For Rushdie The Wizard of Oz is more than a children's film, and more than a fantasy. It's a story "whose driving force is the inadequacy of adults," in which the "weakness of grown-ups forces children to take control of their own destinies."
Rushdie, as outsider/insider, helps one return to the joy of first seeing the movie; he also provides some of the more delicious gossip and facts about this movie -- unlikely as I am to ever read a full book the film, Rushdie captures surely some of its best behind-the-scenes stories (yes: midgets, sweating, original actors, and the slippers).
This book is a great read: the author is able to remind us how so many good elements (the visual storytelling, Garland's voice, the lyrics, the political incorrectness) bleed together into this wonderful movie.
This short book by Salman Rushdie (author of Midnight's Children and The Ground Beneath Her Feet) goes a long way towards showing exactly why The Wizard of Oz is so important to our culture. I particularly liked Rushdie's analysis of Dorothy as a migrant in a strange land - the quintessential experience of so many 'new' Americans.
He is also excellent on the juxtaposition of colour and black & white, and on the nature of good and evil in the film. There is plenty of fascinating film 'trivia' here too, enough to make this book a must for film buffs. In fact it's a paragon of film criticism. I can recommend the other books in this series from the BFI, but none are as essential as this one.
Rushdie's many insights into this film - which is so far beyond labels such as 'great' or 'art' or 'important' that it has shaped the cultural consciousness of audiences the world over for decades - are more literary than cinematic. After a charming introduction, in which the for-its-time-spectacular-and-fantastic 'Oz' is considered quite routine for a child who grew up with the excesses of Bollywood, he sits down at the TV with a notebook in hand, throwing out ideas and interpretations as he goes along. His main idea is that, in spite of the sell-out ending (as he perceives it), the film's message is not 'there's no place like home', but that once you undertake the kind of journey Dorothy makes, you can never go back, you must make your own homes, your own destiny (Rushdie, in hiding from the Ayotollah and his fatwa when the book was written, remakes Dorothy in his migrating image). The film up to this point has been so radical and liberating, that Rushdie sees the ending as the usual Hollywood moralising.
I've always thought that if your theory has to reject some of the text, than it's not much of a theory; but Rushdie is persuasive. His description of monochrome Kansas as hell-on-earth; his account of Dorothy's growth and the wonder of colourful Oz; his charting the rites-of-passage that reveals to Dorothy the inadequacy of adults; are intelligent and witty. His reverie on the fate of movie stand-ins, the audience's relationship to stars and film, and on the conflict between the idealism of a film and the reality of its making; is beautifully, philosophicallly moving. His singling out genius wordsmith Yip Harburg and that unforgettble witch Margaret Hamilton, is generous.
On the downside, his short-sighted cavilling over inconsistencies sees him miss the point on a few occassions; and the appendix, a short story 'At the Auction of the Ruby slippers', which with laboured and long-winded 'humour' fails to ape the post-modern, culture-conscious fantasy of Angela Carter (to whom the mongraph is dedicated), is unreadable.