Posted by rflacks on:
This month marks the 70th anniversary of the opening of 'The Wizard of Oz'. It's a movie that has in innumerable ways penetrated the consciousness of tens of millions (especially in the 50 years since it first became a holiday staple on network tv).
Little known: The Wizard of Oz (both as book and as film) is filled with rather subversive political reference and relevance. Frank Baum (author of the original Oz books) was a populist, and his mother was a staunch feminist. The plot line can be read as an allegory about the populist movement's efforts to link farmers and workers against the gold standard. The film translated the tale to the great depression, the New Deal and FDR. The humbuggery of the Wizard, in both book and movie, is a strong critique of politicians and our tendency to expect them to provide solutions, when, all the while, we have answers within ourselves.
The prime author of the film was the lyricist E Y Harburg. Yip Harburg was a very politically conscious writer with a talent for light verse that rivalled his role model W. S. Gilbert. His politics led to his blacklisting in Hollywood in the 50s. His great Broadway stage success was Finian's Rainbow. That show is about to open in a Broadway revival, fifty years after its last Broadway appearance.
This week on Culture of Protest I'll have a 2 hour block. We'll air two special documentaries about the political/social meanings of the Wizard of Oz and Over the Rainbow (its signature song). We'll hear some of the socially significant songs from Finian's Rainbow and a documentary about another of Yips' classics: Brother Can you Spare a Dime. That anthem of the great depression remains unfortunately pertinent...
This is all on Thursday, October 1 6-8 pm (PST) at KCSB 91.9 fm. It streams at www.kcsb.org.