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The Making of the Wizard of Oz: Movie Magic and Studio Power in the Prime of MGM Paperback – December 2, 1998

20 customer reviews

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We return to an era in which studio moguls were as eccentric and powerful as today's software barons, when studio hands were non-unionized yet intensely loyal to their studios, when no movie studio even thought about a future containing broadcast TV, when movie stars were better known than Presidents or Kings, and when Technicolor would give you any color except the one you wanted. Nonetheless, solving the creative problems inherent in bringing L. Frank Baum's novel "The Wizard of Oz" to the screen was seen as an invigorating set of challenges to be met and conquered.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1st edition (December 2, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786883529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786883523
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,109,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 7, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It doesn't matter unduly if you didn't grow up watching MGM's 1939 color movie "The Wizard of Oz" in re-release or on TV. You might think that a "Munchkin" is what used to be called a "doughnut hole." You may think of Judy Garland only as Liza Minnelli's mother, and avoid prewar movies like the plague. Maybe you didn't feel that shock of recognition that "Cora the Coffee Lady" in Maxwell House TV commercials was none other than Margaret Hamilton, the green-faced Wicked Witch of the West.

Of course, if you love "The Wizard of Oz" you've love THE MAKING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ all the more. I just read this book for the second time (the first upon its initial publication), and was astonished and pleased by how well it has held up. Author Aljean Harmetz has crafted a book relevant not only in terms of one particular "prestige" movie off the Hollywood assembly line; but indeed her insight, research and friendly presentation make the book stand as a metaphor of all Hollywood filmmaking during the height of the Studio Era, ca. 1940. Perhaps the late Irving Thalberg was one of the few Hollywood insiders who could "keep the whole equation of pictures inside his head," but Ms. Harmetz opens up this world for us, and shows us both its realism and its wonder.

We return to an era in which studio moguls were as eccentric and powerful as today's software barons, when studio hands were nonunionized yet intensely loyal to their studios, when no movie studio even thought about a future containing broadcast TV, when movie stars were better known than Presidents or Kings, and when Technicolor would give you any color except the one you wanted. Nonetheless, solving the creative problems inherent in bringing L.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Reginald D. Garrard VINE VOICE on July 13, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Making of the Wizard of Oz: Movie Magic and Studio Power in the Prime of MGM--And the Miracle of Production No 1060" is just downright enthralling. It is an expose' that breaks down the machinery and the machinations of what it took to get a major movie made in the days of the autocratic studio heads. The book offers an entertaining and totally engrossing look at the legendary film. Judy, Ray, Jack, Bert, Margaret, and Toto, too, are all analyzed in this brilliant work. The songwriters, the respective directors, the many other craftsmen, as well as the "little people," in more than the figurative sense, are all here. Vividly embellished with stills from the production, the book's text is just as captivating. The familiar as well as the unfamiliar stories about the production make for a most satisfying read for any "Oz" fan. It is also a good primer for anyone with an interest in pursuing film as a career.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Antony "Toto" LaPerna Jr. (Signforu@aol.com) on April 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
I am not an avid reader but my eye caught this book on a library shelf. I thumbed through it and found the pictures to be beautiful. I decided to give it a try and was terribly moved by the contents.
Ms. Harmetz did her homework when she wrote this trivia-packed volume about those faithful months when 4 different directors molded what would become a television tradition.
I also found that Ms. Hamilton's contributions to be some of the most interesting tidbits throughout the book, this despite the fact that her entire role in the film was a total of 12 minutes!
Ms. Harmetz peaked an interest in me that has previously been non-existent. The book is phenomenal and you will finish it within one sitting-like I did! Anthony "Toto" LaPerna Jr.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
Excellent book! Unsentimental and even-handed, the sections on the individuals involved in making the movie are fascinating, especially since for most of them it was "just another job." I could've done without the lengthy psychoanalysis at the end, but otherwise it's very good.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ian Abrams on November 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
And just in time for Christmas! I've read a lot of "making of" books, and this is one of the top two-- the other one being, of course, Aljean Harmetz's book about "Casablanca," "Round Up the Ususl Suspects." Her books are incredibly readable, almost like novels, while conveying not just a sense of what went into the making of *a* movie, but how Hollywoood as a whole functioned at the time the movie was being made. "The Making of the Wizard of Oz" is a terrific education about the studio system, the gigantic movie-making machine that turned out fantasy on a production-line basis; it digresses into fascinating sub-areas, like the fate of Broadway songwriters in Hollywood. And there's one incredible story about the Wizard's coat that still amazes me, years after first reading it. This is the classic book about the classic American movie, and it's the best possible example for anybody who ever wants to write about motion pictures or the motion picture industry. I intend to buy ten copies to give away as Christmas gifts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Zachary Koenig on July 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
After recently reading the Gregory Maguire novel "Wicked" and being thoroughly disappointed in its destruction of the Wizard of Oz "canon" material, I decided to give this book a read to get the REAL story behind the Wizard of Oz film. In this case, the old axiom "the truth is better than fiction" proved to be true in spades.

Put in the simplest terms, this is really the only "Making of Oz" book that ever needs to be produced. Why? Because it discusses EVERY SINGLE aspect of the film in detail that will likely never be matched. The key areas that this book focuses on include: Scripts, Music, Casting, Directors, Filming, Special Effects, and Critical Reception. In each one of those areas, author Aljean Harmetz does a truly remarkable job of understanding the "why" behind everything. Every decision made had a reason behind it, and Harmetz was extraordinarily successful at deciphering those reasons (whether person, political, or other).

In fact, about the only "knock" I have on this book is that, at times, it would go into too much detail for just the casual "Oz" fan. For example, not only do we learn about how the four directors who worked on the picture did things differently while on the set, we also learn about their backgrounds going right back to childhood. Hard-core movie buffs will revel in this information, while others (like myself) might gloss over it a bit and again become engaged when Harmetz takes us back to the "Oz" angle.

Also, the book (as the title indicates) not only gives a history of the film, but also a sort of de facto history about MGM Studios as a whole.
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