I remember being a child and watching it every year on television (we never had cable, so when a movie like this came on it was a big deal for me. I also have that feeling about The Ten Commandments–which I'll eventually finish once they leave Egypt one of these days, The Sound of Music, and Mary Poppins). Then in fifth grade, I did a community theatre production of it as a singing tree and flower (apparently, I was too tall to be a munchkin). I was then able to sing along to every word of the songs. (Including the cut Jitterbug number. It wasn't good enough to keep in the film, but–hey, let's leave it in the stage version...) And for all the special effects (the Wicked Witch's entrance in a cloud of red smoke and Glinda's in a dishwashing soap bubble are still pretty fun) or the incredible use of color (that door opening, revealing the Technicolor world of Oz is undeniably magical. The first film to use color! My dad used to tell me. It wasn't.), the thing that I remember most is a song.
That song. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". It's taken on a life of it's own. At the end of a recent Broadway show about the last month's of Judy Garland's life, the actress playing Judy starts to sing an a capella version of it. My friend next to me immediately started sobbing. After the show was over, my friend turned to me and said, "that song will never not affect me." Because it speaks to the heart of what the film is and our connection to it. It's about beleiving in something. Dreaming of a life that's better than the one you've got. Remembering what it was like to be filled with childlike longing. Wondering if there's a place where the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
There have been many versions of it. (Tori Amos does a great, sad version of it. Surprise–Tori makes something sad! And there's that version with the Hawaiian singer with the ukulele. You know the one.) But no one can touch Judy Garland as Dorothy in this movie singing that song. That voice, that was able to carry so much depth and emotion gets right into your soul. And really it's just her and some hay in those rich sepia tones and that's about it. But, that's all you need. When the camera shows the sun shining through the clouds and she looks up and smiles at it, your heart melts. And I am immediatelly taken back to being a child.