Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bob's Your Uncle: In the Land of Oz

It's hard to face to the fact I'm a member of the last generation to wait with sheer joy for that annual network TV airing of that 1939 original movie musical fantasy, The Wizard of Oz.  It was always around Easter time and on a Sunday, usually in CBS prime time special broadcast.  The special was a family event.  Mom would make cookies or brownies and we'd all be together watching TV in the living room.  Every year, we kids of pre-cable television waited eagerly for Judy Garland to be Dorothy Gale once again on a poor Kansas farm.  She'd sing us "Over the Rainbow," be carried into the Land of Oz and have quite the adventure making new friends and a major foe before finding The Wizard.
The movie had action, adventure, love, laughs and one of the most brilliant original film scores in a Hollywood movie musical.  Just as brilliant were the performances and the lessons about life that it taught youngster and grown-up alike.  Because of the Recession, I wound up as financially depressed as Uncle Henry and Auntie Em's farm.  Temporarily, like millions of other Americans, I'm living with relatives as I attempt to repair my condition with a fervent job hunt.  What's the good part about this bad patch of unemployment and no income that hit me?  Bonding with family and being able to watch my two totally cool young nephews grow.  What a thrill and a blessing.  And a surprise.  No one can surprise you like a relative.  Recently, The Wizard of Oz aired uncut and without commercial interruption on cable's Turner Classic Movies.  My nephews have never seen that classic film.  I asked them if they wanted to watch it with me.  They politely declined.  They didn't want to watch The Wizard of Oz...
...because they were going to be downstairs with Mom and Dad watching Kevin James as Paul Blart:  Mall Cop.
On the outside, I flashed my old VH1 veejay smile to my brother's kids and said, "OK.  Have fun."
On the inside, I was reacting like this:
Like Shelley Duvall in The Shining.  Yes, it's a new generation.  Cable television, computer games, Netflix...and Paul Blart:  Mall Cop.  Uncle Bobby has his work cut out for him.  Like Cam on Modern Family.  My oldest nephew is 11.  When I was his age, I could lip sync all of Gwen Verdon's numbers in Damn Yankees thanks to frequent airings as "The Million Dollar Movie" on KHJ TV, local Channel 9 in Southern California.
I was the only kid on my block in South Central Los Angeles who could do that, too.  Even though Dad constantly told me to keep the lip sync fact to myself, I'm sure that -- deep down -- he was really impressed.  I had embraced the fine arts.  It may take time, but I'm still determined to introduced my nephews to classic films.  One last thing:  Remember those unfriendly trees in The Wizard of Oz that got so mean to Dorothy because "She was hungry!" and wanted an apple?
I'd like to see those big trees in The Lord of the Rings walk over and slap the crap out o' those cranky apple trees in The Wizard of Oz.  Seriously.  The nerve of that plant life!


  1. Many of my high school students have never seen it or only have seen parts of it. As a 51 year old, I am part of your generation. The kids today I fear do not have the Oz connection we had with the movie and the world itself. As time goes by, I believe the media will also use fewer allusions to Oz. Sad for me to say, but I don't believe Oz will have the same impact on society in the future. Yes, it will be around and yes people and many kids will see it, but it won't have the same impact it has had.

  2. I had a debate recently with 30-somethings, when they compared Oz to the movie Labyrinth, saying the latter was Much Better than the former!
    With carefully chosen words, citing the Facts, I set them straight! I informed them that No Other film has become So Much a part of the Universal consciousness, ending with 'There's No Film Like Oz!'
    Period. NO discussion.


  3. Great to hear a mention of the KHJ-TV's Million Dollar Movie, and I also was a particular fan of "Damn Yankees" and used to watch it 5 - 6 - 7 times in the week they ran it. Also recorded the audio on reel-to-reel! Very different than today when you can easily access movies, but it was often more fun scouring through TV Guide to find your favorites! I grew up in So. Cal - born 1954 - and we were lucky to have had so many great TV stations!


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