Pomona paper thought ‘Wizard of Oz’ unfit for children

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At left is the clipping referenced in today’s column about the June 16, 1939 preview of “The Wizard of Oz” at Pomona’s Fox Theater, two months before its premiere.

The writer, “O.H.K.,” seems to be kind of a fuddy-duddy as far as children are concerned. If even the tornado is too scary, we can imagine what he/she must have thought of the flying monkeys!

With the review’s criticism of how the movie, unlike the book, “leaves nothing to the imagination,” I can’t help but wonder, in all seriousness, if the writer was a teacher or children’s librarian who wasn’t keen on movies to begin with.

Note that “songstress” Judy Garland attended the preview screening. Another celebrity sighting for the Fox record books!

Here’s a link to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz website also cited in my column. It’s a lot of fun to poke around on — the FAQ section contains lots of fascinating tidbits, and in a very readable way. This link is to the portion of the FAQs about its premiere, outtakes, flubs and initial reception.

The Internet Movie Database has a good trivia section on the movie too.

A tip of the Tin Man’s metal cap to Fox co-owner Ed Tessier for providing a copy of the clipping. The library’s microfilm collection is missing that portion of 1939 and so are the Daily Bulletin’s archives.

* Curious about the “jitterbug” scene cut from the movie prior to Pomona? Reader Derek Deason found a short video clip giving an idea of what was cut.

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  • http://diversitown.blogspot.com meg

    That attitude didn’t die off in 1939. My mother wouldn’t let me see the movie as a kid (due to the flying monkeys, not the tornado), and so I am the only adult in the continental United States who hasn’t seen *The Wizard of Oz.”

    This giant gap in my cultural awareness has been filled with REO Speedwagon lyrics and an intimate knowledge of *Chico and the Man* episodes.

    [Now those are scary! -- DA]

  • Dee

    How strange that they would be so worried about frightening children. If you’ve ever read Grimm’s original fairy tales you would know how really bloody they were (for example, Cinderella’s stepmother cutting off part of her daughter’s foot to try to make it fit into the slipper).

    I want to say it’s because Victorianism was still in full bloom, but how would you explain the fact that children were expected to “help out” by holding down (really terrible) jobs?

    Maybe some people were just overprotective? Like the lady I saw at the library who wouldn’t let her child rent a Winnie the Pooh Halloween video because “It might be too scary.”….Insert eyeroll here:)!

  • Doug from Chino Hills

    It’s also interesting how the clipping mentions that the Kansas scenes are “in sepia.” That’s the way the film was first made, but the sepia was later replaced with regular old black-and-white, which is how the film was shown for decades in theaters and on TV. With the new DVD releases, the sepia has been restored. (I learned all that from watching the extras on the DVD.)

    I’m sentimental toward this movie because my grandpa, who was a cinematographer for MGM, worked on it. He helped with the special effects sequences like the tornado behind the farm house and the images in the crystal ball.

    [That's cool about your grandpa, Doug. I've only seen the sepia version once, when the movie was restored and released in theaters in (I think) 1998. Most of the times I've seen it were on a B&W TV in childhood -- for years I never knew the Oz sequences were in color! And yet I still loved it. -- DA]

  • Ramona

    The film has never been one of my favorites. I think I would have liked it better with any child actress other than Judy Garland. (I know,that’s heresy!)

    I’ve watched it numerous times because my kids always wanted to see it when it was on TV. They never seemed to be scared. Later, I got the video for the grandkids when they asked for it. I checked with their mom to be sure she thought is was OK for them to see it at the tender ages of about 3 and about 5. She said, “Go for it!” They loved it.

    And so another generation began singing, “We’re off to see the wizard . . .” and chanting, “Waaaiitt for it” in anticipation of the change from black and white to color.

    It’s always interesting to be let in on the background stuff. Several more bits of trivia stuck in my head that I’ll have trouble working into a conversation. As well as the ear worm.

    I’m off to see the . . .

  • DebB

    Ummm, little bit of dissent here. I’m guessing we’ve all experienced the difference between reading a scary/gory/suspenseful/whatever story, and seeing it on the big screen in living color. In print, our imagination makes a scene its own, and (unless you’re Quentin Tarantino) that’s usually much more tame than actually seeing that scene. I think O.H.K.’s point is that for small children, once those scenes get into their head, they stay there and come back to haunt them in their dreams. They are not as able as adults to separate fact from fiction.

    Remember that in 1939, people were not as inured to violence/horror/bloodshed on TV and in movies and videogames. And they were not seeing the movie on TV, where everything is in miniature instead of twice (or more) as large as life. I think this would have been a “horrific” movie for small children in that day and age, and maybe even in this day and age, depending on the child.

  • Bob Terry

    Yeah, those flying vermin really got to me for years. 1939 also gave us Gone With the Wind (Best Picture) and that didn’t have 1/4 of the violence that Oz had…except it had more “adult situations” which meant that age-old child’s question..”what does that mean, mommy/daddy?”

  • Stupid Happy Idiot

    Considering that a year earlier was that infamous radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” — adults had a difficult enough time separating fact from fiction. It wouldn’t have been the kids I’d worry about.

    Come to think of it, adults having trouble discerning between fact and fiction is a problem that hasn’t disappeared over time.

    [Birther movement, anyone? -- DA]