Sunday, November 28, 2010

We're off to see the Wizard.....

I have lived my whole life in Bergen County, New Jersey. However, it took my husband, David to help me discover some of the treasures I've missed. David is a Hoosier and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. When he moved out here in January, he was amazed at all the opportunities to enjoy the arts. The more I thought about it, David was correct. I had become somewhat jaded because Broadway, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Empire State Building, and too many other great venues and sights were readily available to me. Therefore, I started to rediscover what was in my own backyard.

I was very happy to discover two theaters which played classic movies were fairly close to my home. The Landmark Loews in Jersey City is a wonderful example of a community rallying to save its heritage. The Friends of Loews (FOL) saved this theater from demolition in 1987. Now, these wonderful people are slowing restoring the theater to its past glory. In addition, they choose the monthly classics shown and work as ushers, ticket sellers, etc. Attending a show here is very special, the patrons truly appreciate the FOL and love the venue. You do not hear cell phones go off  -- that in itself is a joy!

The other theater we discovered was the Lafayette Theater in Suffern, NY. This theater also shows first run movies and is in immaculate condition. It was built in 1924 and according to the manager it has been restored to almost original condition. The only difference is the snack bar -- it did not exist in 1924. Apparently, back in the 1920's it was considered poor taste to bring food into the theater. I can see why. This venue is more like a Broadway theater than a traditional movie theater, and even today you don't eat or drink during a Broadway show.

Yesterday, David and I saw our first film at the Lafayette Theater. The Wizard of Oz was the classic being shown at 11:30 am. David and I got there early because we suspected there would be a big crowd -- and there was! By the time the film started, there did not appear to be an empty seat in the house. We sat in the balcony, so we had a great view of all the seating. The only empty seats were "box seats" that we imagine were used for VIP's in the past. Now, these box seats are probably only used when live shows are done (yes, they even have live shows periodically). The experience was very cool as we were treated to live organ music first courtesy of Jeff Barker and a cartoon starring Daffy Duck entitled "Holiday for Drumsticks."

I must admit that going to see a movie I had seen so many times on TV excited me. I could not wait to see The Wizard of Oz in all of its glory on a big screen. I was not disappointed. It was actually like seeing it for the first time in some ways. Judy Garland was truly an endearing Dorothy. She was fresh faced and untouched by all studio politics and pressures that would later take their toll on her. This film helps us fall in love with the innocent young Garland who just wanted to sing and entertain. To say MGM surrounded Garland with a talented supporting cast would be an understatement. Billie Burke was so stunning and gentle as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Clara Blandick and Charles Grapewin are wonderful as Auntie Em and Uncle Henry -- their ability to make us like this couple so much in what are essentially cameo roles is impressive. Frank Morgan was perfect as the Wizard -- a man with a secret who although bumbling is likeable. Margaret Hamilton's performance remains the lynchpin of the movie. If she can not make us hate and fear her completely, then there is no plot. As pure of heart Dorothy must be, the Wicked Witch of the West must be her total opposite and  that is what Hamilton was able to convey so well.

The big screen truly showcased the talents of Dorothy's trio of Oz friends. Ray Bolger's performance as the Scarecrow was great. His limber dance skills made us believe he really was made of straw. Jack Haley's charm as the Tin Man was not lost on the audience as he sang "If I Only Had a Heart." But hands down, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion was the audience favorite yesterday. Everytime he was on screen, your eyes went to him. Lahr was a HUGE Broadway star and that served him well in this film. Lahr's delivery and comedic timing were impeccable. His physical mannerisms were perfect in capturing the spirit of this would be "king" of the forest.

Yes, I did cry during the film ending. It is still a wonderful message to all of us: what we often what is right there in our own backyard. When Glinda gets Dorothy to realize that running away is never a solution to  a problem when you have people who love you, I felt the tears start. By the time, Judy Garland delivers the last line "There's no place like home!" the tears were rolling down my cheeks. Later, the irony of the situation was not lost on me. It took my husband to help me realize what I had in and around my home. I won't miss wonderful opportunities like yesterday thanks to him.


  1. Thank you sweetheart for a magical day filled with train rides and beautiful old theaters , the smell of popcorn, and the lovely sounds of organ music with bubbles even !

    And thank you for sharing this wonderful blog with all of us ! There is a little child still living in all of us and it's nice now and then to let them out for a little while to play ... :)

  2. Gilby, Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience with us. I would love to see the "Wizard" of OZ on the "BIG" screen!!

  3. I have to say, Gilby, that this is my favorite article by you. Your insights about the Wizard of Oz, your husband's influence on helping you find what was there all along, your description of Wizard's impact on the big screen and all the people who came, your feelings about the movie -- just first rate! I always cry at the end too, and I've seen it a gazillion times.

    When I was a kid in the 50's, we watched it every year, but we had a black and white TV. My Mom or Dad may have mentioned it, I don't recall -- but when we got our first color TV, all of us kids were in awe when Dorothy lands in Oz and the door opens to color! Of course we had never seen that before. I'll bet it's really outstanding at a theatre.

  4. P.S. I forgot to mention -- like David, I am an Indianapolis native too, still here! We used to have some venues for classic film, but now are down to the Art Museum's summer program, and they are showing more recent films part of the time. I wonder if David ever went to the Artcraft Theatre in Franklin? An old neighborhood theatre that has barely changed since the 20's, always shows classic films. Every show includes a drawing for prizes, a live skit about the movie, a cartoon and everyone singing the National Anthem. It's great!

  5. OK GILBY! YOU'VE BEEN OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD LONG ENOUGH! I understand, you've been busy, but you need to ramble back here again or I'll have to tell David to invoke his husbandly rights (however he sees fit) and physically sit you down at the computer and stand there until you post again! LOL!