on the big screen. Plus, in the case of THE WIZARD OF OZ, the newly restored print released in 1998 is masterful, and the Technicolor takes on a whole new beauty in the theatre. Next time it plays in your home town--take my advice--don't miss it!

© 1999 Reel Classics, L.L.C. 

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