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The Wizard of Oz (BFI Film Classics) Paperback – January 22, 2008

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Editorial Reviews Review

While Salman Rushdie has treasured The Wizard of Oz since his boyhood, the movie's idea of returning "home" has had a special resonance for him as an adult. In this lovely appreciation of the MGM classic, Rushdie does not dwell upon his continual flight from any "home" after writing The Satanic Verses. But his affinity for Dorothy and her predicament comes through in his analysis.

This is a marvelous little book, full of wonderful tidbits about the making of The Wizard of Oz. Rushdie also talks about the movie's contrast of black and white and color, order and disorder, good and evil. The volume ends with "At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers," a surrealistic short story in which Rushdie meditates on the value of fantasies like The Wizard of Oz.

From Publishers Weekly

This is one of the first in a new series of monographs pairing writers and film scholars with a film of their own choosing from the BFI archives. At first glance, the controversial author of The Satanic Verses might seem an odd pairing with the MGM musical classic, but Rushdie proclaims that the Judy Garland film was "my very first literary influence." The essay that follows this confession is sprightly, witty and surprisingly deeply felt. Like the embattled Rushdie, Dorothy is an exile looking for a way back home, the victim of a wicked witch not unlike Rushdie's nemesis, the Ayatollah Khomeini. Rushdie revels in the film's "joyful and almost complete secularism," while confessing his debt to it for the style of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. He also offers an idiosyncratic feminist defense of the Wicked Witch of the West and some mordant humor, as in his dismissal of Toto as "that little yapping hairpiece." The second half of this slender volume is a short story that inflates the ruby slippers into a bloated and portentous metaphor. The tale's failure, however, isn't enough to take the luster off the essay that precedes it. Illustrations not seen by PW. First serial to the New Yorker.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: British Film Institute; 1st edition (May 27, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0851703003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0851703008
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sir Salman Rushdie is the author of many novels including Grimus, Midnight's Children, Shame, The Satanic Verses, The Moor's Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown and The Enchantress of Florence. He has also published works of non-fiction including, The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands, The Wizard of Oz and, as co-editor, The Vintage Book of Short Stories.

He has received many awards for his writing including the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. In 1993 Midnight's Children was judged to be the 'Booker of Bookers', the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. In June 2007 he received a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. Griffiths on March 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Wizard of Oz is a central piece of Twentieth Century mythmaking. It's hard to imagine the history of cinema without it. And yet I have often told people (adults, that is) it's one of my favourite films, only to be met with blank incomprehension or wry amusement. After all, what's an adult doing admiring a film so obviously aimed at children?
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.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Holt on February 21, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great book for Rushdie -- one can feel the limitations perhaps set by the editors on him -- usually Rushdie runs on, but here all of his insight and enthusiasm is pared down into an economical essay one can enjoy in less than an afternoon. Oh, it's a wonderful book on the Wizard movie, too.
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.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By darragh o'donoghue on January 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
'The Wizard of Oz' is a miraculous rarity in the history of cinema. It is an intricately structured work, whose themes, images, narratives and characters echo and refract each other across its story. Surely for this to be possible, we would expect the over-arching organising sensibility of a Great Auteur, a Hitchcock or a Hawks. But 'Oz' has none - neither the writer of the source novel, L. Frank Baum; nor the many scriptwriters usually at each others' throats; nor the producers Mervyn Leroy or Arthur Freed; not the directors, credited and uncredited, can claim the honour of solely creating this masterpiece. Out of a series of accidents came a near-perfect work, just as out of the Big Bang, the intricacy of living organimsms, 'simply happened'. As Salman Rushdie remarks, 'Oz' is 'an authorless text'.
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).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on July 8, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the first long pieces Salman Rushdie wrote after the fatwa issued against him by the Ayatollah Khomeini, this charming little 1992 study of THE WIZARD OF OZ is one of their most charming in the BFI catalogue, and tells us perhaps more about the workings of one of the most important living novelists (himself a kind of wizard exiled from home) as it does about the 1939 MGM classic. The monograph consists of two halves: an extended essay on THE WIZARD OF OZ itself, and Rushdie's by-now famous short story "At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers," a fantasia on the famous early 70s purchase of one of the many pairs of slippers crafted for the film for what was then the unbelievable price of $15,000. The essay on the film brings up all kinds of intriguing departure points for Rushdie: he emphasizes its importance to his own imaginative work (the depiction of the Widow in MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN, he now realizes, owes much to the unforgettable appearance of Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West), offers surprising analyses of the film's treatments of exile and return, and compares it to the musicals of Bollywood. The essay disappoints only by being too short: you wish it would go on longer and tell you even more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Watching a film armed with a "remote control zapper" can yield insights unknown to the non-stop viewer. After all, freeze frames, with their enviable power to stop time, allow for far more than infinitesimal nanoseconds of reflection. Using the "pause" trigger in this way arguably transforms it into an educational tool.

Salman Rushdie, who usually frolics in literature's realm, applies this method to one of America's most beloved and taken for granted films, 1939's "The Wizard of Oz." Many in the US have let this film sink into their collective cultural unconscious without questioning its presuppositions, implications and logic. Rushdie, wielding his wireless time control device, cuts to the essence. Insights spew from the paragraphs. Almost immediately, he equates the film's story, mood, and themes to the "Bollywood" movies he grew up on in India. One exception to this comparison remains the film's secular sub themes. He summarizes, "nothing is deemed more important than the loves, cares, and needs of human beings." It also had enduring literary influence on his very first and later works.

But he doesn't like the "cloying" ending and asks the almost heretical question: who would want to return to THAT Kansas? Those of us who absorbed the movie as children of course wanted, empathetically, to see Dorothy return to the safety of her parents and home. But, Rushdie argues, Dorothy's gray scale Kansas is no paradise: her parents seem impotent in the face of Miss Gulch's (aka "Wicked Witch of the West") threats against Toto (who annoys Rushdie; and in yet another probable heresy to fans, he writes, "Toto: that little yapping hairpiece of a creature, that meddlesome rug!"). So why would she want to return?
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